Saturday, January 14, 2006

EDUCATION: Journalism prof at Univ. of Oregon uses MP3 podcasts to reach students

Prof's podcasts are a big hit with Oregon journalism students

Romanesko wrote:
"Al Stavitsky's "Al Pods" don't reproduce his Mass Media and Society class lectures at the University of Oregon. "Instead, they provided new content bridging the lectures and the assigned readings, freeing Stavitsky from spending large amounts of class time talking about the readings," writes Eva Sylwester."

ORIGINAL POST: Oregon Daily Emerald
The independent campus newspaper at the University of Oregon, Eugene

Now educating on an iPod near you
UO professor Al Stavitsky gives students access to more class information using MP3 audio files

By Eva Sylwester
Senior News Reporter
January 10, 2006

Many students walk through campus listening to their MP3 players, often with a favorite band filling their ears. But for a growing number of people, the sound may also be the voice of one of their professors. Last term, journalism professor Al Stavitsky experimented with creating online audio files called podcasts, which he termed â..Al Pods,â. for his Mass Media and Society class.

Stavitsky, associate dean of the School of Journalism and Communication, said his podcasts differed from podcasts available at some schools in that they did not reproduce class lectures. Instead, they provided new content bridging the lectures and the assigned readings, freeing Stavitsky from spending large amounts of class time talking about the readings.

â..Lectures can be the lectures and the readings can be the readings,â. Stavitsky said. â..These podcasts can be the way I help students see connections.â. To record his podcasts, Stavitsky sat down in his office with a digital voice recorder and a stack of lecture notes and talked for 20 minutes a week. He incorporated information from lectures, guest speakers and current news, he said.

â..It would basically be a stream-of-consciousness kind of thing,â. he said.

After making the recordings, Stavitsky uploaded them from his computer onto the Blackboard Web site. Students could then download the podcasts onto their computers and add them to their MP3 players, or simply listen to the podcasts through their computer speakers, Stavitsky said.

Before becoming a professor 16 years ago, Stavitsky worked in radio and television news.â..Thereâ..s certainly a comfort level,â. Stavitsky said. â..A podcast is kind of like a radio show.â.

Journalism associate professor John Russial said he is more an interested observer of podcasting than a user of the technology, and will use his share of the grant to help students add audio to their projects in his Cyberjournalism class. He said many journalism organizations and citizen journalists use podcasts to deliver news. But he is concerned about classroom podcasts at some schools that simply reproduce lectures and theoretically make it unnecessary for students to attend class.

â..I think the classroom environment is a pretty good place to be,â. Russial said, citing the importance of class discussions.

Stavitsky said recording lectures is not an optimal use of podcasting technology because it does not add value to the class. While recorded lectures can be good if a student misses a class, Stavitsky said, they also provide an incentive to miss classes.â..We are really way out ahead of everyone else in how weâ using podcasts,â. Stavitsky said. He said podcasting worked well in his class. â..It was a big hit,â. he said. â..The students really appreciated the flexibility.â.

Two students, McCall Hall and Margot Charkow-Ross, made Stavitsky a CD with an original hip-hop theme song for future Al Pods, receiving extra credit in class. Hall, a journalism major, said in an e-mail that Al Pods were helpful for finding the most important points of lectures and readings, and for being able to review class discussions. But the flexibility provided by the technology may have been too much for some students to handle, he said.

â..Iâ..m pretty sure that kids didnâ..t read the book because Professor Al (Stavitsky) made the Al Pod so convenient,â. Hall wrote. â..Also, some kids wouldnâ..t show up to class due to the fact that they could simply download the Al Pod and listen to it while they were at the Rec Center. I think some kids abused the Al Pod.â.

Charkow-Ross acknowledged that although substituting the Al Pod for the readings was sometimes tempting, it was not a perfect solution. â..Even though the Al Pod did help, it didnâ..t contain all that the book did,â. she wrote in an e-mail.

Podcasts may soon reach departments beyond journalism. Kassia Dellabough, senior instructor for the Arts and Administration program, said she may use podcasts in an exercise for her online section of AAD 250: Art and Human Values this term.

In the proposed exercise, students would sit in a public place and watch people, making notes of their own reactions to other peopleâ..s appearances. Wearing MP3 players, students would listen to a pre-recorded podcast that would guide their observations with statements like, â..Notice someone you think looks weird. Why?â.

â..One of the challenges with the podcasts is not everyone has an iPod or MP3 player, so itâ..s going to be optional,â. Dellabough said. Dellabough said that in the future, a program allowing students to check out MP3 players for the term would be useful.

Stavitsky said he came up with the idea to make podcasts for his classes last summer as a result of buzz about iTunes adding support for downloading podcasts. â..Iâ..m always looking at ways to experiment with technology in my classes,â. he said.

Stavitsky bought podcasting equipment and traveled to a conference at Brigham Young University with a grant from the School of Journalism and Communication. â..I saw it as a potentially very innovative use of technology and a way to enhance the classroom experience,â. said Tim Gleason, dean of the School of Journalism and Communication.

Russial, journalism instructor Mark Blaine and graduate student Michael Huntsberger also benefited from the Deanâ..s Teaching Fund grant.

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© 2006 Oregon Daily Emerald

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