An Apple for my iPod?

I was just listening to the latest installment of NCQ Talk (ecstatic to hear you guys online again) when the term CourseCasting came up. I guess its one of those terms I should have been familiar with, and it was easy to conclude what it meant, but, as new words should, it got me to thinking.

Picture a student, sitting comfortably in a cushioned chair, learning history with ear buds plugged in and an mp3 player resting on her knee, and contrast that with the commonly held image of that student sitting in a classroom desk and experiencing a teacher’s lecture. What reaction does this comparison immediately evoke? For me, I see something important missing from the learning experience of the student sitting comfortably alone. But I’ve said it before. I’m a romantic when it comes to teaching and learning. …and I have to remind myself that this intellectual exercise began with my listening to a podcast, while sitting comfortably alone in my cushioned desk chair writing code.

I guess the question is, what is it that’s important that’s missing when not attending a classroom? What is it that we offer in our classrooms besides the sounds of our voices? What’s the value-added for not skipping class. An ongoing cultural fear of my generation has been that of losing your job to a machine. It’s a fear that has been expressed by teachers, though most agree that computer’s won’t replace the classroom teacher.

Perhaps, a better question than, “will computers replace teachers?” is “Might an iPod replace me? Might an mp3 player do as good a job of delivering my instruction as I do?” Regardless of the answer, it would be a good thing to examine what it is that we do offer to our classroom customers and the desirable goals that they achieve. The Bush-era question would be, how do you measure that? It’s not a trivial question when education conversations based expressly on test results, might logically follow a path to trading technology for warm bodies.

A young man (higher-ed person), who attended my session at the PodcasterCon a few weeks ago, suggested that one benefit of podcasting your lectures might be that it frees up your class time for more engaging, interactive, knowledge-building activities. I also learned from this week’s NCQ Talk about a new podcast called iCube. Produced by University of Connecticut psychology professor, David Miller, the podcast is a gathering of students, in Dr. Miller’s class, discussing the day’s lecture, exploring more difficult ideas and elements of interest — like a public study group.

Final question:
What kind of new conversations might we facilitate in our classrooms, when the traditional one-way conversations of the past can so easily be plugged into our students ears?

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.