TRANSCRIPT: Tales of Teaching Online ep. 56 – Podcasting in teaching and learning: how to effectively implement industry based tools
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Intro: Digital, student-centred, creative, innovation, imagination, initiative, stories that matter.
Joan Sutherland: I’m Joan Sutherland. And this is Tales of Teaching Online brought to you by Deakin Learning Futures. Hello, welcome to Tales of Teaching Online. Today, I’m excited to be joined by Christopher Scanlon who’s a senior lecturer in communication at Deakin University. And we’re gonna be talking about the different teaching and learning tools he’s using his team. Teaching for engagement primarily. Hi Chris, How are you today?
Chris Scanlon: I’m very well. Great to be here.
Joan: Thanks for joining us on this podcast. Can you just tell us a little bit about yourself to get started?
Chris: So I joined, Deakin in 2020, just before the pandemic hit, which wasn’t the greatest time. Prior to that, I had been working in journalism education for about ten years, but I’ve had kind of went into journalism, starting teaching journalism at LaTrobe. Kind of moved into Associate Dean academic roles and roles in the Deputy Vice-Chancellor academics office, both at LaTrobe and then at Swinburne. And then really wanted to come back to teaching. So I really wanted to go also into an environment that was doing online teaching as standard business rather than something that off to the side or a specialty boutique company has happens at some universities. So I was really wanting to come back to teach journalism and you can do it like Deakin does that.
Joan: You’re in the right space for that with putting online first, which is good. So you’ve had a wealth of experience in journalism by the sounds of it. And then you’ve come for the teaching perspective at Deakin. What is it that you’re using in your teaching in relation to teaching and learning teams for engagement?
Chris: Um quite a few tools. I teach production unit, so podcasting in audio journalism and video journalism. So that’s two units as well as at the postgraduate level, Multimedia Storytelling. So as you can imagine, require different pieces of software and students getting comfortable with different pieces of equipment. So one of the things e.g. in video journalism, I try and do upfront to get engagement and as an icebreaker is use the Microsoft tool where students can upload a video and it’s sort of quick, I me in a minute kind of thing where I get them to introduce themselves to the class and to try and start off the trimester with them actually creating a video because that’s what we’re gonna be doing throughout the unit. So let’s get them going on that. There’s no assessment or not any kind of there’s no kind of feedback on that, given, it’s something just to get them kind of creating a video for staff. So we kind of set the tone that the unit is in fact practical.
Joan: During that video, do you find that it builds a sense of connection between the cohort and the students and yourself and the students? Or is it mainly just to get used to a different form of media?
Chris: I found it worked really well during the pandemic because students didn’t have the opportunity to come in and meet each other in person. I found there was a lot of engagement. I could see that students had watched each other. I reckon, I suspect what, I think the reason it could be just the cohort, but I think there was a bit of a drop-off after the pandemic, maybe some of the novelty of that had worn off, you know kind of thing. Not another thing I had to do. But I’m going to persist with it because I think that’s a good one to get students going. In Cloud cohorts, I find that still works well, like that as well. And post grad, where there’s often in postgrad cohorts, there’s not any expectation you’re ever going to come on campus. The students are quite used to that and they use that that opportunity.
Joan: Okay. So you mentioned ‘Flip’. Is that something that you used throughout the trimester or do you use different other tools for videos?
Chris: I have used it in an assessment piece in previous years where the students needed to do a pitch. And so they needed to, and this was actually an audio journalism, so I had to pitch the story. And again, we would have, I’ve slightly changed this. But during the pandemic it was really useful to use to get students to create a pitch. And then part of the pitching process was that they then have to go in and provide feedback to another, other students, at least one on their story idea and their idea for a podcast audio feature. The students had created five to six minute audio feature including music, interviews, sound effects if needed. But they also had to pitch that idea. And the idea was that they would get some feedback and students would go, yeah, I kinda know what you’re doing with this, have you thought about or it was, this seems really kinda unfocused. I reckon the story that the one that really sparked my interest was this. And so you try and give you a bit of guidance about providing that productive feedback as well.
Joan: yeah. So it sounds like you’re looking at the purpose first and then choosing the tool after that, you mentioned around the audio feature in podcasting. So obviously that’s what you’re teaching. How, how have the students adopted the different tools and had they been able to do that effectively and had they been engaged with that process?
