Podcast Project in the Class Part 6: The Practice Podcast

I am still reworking and adding materials to this series of posts

Interviews, Recording

For this practice recorded interview, students used their phones (or other recording devices). To help prepare them for the first part of this assignment which was to first generate a list of questions for their chosen topic, I added a reading from Ken Metzler, Professor Emeritus, University of Oregon School of Communication [BONNE, WAS THIS AT YOUR DIRECTION?]. I thought its section on the pre-interview especially helpful. We workshopped these in class, where we discussed the types of questions and how they may or may not be useful. We also discussed possible approaches as some questions felt more personal. They were to revise them before the second part of the assignment, the actual interview.

For the second part, I gave students the prompt for their first, practice podcast. Normally, the prompt would come first, but I wanted to be able to guide them through the process. And this “prompt” also has a great deal of How-To information for the recording and editing technology as well as a super-brief introduction into storyboarding and editing audio! It was a lot to take in, but given the short nature of a quarter, it was a must.

For this part, the groups only needed to bring in a copy of the recording to play for the class so that we could workshop them. I half led/half prompted with questions the discussion, focusing students on listening for the elements and organization, and their effectiveness.

The idea was for students to interview two people they did not know (though it could be a relative of one of the group members). In addition to getting used to talking with strangers, another point to this assignment was to get them experience with their equipment and software and how things might go wrong as well as how long the process of editing takes. Also, I wanted to make sure they specifically practiced cutting audio from the separate interviews and splicing them together to form their narration. In the past, for a video project, most groups opted for the one take approach. That is, they just recorded an interview with one person and called it good. I wanted students to realize that the interviews were the research part of an essay (their notes, photocopies of pages from books, citations, etc), and that editing of the audio was more like the actual writing part of an essay (developing your own thoughts, organizing them, and supporting them).

Besides workshopping the techniques and elements, we were also able to discuss the preparation successes and failures. Some students wish they had thought more about followup questions. Others admitted to equipment failure (i.e. not checking the batteries the night before).

Another important discovery they made was the importance of all of their groupmates to the success of a podcast. Being able to effectively schedule everyone took planning. Also, they realized how much an interview involved; it helped to have one person do the actual interview, one person to handle the equipment, and another to take notes, keeping track of time, jotting down when and what topics being discussed or important points being made or just good bits of dialog. While students knew they learned something, it wasn’t until they began work on the real project that they realized how helpful it was to work through many of these issues during this practice podcast.

One the things I have not yet discussed, but was part of their reading materials, was the release forms. I used a variation of one that I’ve used for years at other colleges that I created. I did, however, receive the blessings of my school’s resident copyright, permissions person. And speaking of release forms, it was also important for me as an instructor to get permission from the groups to use their work for educational purposes (future classes, blog posts like this one, etc.). I imagine as we move forward, colleges will create an institutional release form for instructors. But these work for now.

Things to think about for Next Time

This part went well. I would like to start it sooner, though. And as I mentioned earlier, I would like to integrate more of those journalistic questions (objectivity, ethics) into the discussions happening during this time. However, Bonne’s presence during this time helped to foster those discussions. But as you can tell, there was a lot to do all at once. But I really would like to have broken out the additional lessons from that project prompt.

I wish I had also saved copies of the recordings for the practice podcasts so that I could share them because some of them were excellent and would have been good examples for future classes. In fact, I liked them so much, I almost changed the Final project topic to these; I even put it to a vote to the class. Surprisingly, while the they thought this was a fun project, all of the students thought the suicide topic would be more challenging and that they would learn more from doing it.

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