June 9, 2008, by Teaching at Nottingham

ePioneers project: podcasting – recording conversations

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Richard Pemberton: “We wanted to give them some sort of extra input, in addition to the classroom input, that they could – could act as a, kind of, supplement, but was not delivered in the same format.

“So we didn’t just want to, sort of, record, like, a lecture, and then they would listen to it on their computer or MP3 player. We wanted something that was a different format, so we came up with the idea of conversations around key issues in our field, which is teaching English to speakers of other languages. And we wanted this to be fairly, kind of, informal, so that they would also relate to us as, kind of, human beings. So that was another aspect. It was, sort of, reducing the, kind of, the distance, and maybe the fear of the lecturer, locally.

“And to present, sort of, informal, natural English. So another aspect was, sort of, listening to real English, not as carefully formulated as maybe we would use in class. This was a native speaker talking to another native speaker, kind of, warts and all, with all the, sort of, misformulations that you use in real speech. And, what have I missed out?”

Jane Evison: “I think that’s about it. We aimed to have a podcast a week, originally, for the students, and, like many things, you start off with good intentions. And we did do that, for the very first semester. Obviously, we wanted to recycle these podcasts. But initially, yeah, we did one a week, didn’t we?”

Richard: “That’s right.”

Jane: “And made them available to the students, with supporting transcripts and links to any articles that we were talking about. A lot of the time we were talking about contentious articles, so we had links to the articles.”

Richard: “The other aim that I forgot about was that we wanted to show that we didn’t always, necessarily, agree. So we wanted to – this was the idea, anyway. Actually, we agreed quite a lot, but not all the time.”

Jane: “No, not all the time.”

Richard: “Just like now. And so we wanted to show that there wasn’t an answer to a set topic, to see that what was presented in class, there might be more than one opinion about it. And so we tried to actually pick reasonably contentious issues, and as Jane said, we would have one or two articles, typically, relating to that topic, where either we disagreed with what had been written, or two articles disagreed with each other.

“And then we tended to have a discussion around that. And, as Jane said, we started with this, sort of, regular routine. So, in terms of, kind of, how did we do it, we blocked off a time and said, “Okay, we’re always doing these podcast recordings at 12 o’clock on a Wednesday,” or whatever it was.

“And so, for that first semester, it was relatively easy to do, because we’d blocked off that time, and we, kind of, told – we agreed that we didn’t want to do too much prep beforehand, otherwise we’d just never get it done. So I think it worked reasonably well didn’t it?”

Jane: “It worked well. We were pretty disciplined. And it was tough, you know, at the beginning of an autumn semester, when you’re busy to make yourselves do that. And I think we did pretty well.”

Interviewer: “How did it – for the students, how did it fit into their study, their pattern of study?”

Richard: “Hmmm. Basically, it didn’t. It didn’t for the first year really, did it?”

Jane: “Not as well as we would have liked it.”

Richard: “So we told them about it, kind of, recommended – we had various, kind of, technical hitches, in terms of access to the site, and password problems. So the first year, we developed quite a useful resource, but it actually wasn’t accessed very widely.

“Second year, the access problems were cleared up, and we also made an attempt to integrate it into the syllabus. So there were some weeks within the syllabus, where one of the, sort of, out of class activities was listening to one of the podcasts, and then there was an activity around that.”

Interviewer: “Do you think the project achieved the aims that you outlined?”

Jane: “Some, but I think it also achieved other things that we hadn’t expected, so yeah, I think it’s been quite successful overall.”

Richard: “In terms of them seeing us as, kind of, having opinions, disagreeing with each other, that’s worked, I think. In terms of them getting access to informal spoken English, and the sort of thing that we wouldn’t necessarily use in class, that’s been quite useful.”

Jane: “Definitely, and sort of building up greater language awareness on their part. And I think I was running – last year, I ran a module on discourse analysis, and I think that encouraged students to join it, because they got interested in looking at the language and the linguistic features, and that wasn’t something that I particularly expected to happen.”

Jane Evison
School of Education

Richard Pemberton
School of Education

Extracts from interviews with staff who are starting to use technology in their teaching, and those who are mentoring them. This video was originally published as part of PESL’s ePioneers collection. Produced June 2008.

Posted in Integrating technologyStudents' academic developmentVideo and audio