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So why would we want to create our own podcasts? First, we live in the age of information and technology. This is the most obvious and self-evident reason, because we can. How many of us use cell phones compared to how many of us still use wall-mounted rotary phones? How many of us create our class exercises, activities, exams, and syllabi with a word-processing program compared to how many of us still create our documents on a typewriter? How many of watch a color TV, even a flat-screen HD plasma TV compared to how many of us still have a black/white TV? How many of use go to work in a car compared to how many of use go to work on a horse and buggy? Right? So let’s just all agree that at least this point is self-evident.
Another reason to create podcasts is because the medium is engaging, stimulating, multi-dimensional, interactive, and dynamic. Sometimes textbooks can be flat and one dimensional. And because we live in the age of information and technology, many of our students, not all, are from the YouTube, email, internet generation. They will increasingly expect some forms of multi-media in their classrooms. The colors, fonts, sounds, animations, graphics, and images are no longer a novelty, but instead mainstream.
Networking worldwide is another great reason. For me personally, one of the things that I find the most exciting is the ability to interact, network, share, and communicate with the global, worldwide, international ESL community. Think of all the “internet colleagues and acquaintances,” future collaborators, and students you can affect, influence, teach, and learn from!
I also really like the idea of a certain degree of telecommuting which is fast becoming a trend for the future. “Working” from home is very convenient. It reduces our carbon footprint on the world. Of course, I use “telecommuting” loosely with podcasting. But as English instructors, we can create podcasts in the comfort and convenience of our home and share them around the world!
And finally, in my estimation the last reason is the most important and critical one. Podcasting is just plain fun and exciting for the creator! So many different ideas, projects, possibilities, and opportunities exist. All you need to do is find one that works well for you!
So now that we’ve romanticized creating our own podcasts, it’s time for a splash of cold water in the face, a reality check because it’s not all fun and games. Several challenges and difficulties exist.
One of the challenges is costs. You at least need an up-to-date computer, preferably with high-speed internet access. Then you need various forms of software and other accessories like a microphone or camcorder. I remember when I bought my second video software. I didn’t like the first one because it was slow and limited. So I bought my second one online and waited for about 10 days which seemed like a long time. I was so excited when it finally arrived. I threw it in my computer to install and my computer kicked it out with an error message indicating I didn’t have enough memory. Oh no! I was shocked and disappointed. I didn’t know what to do. I tried a couple more times and read the technical specifications and learned that I needed a new computer. I quickly got online and ordered a new computer that cost me $1,000. I never planned on incurring this additional cost. Sometimes the costs of electronics and their accessories can “nickel & dime” us. These costs can prove an obstacle for many of us.
Another challenge and difficulty is that we volunteer our time. The traditional and conventional approach to education is aligning ourselves to our program curriculum, textbooks, course outlines, and learning outcomes. Our contractual obligation requires this of us. Not all our podcasts fit neatly into our program curriculum. Many of us may want to focus on cooking, gardening, sports, travel, etc. because these topics impassion us. Sure we can put an ESL/EFL spin on them, but they might not neatly fit into our program curriculum. So any material we develop above and beyond our immediate curriculum is volunteer work. However, volunteering our time isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I remember I published a few articles in our local newspaper and I got a modest stipend for my writing. So when my first published articles came out in the CATESOL News and another academic journal I was surprised to hear from the editors that all I get is a pat on the back and accolades. All of these articles were volunteer work! I never got a dime. But for me it’s been worth the time. So ultimately we need to decide for ourselves how much time, energy, money, and effort we want to devote to our podcasts.
Now I think program curriculum is a real interesting dynamic, so this also proves to be another challenge. The explosion of ESL internet content is really expanding the paradigm and changing the educational framework. In many cases our personal internet content might exist independently of our program’s curriculum. Our content and school’s curriculum may intersect only a few times throughout the term. Traditionally we teach to the physical locale, our school, the students in class, and the textbook. Online we teach to our heart, passion, and creativity and hope the students and other educators will follow. This completely expands the educational paradigm and shifts the framework. As a result, our online content may experience some resistance when we try to include it in our classrooms. Head teachers, division chairs, and senior faculty may look discouragingly upon it.
Another challenge is a relative “steep” learning curve. I put steep in quotes because some people take to computers like a duck takes to water. But much of the technical side discourages and intimidates people. With our own online content, not only are we educators, curriculum directors, and graphic designers, but we are also tech support. These factors can thin out the crowd right rather quickly. Learning some of the more advanced software programs like Dreamweaver, Adobe Photoshop, Premiere Pro, Quicktime Pro, Audacity, etc. will prove challenging for many of us. “Steep” is a relative term, but ultimately we have to teach ourselves.
The future is coming, so we can all conclude that technology, learncasting, twittering, social networking, blogging, podcasting, etc. will only grow in popularity. Our students will increasingly expect us to incorporate multi-media in their classrooms. I remember back in 2004. I was in a job interview and one of the interviewers asked me what ESL computer programs I have used, and I quickly named about three of them but then went on to say, “Oh but I’ve created a couple web pages that are online resources for students. I made quizzes and have other content.” The interviewer quickly interrupted me and acted somewhat like I was changing the topic and not answering his question. So I then just rattled off the three programs I previously mentioned and left it at that. But I was somewhat disappointed because in my estimation his question was so outdated. That question was akin to asking me if I know how to turn on the computer and check my email. That was like asking me if I can do a Google search. Commercial ESL computer programs are user friendly, so the depth of this interview question really only assessed if one can navigate a program and if one’s comfortable with the interface. In my estimation, this doesn’t require any special skill. That was an outdated question in 2004, I’m even more convinced it’s outdated today! Instead, I think better interview questions could follow a line of probing like what’s your understanding of emerging technologies in education and learning? Have you created any online content? If so, what and can you share with us some of the posts, emails, or replies you’ve received about that content. What are some of your favorite ESL web pages? What would we find if we did a Google search on you? How do you incorporate multimedia and technology in your class, and when do you think it’s too much?
I think this example just illustrates the increasing influence of emerging technologies in education and learning. In my estimation, if we embrace this trend we’ll be ready for both the job market and the YouTube generation of students. The question is, “What will your role and participation be in this trend?

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CATESOL News Fall 09

Emerging Technologies in Education and Learning: Podcasting

“Whose video camera is that?” I asked one of my ESL students. “It’s mine!” he replied. “Wow, that’s a nice camera,” I thought to myself. “I like making videos,” he continued. Such was the impetus for creating teacher-student DVDs with grammatical structures reflecting my class curriculum. Within a few weeks, I was recording students recite their “script” with my new DVD camcorder.
Although I felt I conceived this idea on my own, I was pleasantly surprised one day when I searched for ESL videos in YouTube. Hundreds of teacher-created videos came up. Later I discovered Podcast Alley, Feedburner, and The Education Podcast Network. These three online sites have thousands of both audio and video podcasts. Some are professionally created, but most are created by teachers just like you and me. The increase of video podcasts just illustrates the relevancy, benefits, advantages, and popularity of emerging technologies in education and learning.

Cuesta College ESL instructor Anthony Halderman podcasts via his web page anthonyhalderman.com