Podcasts Pep Up College Writing Class Curriculum
Byline: Kristen Chick, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Producing podcasts is not a typical assignment in college writing class, but it's what Heather Schell requires from her students at George Washington University.
Miss Schell, assistant professor in the school's University Writing Program, asked her freshman writing class last year to produce a weekly "radio show," a series of podcasts they wrote, recorded, edited and posted on the Web.
"I really enjoyed it," said one of the students, Kirsten Gilbert, who began the class as a "technophobe" and ended as a podcast pro."I learned a lot about podcasting. It taught you how to write pieces to be heard, not to be read."
Miss Schell is among an increasing number of college professors to use podcasts - audio files that can downloaded to IPods and computers - as they discover the advantages of technologically savvy teaching, said Suzan Harkness, assistant professor of political science at the University of the District of Columbia.
Mrs. Harkness recently completed the first national study of podcast use in college education. During the 18 months of her survey, the number of universities she tracked that used podcasts increased from five to 278.
The study also found that most educational podcasts are recorded lectures, while 15 percent are produced by students for a course. Almost two-thirds of respondents said their use had no effect on class attendance.
Mrs. Harkness said the number of professors using podcasts will most likely continue to grow, "especially when they realize that it does not impact attendance," she said. "It's not expensive. It's something you can do with a laptop, a desktop and a microphone."
Area professors say they use audio files for supplemental material, grading papers or as study guides, or require students to produce their own podcasts as class projects.
For grading papers, professors record their comments, then the grade so students will listen to the comments instead of just flipping past them to find the grade.
But requiring students to create their own podcasts is also a popular use of the audio files.
"The creativity that gets unleashed by the podcasts is just phenomenal," said Nanette Levinson, associate professor of international relations at American University. "It really enhances [students'] creativity and their ability to communicate effectively."
Mrs. Levinson, who was inspired to begin using podcasts by her 16-year-old nephew, has been using them in the classroom for two years, though this was the first year she began requiring them from students.
One podcast created by her students for an assignment begins with tense music, fading into Arabic voices telling stories of hardship while a voice-over translates. Then students describe a fictional soccer camp they propose to create in Palestine, bringing Israeli and Palestinian children together. …