Infusing Media Networks

While I am focusing on iTunes University, it should be clear that it is just one web service in a network of devices and software. Rather than viewing iTunes U as an independent application designed to solve some pedagogical challenge, it might be better understood as an indication of shifting compositional practices. That is, iTunes U is one node in an expanding network of mobile, cross media compositions that are quite unlike the traditional, print-only documents shared privately between student and teacher, with the occasional intervention of a workshop partner or writing center tutor.

The main point I have been seeking to make here is that the pedagogical operation of network media like iTunes University cannot be fully understood on its own or even within the context of a single class. As such, though the example of my course demonstrates how iTunes University intersects with other network sites within a course, the full potential of network media can only be realized in its operation across the curriculum. That is, the integration of iTunes U into one course is a curiosity and perhaps a learning experience, but infusion of network media across the curriculum potentially transforms the intellectual work taking place on a campus.

As I have discussed elsewhere on the Kairos PraxisWiki, we have envisioned five different potential uses for podcasting in our program and across the campus. Below I explore these different approaches and provide examples of student work from my Writing in Cyberspace course.

  1. Individual Podcasting
  2. Group Podcasts
  3. Online Class Presentations
  4. Recordings of Public Readings
  5. Podcasted Magazines

Individual Podcasting

The idea of the Individual Podcast is to offer students an avenue for exploring the production of a networked identity and for experimenting with new media composition. In the context of iTunes University, student podcasts are limited in accessibility to those registered for the course. It is unlikely that my college will soon give students the freedom to podcast to the public under the institution's name. Of course, creating your own independent podcast is not that difficult.

In this first example, one student, Adam, offers an analysis of the first text we read for the course, Smart Mobs by Howard Rheingold. In examining the networked threads of the course, one might follow a discussion from personal blog reflections and reading responses to course blog posts and comments to wiki entries to podcasts like Adam's and then back into the more text-based discussion. These conversations then formed the basis for essays students wrote later in the semester.

Group Podcasts

Group podcasts are especially useful for online or blended/hybrid courses as they represent an opportunity for students to engage in live discussion regarding course issues. The two examples below demonstrate two, different approaches to this task. One, a dialogue between two students, is more scripted; the second, a larger group conversation, is less structured.

The first example offers two students, Jennifer and Andrea, discussing the challenges of taking an online course. Two-way dialog was another common strategy employed by students in Writing in Cyberspace. This particular episode also demonstrates the reflective nature of the course. In personal blogs and course blog comments, students regularly explored the connection between the modes of learning in the course and the subject matter we were studying. As this podcast reveals, the audio format and the genre of podcasting lends itself to a more personal discourse than one typically discovers in academic text.

The group podcast involves five students--Sean, Jessica W., Jessica M. Steve, and Andy. They were the only students in my course to elect to podcast as a group. In listening to the podcast, it is evident they had some problems with recording quality as they were all gathered around a single mic. At the same time, a conversation between a group of students like this can server to spur further discussion within a class by modeling the types of exchanges students might have.

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 in conjunction with a third-party recording application. For tips on recording Skypecasts, read the following Skype blog article. (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. [I offer some resources for this in my Praxis Wiki article.]