Wednesday, September 21, 2005

What will students schlep?

For those looking for a how to on Podcasting, my colleague Burks Oakley, has made a very nice tutorial on his blog. Two details points for follow up:
1) Audacity needs a file called lame_enc.dll to export as MP3. You can get the file here
2) The Blogger software has a link field that comes right after the title field. For whatever reason, I disabled that field in my own blog. If you put the link to the MP3 in that field, the xml that is made knows to treat that as a download link for podcasting. (I still don’t know how it knows this, but it does.) If you are using Blogger you can enable or turn off the link field under Settings, on the Formatting page, then scroll near the bottom of the page.

Why this interest? I was just on the phone with Burks and he said something provocative, from my perspective. Students have the iPods and many want to look at presentations on paper. They’d rather print out stuff and carry that around along with their iPod than carry around a laptop. I’ve been encouraging the use of laptops in the classroom for years. But there is no doubt there is some cost.

I’ve always thought that weight is the big issue and the textbooks or course packs plus student print outs weigh a lot more than a laptop (which has the textbook and course on it in digital form). But students might not mind the weight that much and might feel less risk toting a lot of paper around – nobody will steal it, it won’t break if it is dropped, batteries run out, etc. So a small form factor electronic device, iPod or cellphone, may be preferred along with a big backpack for…. Paper. Some students will go the laptop route, but many seem to prefer the alternative.

This is kind of an epiphany for me as it explains where podcasting and an accompanying PowerPoint may be preferred to an audio integrated into the PowerPoint approach. I’m a laptop guy (really a Tablet PC guy) and so do the standard egotistic thing and project my preferences onto everyone else. The data don’t bear that projection out, however. A lot of students who own laptops rarely if ever bring them to campus.

Maybe at some point large displays will become so ubiquitous that they will take the place of paper and at that point students will store all the content on their small form factor device. But in the meantime, perhaps those going the Podcasting route should think of the visual part of their online content as ultimately viewed on paper. I’m going to have to think this one through some more because it cuts against the grain in how I’ve designed my own stuff. It would help me to have some use results on when students actually listen to academic podcasting content. Do they use it and if so when and why?


Jean-Claude Bradley said...

A few points on your post:
1) A few people have talked about using the Link field in Blogger but you don't need to. Feedburner will pick out the mp3 in your post and put only that file as an enclosure when it makes the podcast feed.
2) For many classes the audio only is not that useful. I have been offering a screencast, a podcast and the notes in pdf format. Students can either use the pdf notes (which they can print out)with the mp3 files and be independent of the internet or watch the streaming screencasts. The majority of students prefer the screencast but it is nice for the other channel to be available.

Lanny Arvan said...


Thanks for the comments. I hope you and a bunch of others continue to experiment with this stuff because the collective knowledge needs to grow.

Specifically on the audio only or not, the issue to me is whether there is only one file with both audio and visual content or if there are two files, so they can hear the former and print out and then view the latter.