Book Review: Podcasting for Learning in Universities

Gilly Salmon and Palitha Edirisingha (eds), SRHE/OU Press 2008, reprinted 2009.

I really liked this book, or at least the parts that I read. As with anything by Gilly Salmon (or Gill e-Salmon as I like to write her), it is pragmatic for the practitioner but based in research, without the research being shoved down your throat. She writes the kind of stuff you could give to a colleague who doesn’t care about how their epistemology affects their approach to teaching, so to speak.

Image of book
Image taken from IMPALA website (http://www.le.ac.uk/impala/)

The book is slightly strangely organised. I read it in the order Chapter 1, 15, 2, 4, 3, 5, 6 then glanced through other chapters. Chapter 15 is very useful. The chapters 4 – 14 are reports from lecturers who have implemented podcasting into their practice.

Chapter 1 overviews the book, and is very jolly, as well as being quite inspirational – you can do it! I was a little surprised at the emphasis placed here (and throughout) on audio alone podcasts – do they really work? I’m not sure I could listen to a detailed lecture just on audio. Nevertheless, chapter 4 looked at using such audio podcasts to provide students with pre-knowledge before lectures in introductory physics – in an attempt to iron out those dratted misconceptions. There was some evaluation, which looked a little shaky, but the description o fthe impementation is useful.

Chapter 5 wsa interesting to me, as it detailed the use of podcasts to teach software, something I have spent a lot of time developing over the last few years. The chapter described the irony in the proliferation of paper based materials/books on teaching an essentially dynamic topic; and showed how screen videos could be useful in teaching software to students. Again, the evaluation didn’t show great “enhancement” or whatever, but from my own experience, students support and feedback are as crucial as the notes/videos etc. Again, the chapter was practical wth tips and advice.

The chapters detailed experiences in a range of disciplines including physics (ch 4); GIS (ch 5 – 7); engineering (ch 8); law (ch 9); veterinary med (ch 10) as well as a range of scenarios: on-campus students, distance students, audio, video, feedback, student podcasts.

However, it is Chapter 15 that gets the tradtitional e-Salmon stamp. Here, a clear ten point plan is spelled out, based on the details and experiences discussed in the previous chapters. Number 1, and perhaps often ignored, is the rationale. I thikn Salmon has said elsewhere – does the online environment have added value? If so, use it, if not consider why not and don’t use if so. Then comes practical issues such as the medium, their role (eg in a blended module), the structure, contributors and content, their reusability**, length, framework and access method.

**It was with horror in year 2 of implementing web-videos that I realised I had given specific dates for submission of assignments in the first year in the audio and video, I had to re-record the podcasts again to make them “timeless”

I really recommend this book if you are interested in podcasting, there is a companion book on the mechanics of podcasting, the three copies of which have mysteriously disappeared from our library. There is an associated website http://www.le.ac.uk/impala/

It has inspired me to think about how podcasts might be useful to support my lectures, so that in itself is a good indication of its usefulness.

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