Contributor: Alex Reid
School Affiliation: SUNY-Cortland
iTunes University (iTunes U) ( http://www.apple.com/education/products/ipod/itunes_u.html ) is a web-based service that allows for the easy distribution of audio and video files. It makes use of the popular, cross-platform iTunes application ( http://www.apple.com/itunes/download/ ), freely available from Apple, and the mechanisms of the iTunes Music Store. Not surprisingly, iTunes U also interfaces easily with the iPod. That said, iTunes U is only one possible means for undertaking educational podcasting, and thus while I will focus on iTunes U here, many of these practices may be undertaken by other technical means. iTunes U and educational podcasting have been closely associated with coursecasting: the practice of producing audio or video recordings of course lectures and making them available online. However, there are other uses for these applications, and it is this less-traveled path I will discuss here.
Put simply, iTunes U is not limited to the one-to-many communication model that would typify coursecasting. It also permits students to upload their own material for distribution to both course members and the general public. It is simply a matter of granting users the appropriate permissions to perform these tasks within the system. In addition, applications such as the cross-platform Audacity ( http://audacity.sourceforge.net/ ) and Garage Band for the Mac ( http://www.apple.com/ilife/garageband/ ) have made the production of audio files a simple task. As such, the challenges for educational podcasting have less to do with technical matters than with the development of pedagogic strategies that take advantage of this communicational possibility. In short, given the capacity we have as teachers ta ask our students to produce and distribute audio (and even video) to their classmates, to a larger community of students (e.g. the community of students within a major), or even potentially to the general Internet public, what might and should we do?
The first and most obvious practice is to have students develop their own individual podcast series that would be shared within the course. In combination with other assignments (e.g. maintaining a personal blog), the students’ podcast series offered the course a practical means to investigate how one might develop an online identity through an ongoing compositional practice. As our students all already had online representations in MySpace and/or Facebook, the podcasting assignment offered them a chance to consider the rhetorical effects of different online identities in the context of their long-term educational goals.
This is a practice that we are implementing for our online and blended courses. Here the idea is that small groups in the course are given the task of discussing a particular reading assignment. They are offered a series of prompts to address. They then meet for discussion and record their conversation. These conversations then become part of the content for the course. [Note: In our situation, our online courses are almost entirely composed of students who are also taking classes physically on campus.] However, this assignment could be undertaken remotely using a Skypecast ( http://www.skype.com/ ) in conjunction with a third-party recording application. For tips on recording Skypecasts, read the following Skype blog article ( http://share.skype.com/sites/en/2006/06/just_for_the_record.html ). They recommend Audio Hijack Pro (Mac) ( http://www.rogueamoeba.com/audiohijackpro/ ), Hot Recorder (Windows) ( http://www.hotrecorder.com/ ), Pamela (Windows) ( http://www.pamela-systems.com/products/ ), and Pretty May (Windows) ( http://www.prettymay.net/ ) (For legal purposes, your students should make clear at the outset that everyone knows the conversation is being recorded.) Alternately, video and audio AIM conferences can be recorded. Ecamm’s Conference Recorder ( http://www.ecamm.com/mac/conferencerecorder/ ) is an application that works within Apple’s iChat ( http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/ichat/ ). One might also use screen video capture software. Wikipedia offers a list of screen-recording applications for a variety of platforms ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_screen_recording_software ).
In many of our courses, students do group or individual presentations, sometimes accompanied by PowerPoint. These presentations may now be recorded and podcasted (either within the class or to a larger audience, with the students’ permission, of course). On a Mac, creating enhanced podcasts that match audio with slides is accomplished using Garage Band ( http://www.apple.com/ilife/tutorials/garageband/gb3-1.html ) or Profcast ( http://www.profcast.com/public/index.php ) . For information on creating enhanced podcasts on a PC, read Jake Ludington’s advice ( http://www.jakeludington.com/project_studio/20051004_windows_media_enhanced_podcast.html ). For online and blended courses, this also means that students may do online-only presentations as well.
Many of our students have a passion for creative writing and participate in various public readings on and off-campus. We have begun recording their performances and plan to make them available in our public iTunes U space. In addition, every year Cortland holds an undergraduate conference where our students present their research. This conference, or at least parts of it, may be recorded and distributed on the public iTunes U site. In our courses, we can distribute, review, and workshop recorded performances much as we would conventionally workshop written work. In addition, the possibility of a broader audience and an accessible record of performances create a more meaningful context for a reading. Just as the promise of a real world audience alters the context of a writing assignment, the existence of this online audience intensifies the value of their performance. Of course, for some students that may be too much pressure, so we certainly do not distribute their performances without their permission.