Chris: Yeah, they have and we use a couple of things. So we use Audacity, which is a free digital audio workstation. It’s a great little editor. The University has access to Adobe Audition, which is the bells and whistles. But unfortunately not every student can access that being off campus, so we kind of use Audacity. But the other thing I’ll get the students to do is to then stories to Soundcloud. So when they put that content out there and that might be now moved to having a podcast trailer. So rather than pitching the idea, we do the pitch and volume of a trailer. And they have to produce like this is, this is the podcast and this is the story and it’s going to sell the podcast. And they upload all of those to SoundCloud, to kind of have that student that work out there. And they’re unlisted and they don’t have to have it published. But it’s kind of a publication outcome.
Joan: With that is that does that form part of their portfolio, I suppose professional portfolio going out into the workforce after studying at Deakin as well?
Chris: Yes, that’s the idea. We want the students to have that content out there and the best of the content gets up on, we encouraged the students to put them forward for consideration by DSCRIBE that’s DSCRIBE.net.au which is our journalism showcase. The best of them out there. And with the, with the podcast stories, the national version of DSCRIBE which is called the junction journalism, they have a podcast that comes out every month, and Deakin’s produces the December version of that December episode. The best of all the audio output out of our students and make a half-hour podcast out of that. So that’s pushed out there as well on that platform to encourage students to again showcase their work and have that content out there that they can show to an employer and say look at my work, here’s what I’ve done.
Joan: Wow, isn’t that a great outcome, especially for the world of work and actually going in doing work integrated learning and actually what they’re actually going to go into the workforce and do. I wonder with that having been on a podcast myself and one of the things is you hate your voice, so you like, or it’s not perfect. Or you can really be critical because it is yourself. How do you overcome that in students or are they more straightforward and they just get it done?
Chris: Well, some of them just got to go with it and they used to it. They they’ve heard their own themselves making videos and alike. Yeah. For others, it’s a bit more of a stretch and I encourage students to use my own example. I have a lisp and every, every time I hear myself back, I get surprised. And I say, Oh, I have a lisp because I don’t hear it. Yes. I tell the students that I’ve repeated this story to them and say, you always sound different to when you hear yourself back so you speak with an accent. Big deal everybody does. The other thing I try and tell the students from an industry point of view. Yeah. If you went back into Australian radio or television back in the 1960s and into the 1970s. Everyone spoke with Received Pronunciation. It was that very middle England kind of way of speaking. And I said, you listen to BBC radio or Australian radio now and you will hear all sorts of accents. And the one other thing I want to see them on the BBC. You’ll hear all the regional accents, right? That this is actually what we want. We want that authenticity. People do not buy that if it, if it sounds affected and that actually performance, that kind of the reality of the media now.
Joan: yeah, I love that the authenticity around it because then no surprise, we’re saying that in social media as well, people go on to it because I liked as authentic as it can be. But people’s stories and their narrative and that it’s authentic to them. So that’s great to hear that you’re doing that because that’s the sort of, I suppose, and unintended outcome. Or it could be an intended outcome from doing things like podcasting and building that confidence and showing that change over time as well.
Chris: Absolutely. I think that’s the thing that social media has changed our listening and viewer habits and our grammar that goes within it, our expectations. Again, as an audience.
Joan: Do you embed that within the journalism stream or social media, do you take that up at all or is it more looking at things like Flip and ways you can produce different outcomes I suppose.
Chris: That’s something I do talk with students. I do, I do use this sort of more traditional story format in terms of basically podcasting and the kinds of stories I’m expecting. I based it off what Radio National put out out on their sort of magazine style shows because, just because it’s a very clear structure that they have, and an easy structure to work with. But what I tell students, both video and audio is that the way in which these, the way in which we are producing and seeing video now even on shows like 7.30 and the news, they are more and more influenced by the visual grammar of YouTube. And they kinda, some of that informality is creeping back into broadcast television. But I also encourage the students. So e.g. with video too, they’ve got cameras that they can go and borrow from the media department if I can’t get to them, and again, this goes for cloud students and they’ve got a broadcast quality camera in their pocket. Because that’s not a joke either. If you look what CNN are using now, and what the ABC, regional and rural are actually training their journalists to use iPhones, sure its a top of the line iPhone, but they’re actually getting that picture, from an iPhone and putting it up to the satellite uplink box. Now, the key thing though, I really stretch the students, is the sound quality of an old phone is gonna be awful because it’s designed to making phone calls, but reasonably cheap and I reckon under about 50 bucks lavalier mic and get really good audio as well. So that’s, that’s kinda the world we’re living in that the broadcast industry is now adopting the exact same tools that vloggers and social media content creators are using as well. So it’s trying to get students ready for that world as well.
