Podcasting assignment for storytelling and collaboration: Annie Blazer’s RELG 100 course

In a Nutshell

Annie Blazer’s Religious Studies course teaches students the power of oral storytelling by analyzing professional podcasts as well as creating and sharing their own. This eLearning Instructable shows you how to create a podcasting assignment by using simple, free tools to record and edit audio software (Audacity) that you can post online as a podcast (Soundcloud). All you need is a computer (Mac or Windows) with a built-in microphone and an internet connection.


Course Description

Religion and American Youth, a COLL100 course offered Fall 2016 with 25 students, focused on the religious beliefs and practices of American youth. Moving from the mainstream to the margins, students critically examined cultural representations of American youth in comparison to lived experiences. COLL 100 courses are about big ideas and here the big idea centered on ambivalence. In exploring religious beliefs and practices, the course continually returned to the idea of ambivalence in exploring the transition from youth to adulthood. Particular attention was paid to how religion contributes to these representations and experiences and predominantly focused on college-aged Americans.


Course and Assignment Objectives

  • Introduce students to the excitement of scholarly inquiry, and challenge them to think rigorously about important ideas. The storytelling podcast project  conveyed the importance of that integration by better connecting the course content to the student work product.
  • Develop and practice communication skills beyond the written word and into the realms of oral, digital, and multi-media expression.

Assignments

  • Two large projects in this course built upon each other:
    • A timed Pechakucha presentation done with a partner. Pechakucha is a timed Powerpoint format in which students have a total of 20 Powerpoint slides that automatically advance every 20 seconds. Students presented researched they conducted on a campus religious or cultural organization.  The presentations were a “pitch” to the class to select their organization as a subject for the second big project of the semester.
    • A 10-15 minute podcast on one of the selected campus organizations, completed in small groups.
      • Listen to this sample final student project shared with permission from the student(s) involved: Sample Student Project (Note that the sample student project deals with issues surrounding Muslim students on campus and was recorded in Spring 2017 before Muslim students had access to dedicated prayer space, which is now available.)

Lessons Learned

Things that worked well:

  • Scaffolding the assignments over the course of the semester.
    • Podcast listening assignments
    • Practice interviews
    • Storybuilding assignments
    • Only once all these other concepts were in place did they look at the technology for building the podcasts
  • Having groups work on the podcast assignments together. Partners researched a topic early in the semester and then pitched their podcast ideas to the class. Only half of the ideas could be selected. A group whose idea didn’t get selected joined another group whose idea was selected to work on the actual podcast assignment together. Joining the pairs together helped stimulate more and better ideas and narratives.
  • The length of the podcasts, 10 minutes, was a good length and gave the students the time they needed to tell their stories without being too long.

Things to think about improving for next time:

  • Managing student expectations is important at several levels:
    • Dr. Blazer is considering changing the title of the course to better reflect the concepts she wants the students to learn. In this case, a title that reflected the two main components of the course, Ambivalence and Communication, might better signal to the students what they should expect.
    • Explicitly identify for the students the skills they will learn in the course and how these skills are useful to them:
      • Interview skills (listening and reacting to answers in order to ask insightful follow up questions)
      • Working in groups
      • Analytical skills
      • Storytelling skills
      • Production skills
    • Note here that many skills that are valuable for success in college are not necessarily the same skills that will make you successful after college.  [this seems out of place]
  • Require merged groups to use only new recording. Some students whose original pitch was not selected felt at a disadvantage because the new teammates had a “head start” on recording.
  • Add a group check-in with the instructor right after the materials are all recorded and the rough draft of the podcast is done. Students actually requested this as well.

Shared Resources

Below are resources developed by Dr. Blazer for her course. If these are useful to you, she would be glad to hear how you’re using them or incorporating them into your own teaching. [because these may be downloaded by anyone, let’s be sure to put the instructors complete name department, email, “College of William and Mary”, & year on each]

Syllabus

Assignment Timeline

Grading Rubric

Sample Project


Try it Yourself / Tools Used

Read

  • Out on the Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio, by Jessica Abel. This text is a great introduction to podcasting, audio storytelling, and everything you need to get started.  [date and publisher of book]

Listen

  • The first step in creating interesting podcasts is listening to interesting podcasts. Have your students listen to and analyze an episode or two. If you can, find podcasts that have to do with the topic of your course. A few good choices:

Record

Host

  • Soundcloud is a free Podcasting and Audio Streaming web service that allows students up to 3 hours of recording space. Audio uploaded to Soundcloud is easily shared and embedded in other websites.
  • Visit http://soundcloud.com to learn more or create an account.

 

[and a sentence at the bottom about contacting us to help]

About Mike Blum

Mike is the Academic Technologist for the Humanities at the College