Safely home from FETC, I was able finally to process some of the information I had been getting at the conference. My reflections turned to podcasting, and to wonder specifically why I would want to do it. There are two things that would have to be overcome in order to make it really viable.
First, there is the matter of infrastructure. I caught several comments from the presenters that went something like this..
You will need to convince your IT guys that you need more web space for your audio files. You’ll need tons of it – not just the few megabytes that a normal website would need. Your IT guys might not like it because you’re going to eat up tons of bandwidth.
Being one of the "IT guys", I can certainly say yes, we would not like it. It doesn’t matter how good of an idea it is, if the infrastructure isn’t there to support it, frustrations may make the endeavor short-lived. Someone’s got to give these things consideration. I’ve noticed a HUGE spike just with the couple of Podcasts I subscribe to, and have taken them off of automatic download. Our bandwidth usage is aleady almost at maximum, so I can imagine what would happen if we were to both subscribe to and produce Podcasts on the classroom scale.
The second consideration is content. Just because one CAN podcast doesn’t necessarily mean they SHOULD podcast. After attending one of the sessions, I downloaded a presenter’s (who shall remain nameless) podcast. It was basically one guy rambling with poor audio quality. Do I really want to devote my listening time to this?
It also seems to me that a Podcast by it’s very nature is linear and non-selective. While I could jump to a position on the file very quickly (assuming I do this on a computer and not on an iPod), I still would have to listen to the whole thing to know if there is something of value. This is a concept that seems anethema to a digital age, especially for longer casts of anything above five minutes. I think the best think would be to keep the segments short and write good descriptions.
I’ll agree that there are some very good student audio projects that can be created – recording oral histories, etc. These should be thought of first and foremost as audio projects. Podcasting is just a method of delivery. The danger is to turn everything into a podcast just because that’s the current catch phrase.
One of my favorite quotes is from Abraham Maslow…
If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.
Such can be the case when a teacher fixes on one technology tool.