Joan: Isn’t it great that it is accessible, well more accessible than it was before? Because I know even myself being in this industry for a while when we started doing filming, like there would be big setups and you couldn’t even imagine having that phone in your pocket that could do some audio or some video quality, that was done 15 years ago now. But how much time has changed and that is accessible for students and they can bring that into their world of work as well.
Chris: Absolutely. And with audio, I remember, it wasn’t so long ago, about ten years ago, that I did an interview on the ABC they wanted you ideally at Southbank in the tardis in a soundproof box. And if you couldn’t do that, they wanted you on a landline in a quiet office. Well, I did a whole lot of interviews last year on the ABC and they get you to download an app on your phone called Tie Line Again, that patches and you just use the headphones that you get with your device. And I think they’ve done that so they know how they’re engineered. And you do the interview via that and they patch you into the studio. They work out the sound levels. And other interviews I’ve done have been on Skype so I say, yeah. So the other part of this video, increasingly, if you watch news programs, they’re doing interviews like this. And the trick I tell students it’s not so much the equipment that is the barrier. It’s how do you tell stories in a compelling way that becomes a real skill and how do you coach your talent, your interviewee, to set up the cameras so they’re not like teams, kinda like cut off or something like that. So that becomes a trick of how do you get students to actually get the interviewee? The kind of setup they’re setting at the other end so that it’s usable in your interview.
Joan: It’s so much more and we know this in learning design like it’s so much more than the tool itself that you’re talking about. The storytelling, the pitching, and what that looks like in the whole, taking a holistic approach versus just saying, Oh, let’s just use Audacity or let’s look at this video. And hopefully you can give me some tips after this for me. But, um, I suppose looking at the different things that you’ve implemented, you talked about Flip. You talked about Audacity and embedding, video and podcasting, talking about audio and how podcasting has changed over time. What has been your biggest challenge implementing different tools such as these in your teaching and learning?
Chris: I think to make sure the students are getting the learning outcomes. So they’re not just playing with a tool for the sake of playing with at all. Because I think I know myself, I get distracted by the next shiny thing to kind of work. And I think there’s also a risk as well in doing that whenever you take something up I ask students if you’re going to get the learning outcome that you want them to get. But then it always get surprised as well where they sort of do something with that, with a tool that you hadn’t thought of, oh, you could actually do that as well. So I think that’s kind of the thing. I think the other the other thing about it is trying to do that vetting for them to introduce them to things which they’re going to be used that is going to be useful for them in industry and to get a really good result in their assignment. I mean a production result, a really good outcome out of it.
Joan: I think what you’re saying around that industry when you’re linking it to that, that’s powerful in itself and even that portfolio of evidence being able to go out into industry and say ‘This is what I’ve done’. Although it can be challenging initially, but at least it’s linking to either learning outcome, but also that work, the industry-based outcomes as well.
Chris: Yeah. The other challenge I think you have with it is sort of thinking, particularly in journalism. And when you’re trying to fill factual stories is potential ethical implications. So e.g. there is a fantastic tool out there which you can freely use. Adobe SHASTA Project SHASTA. And basically you can sign in with your Deakin credentials. And what it does, it’s an AI that you can upload some audio that you’ve recorded out on the street with lots of background noise. You can upload it. The AI goes through it, and it takes strips off all the background noise and then give you a clean audio. Now, I’ve done a few experiments with wind so it can deal with, but it’s not great. Then if you are in a recording in a noisy place, say you’re, well I did it at my daughter’s basketball game with lots of balls being bounced and multiple courts and kids screaming. And I just recorded some audio and then after it took it all off. And here was my voice. And I tell the students about this because it basically gives you a studio anywhere. You can record anywhere pretty much and then put it in strip all the background noise. Now, it’s absolutely amazing. But then when you thinking about factual storytelling, there’s an ethical issue that comes up with that. Where you sort of thing actually is that the, is that what actually happened. And so you have to tell your students, Okay, well, if you’re doing your narration and voice-over, which you would do in a student’s situation fine, if you’re doing the interview, not so sure about that.
