About an hour ago, I set out to write this GREAT blog about podcasting, so I grabbed my trusty dog (although he didn't seem to be terribly happy with that), hunkered down under my heated blanket, came up with a fairly catchy title, and for about 45 minutes sat and stared at the computer screen. The entire time I sat here, I just kept thinking "What the heck am I going to write about podcasting that those who are interested don't already know, or those who aren't interested would even care about"?
As usual, I did my research - started out with Wikipedia because, as I've already established, that's pretty much where we all start - and found out the reason podcasts are called podcasts was because of the iPod (go figure). I also learned that the very first time the phrase "podcasting" was used was in The Guardian newspaper back in 2004. Now, I could spend the next 15 minutes, or so, writing about the podcasts' history, but by that time I would not only have bored myself to sleep but also anyone who stumbled across my blog. Not exactly what I was going for. My intention was not to bore but to get you excited and passionate about the prospect of podcasting; passionate enough that if you are an educator and you are not using podcasting in your classroom, after reading this you would not only seriously think about podcasting but maybe even decide to run out and give it a try in your classroom.
The problem is, though, how do I make someone passionate about something they feel they have no use for, or they feel may be too complicated to use? To me, that's the great thing about being a teacher. Teachers are always willing to try something new (right?!?), especially if it means that it is going to get their students excited, and podcasting could very well be that one thing that tips the scales in the right direction. It could be the one thing that takes a mediocre project and turns it into something spectacular. For instance, let's say, you are a high school student and you are being asked to do a report on the Civil War. It's a group project and you've been told under no circumstances are you allowed to turn in, yet another, PowerPoint presentation. What do you do? Easy. You get your group together, brainstorm a bit, figure out how you want your project to come across (interview, re enactment, etc.), write a script, practice a few times, grab a laptop with a built in microphone (or find a couple you can plug in), download a free recording/editing program (such as audacity), record your project, edit it, add a few sound effects for ambience and a little background music (from the public domain, of course), play it back to make sure you have it exactly as you want it and wham, bam, boom, you have yourself one heck of a history project. At the end of the project, you have a bunch of happy teeanagers who are proud of the job they've done and a teacher who isn't being given the same old, same old.
If that doesn't excite you, then how about this. You teach at a middle school,where you have students who are interested in broadcasting. You have the means to make morning announcements, but no budget to set up a "radio station". What's the next best thing? Podcasting. Take that same group of students, have them write up their script, record the announcements, add a little "evening news" type music and sound effects and you have yourself a great way to deliver the announcements in the morning to the entire school. Again, what do you have? A bunch of students who are proud of their achievements, a different medium to present their "project", a tool that is available to pretty much everyone, and a way to get their message across without being boring.
As an educator, it is our job to teach, but it is also our job to keep things fresh for our students and make them want to learn. Anyone can stand in a classroom and lecture for 45 to 70 minutes, but adding the element of "fun" to a project is only going to bring out the passion in your students and ignite the passion in you as an educator. Plus, you never know, you may very well have the next Walter Cronkite or Barbara Walters in your midst, and without giving podcasting a try you may never know. You could be that one educator standing between that student and the chance of a lifetime. How would you like to live with that guilt for all eternity? I know I wouldn't. So if you haven't, give podcasting a try. You, and your students, will be glad you did!