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learning.now: at the crossroads of Internet culture & education with host Andy Carvin

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November152007

Infectious Enthusiasm at PodCamp EDU

The PodCamp EDU podcasting teach-in held this past weekend in Washington DC was one of the most fun, energetic edtech events I’ve ever attended. I hope it’s the first of many PodCamp EDUs to come, because the collective enthusiasm generated there was downright contagious.

If you’re a regular visitor to this here blog, you might have read the post I published just over a week ago about the first-ever PodCamp EDU event. PodCamps are informal gatherings, sometimes called “unconferences,” in which people with an interest in Web 2.0 tools get together for a day or two and organize impromptu workshops for Internet veterans and newbies alike. Up until last week, PodCamps had focused on activities like podcasting and video blogging from a general perspective, but this event was geared specifically for teachers.

For eight hours on Friday, scores of educators from across the DC area gathered in a conference room at American University to talk about integrating podcasting and video blogging in their classrooms. An informal poll of the room suggested that approximately two-thirds of those in attendance had never created anything like this before. I was invited to kick off the day with a workshop on taking the principles of documentary making and applying it in a classroom context. (Here’s the Powerpoint presentation if you’re interested.) My presentation was distilled from a two-day workshop I’d normally do on the subject, which worried me that I’d be overwhelming folks with an overly dense presentation.

Fortunately, though, participants took me up on my request to interrupt me as much as possible so we could talk through potential examples of how they might create videos with their students. The biggest theme seemed to be the challenge of incorporating a project requiring many different activities and skills into an already crowded curriculum. Several educators talked about the value of taking elements of video production process and turning them into discrete lessons on media literacy - something I’ve thought about doing for a long time now. Others noted how documentary making and video blogging is actually an exciting back-door method for improving students’ literacy skills, given the amount of time spent writing story proposals, conducting research, script development and the like. Same thing with improving students’ collaborative skills and critical thinking, when video projects are done in small groups of students.

Despite their enthusiasm, no one seemed to have any illusions about the challenges of getting started with projects like these. One teacher stood up and said she’d love to do video projects and knows her students would too, but asked how one would accomplish this when there were no video cameras and only two student-accessible Internet PCs in her entire school. In another conversation about audio podcasting techniques, a second teacher advocated using old-school analog cassette recorders to record podcasts, then running a cable between it and a computer to capture the audio. That way, schools that can’t afford digital audio recorders or microphones can begin podcasting as well.

Like other PodCamps, it seemed like everyone had a camera in hand. During one presentation by Joel-Mark Witt, he invited everyone to pull out their cameras and shoot video of themselves. It was a wonderful, chaotic mess.

Now you may ask yourself how do exercises like these help me in my classroom? For one thing, it’s intended to be a form of stress-free, inspirational professional development. Rather than following an in-service training model in which everything is formal and lecture-oriented, PodCamps are hand-on, interactive, messy, engaging, challenging, creative and fun. It’s been a long while since I’ve seen so many educators jazzed about doing something new. Imagine if we could replicate this to groups of educators around the country and channel that enthusiasm to their students? -andy

Filed under : Events, Video

Responses

Your presentation was great. The who podcamp edu experience was informative and enjoyable. Does anyone knowow can we access the presentations?

First of all great post, the idea of using podcasts in the classroom sounds like a lot of fun and I can understand why everyone at the lecture was so excited about it. However I’m a little confused - I don’t understand how podcasts can really be used for anything in a classroom besides having a lot of fun with them. Maybe I’m not familiar enough with the extent of the capabilities of a podcast and what can be done with them, but it seems like any presentation with a podcast in a classroom would be essentially the same thing as a live presentation in a classroom. The only real difference I could think of is that with a podcast, you could post videos of your students presentations on the internet, as your attached videos demonstrated as those attending the lecture prepared videos to be posted on Youtube. I think it would be really cool and the students would get a huge kick out of having a video they made on the internet, and if there is too much controversy over having students videos on the internet that I would at least think it was neat to have a video of one of my lectures on Youtube. However, in regards to teaching my own students, I don’t know that a podcast lecture would necessarily be necessary. What are examples of some specific ways podcasts could be used in a classroom situation?

Well, for example, two years ago I taught documentary making and video blogging to a group of elementary school teachers in Atlantic City. Their school wanted to experiment with using media production as a way of reinforcing literacy skills. Students worked together to produce short videos about the history of Atlantic City, which were made available online for public comment. The students learned how to pitch a story idea, critique ideas, map out the script, craft good questions and ask them effectively, make editorial decisions, etc. So podcasting or video blogging isn’t about having teachers present lectures in a new way - it’s giving the tools to students so they can learn to collaborate, improve their literacy and editorial skills, and create content with community relevance and impact.

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