Joan: It’s a really interesting point that you bring up around that ethical consideration and reflecting the authenticity, gone back to authenticity, what you’re mentioning before about that as well. So that’s some food for thought, but some very good points. I suppose there’s some challenges. What is the biggest benefits you’ve seen implementing this type of technology in your teaching?
Chris: There’s more upside than down, I think. Yeah, even being able to embed YouTube clips and podcasts within teaching in an online teaching space that’s in CloudDeakin, I mean, things like that are just wonderful if you can actually, It’s not just, I’ll tell you about this podcasts and go and listen to it. I’ll tell you about it and hear it is. We can even cut down the bit that you want. So I can do a little exercise for students in video journalism, where I’m go and show you how many shots are in a three-minute, news package. And you can just go and I’ve got tools in video editing tools, which we’ll break it down shot by shot. And then you can spit out and you can say have a look at this. This was 30 s long and there were however many shots making that up. So you can really bring it, you can really have that example for students. It’s not just me telling you you will need about this amount of video in order to make it. Have a look at this that aired on Channel 9 and count the number of shots and it counts it on the screen for you. Students. So it’s kinda things like that, which is just a demonstration. And having listened to this podcast, this is listened and you can tell students to listen out for things. Listen to the, the rapport between the co-hosts on this is that something you might want to emulate, mimic, take with you in your when you’re thinking about your own podcasts. So that sort of thing.
Joan: Then that goes back again to industry practice, like looking at what people are doing. And every podcast, you know, is different. Different news channels are different. What do you align to? What message are you trying to get across? and actually looking at people I know I like to listen to people that don’t necessarily align with to think, okay, how are they doing things differently and get different ideas that, so it’s interesting that you’re embedding that into your teaching and learning, which sounds awesome as well.
Chris: The wonderful thing about that is that when students actually create this content and then having their examples with the student’s permission. I’ve got a couple of assignments fro m last year that I’m using this year in broadcasting and audio journalism and showing, this is what last few students did. Here’s three stories which were fantastic. You can actually show the students see this is what’s possible. And when you’ve got really great content, you can say, this is what’s possible. They did this during the pandemic. They get those sort of inspirational stories.
Joan: Yeah. I can imagine that would be really powerful because it’s a peer it’s not saying, Oh, well, they’re expert at that they’re in industry. They’ve been doing it for years. They know how to do it, but you’re showing that this is a student who was in your shoes last year, and this is the outcomes that are possible. So I can imagine that would be very powerful and empowering to students to hear that and to listen to it and to hear someone else’s story.
Joan: Yeah. So suppose other teaching and learning teams will be listening to this and that would want to implement different tools in their teaching and learning. Have you got any advice for other teaching and learning teams that would be looking at maybe implementing podcasting, which is a hot topic at the moment, or any other tools into their teaching and learning?
Chris: I’ll just go with sensitive experiment, experimentation and expect that you’re not going to get the result first but you might surprise yourself. Because I certainly certainly found that with Flip. I wasn’t sure it was going to work with the cohort that I was going to use it with. And it turned out I was kinda the, the easiest thing. I think the other thing is to trust the students as well. The other thing I’d say is, I think a lot as academics we’re often kinda skittish about using these things because we don’t necessarily use them. But I think the thing to remember is that many of our students have been using these platforms often in a highly informal way for many, many years, and they’ve kinda become part of it. I hate the word phrase digital natives because I think that is an absolute rubbish. But they often come with a mindset of using, of kind of familiarity with these. So I think that you kind of trust with that and you’ll always get students who are kind of far more tentative than others. and really don’t want to go with them, but I just think go with that sense of experimentation and then be prepared to refine and refine and get better at it.
Joan: Well, that’s project cycle isn’t it? Like iterate it and move forward with it. So some really great points. So I really like to thank you and thank you for your time.
Chris. It’s been really insightful in what you’re doing. And I love hearing about how you’re using industry to inform your teaching and learning practices and integrating tools holistically versus just saying let’s do it because it’s new and shiny. As you mentioned earlier, say thank you for your time today and I look forward to seeing some of the outputs.
Joan: And some advice.
Chris: Thank you.