Like many institutions, SUNY has a public speaking general education requirement. In addition, in Professional Writing, we have a programmatic goal of preparing students to communicate as both writers and speakers. The advent of podcasting requires us to recognize that public speaking is no longer limited to live events. As such, the recording and distribution of public readings is not only intended to address existing curricular goals but to help students understand communication via networked media.
For several years, Cortland has produced an online student magazine called NeoVox ( http://www.neo-vox.org ). Last year, we implemented Movable Type ( http://www.movabletype.org/ ) as the application for publishing the magazine, which allows for reader comments among other things. We now plan to move to producing audio versions of our articles. Articles will be available in both text and audio formats; articles with images will be produced as enhanced podcasts. iTunes U will provide us with a site for podcasting those articles and open the magazine to new audiences. We plan to do the same with our college literary magazines.
By podcasting our students’ publications we combine two recognizable values in composition. First, we provide our students with a real world audience and context for their work. Second, we offer them an opportunity to explore how their compositions work across media. Thus we provide them with a real world audience for their multimedia compositions. As with our recording and distribution of public readings, these activities offer our students the opportunity to engage in the rhetorical and compositional challenges of communicating through networked media.
In my view, while there are clear uses for iTunes U within the context of individual courses, including the practice of coursecasting, the real advantages of educational podcasting will only be realized through the opening of the learning experience to broader communities. Clearly not every element of every course should be open to the public. However, there is a tremendous amount to be gained by recognizing that our students have worthwhile things to say and that our courses and these technologies can serve as mechanisms that will assist them in reaching their audience and developing a public and professional voice.
There are three basic types of broader communities beyond the classroom: the community of students and faculty that comprise a program (whether that’s a Professional Writing major or a first-year composition program); the campus community of students, faculty, staff, and administrators (e.g., everyone who might have a campus e-mail or login username); and the general public on the Internet. These different audiences would create different rhetorical possibilities.
Publishing to these various publics has always been hypothetically possible, even before the advent of the Internet. Listservs and newsgroups and now blogs and wikis have long made it easy to share text with variously defined communities of participants. Many of the types of projects one might engage in using text would be possible with audio and video on iTunes U-from discussions of common issues or readings (between classes within a program, on campus, or around the globe) to collaborative projects (e.g. students in various parts of the world contribute video and audio that can be edited into a single media piece with a more global perspective than would be possible for students in a single location).
More importantly, iTunes U has emerged as part of a larger groundswell of consumer/user media production and distribution (YouTube being the obvious example). The production and publication of media as described here is not an isolated, classroom experience; it is not something you might do in college and never again. iTunes U offers a mechanism for the academic investigation and practice of this emerging mode of communication. As reported on the MIT Convergence Culture Consortium blog and in Screen Digest, by 2010, 55% of the videos viewed online will be user-generated, accounting for some 44 billion views ( http://www.convergenceculture.org/weblog/2007/01/usergenerated_content_expected.php ). This would be in addition to the growing role these media will play in professional communication. Even in the relative short term of the next three to five years, the discussion of the viability of using audio and video to support existing, print- or text-oriented, curricular goals may become secondary to the necessity of teaching the rhetoric and composition of these media directly.
Suny Cortland on itunes http://www.cortland.edu/itunesu/
Audacity (Cross-Platform) http://audacity.sourceforge.net/
Audio Hijack Pro (Mac) http://www.rogueamoeba.com/audiohijackpro/
Conference Recorder (Mac) http://www.ecamm.com/mac/conferencerecorder/
Garage Band (Mac) http://www.apple.com/ilife/garageband/
Hot Recorder (Windows) http://www.hotrecorder.com/
iChat (Mac) http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/ichat/
iTunes (Cross-Platform) http://www.apple.com/itunes/download/
Movable Type (Cross-Platform) http://www.movabletype.org
Pamela (Windows) http://www.pamela-systems.com/products/
Pretty May (Windows) http://www.prettymay.net/
Profcast (Mac) http://www.profcast.com/public/index.php
Skype (Cross-Platform) http://www.skype.com
iTunes University http://www.apple.com/education/products/ipod/itunes_u.html
Create an Enhanced Podcast with Garage Band http://www.apple.com/ilife/tutorials/garageband/gb3-1.html
Create an Enhanced Podcast on a PC http://www.jakeludington.com/project_studio/20051004_windows_media_enhanced_podcast.html
Recording Skypecasts http://share.skype.com/sites/en/2006/06/just_for_the_record.html
Wikipedia: List of Screen Recording Software http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_screen_recording_software
MIT Convergence Culture Center Blog http://www.convergenceculture.org/weblog/