October 24, 2008

Psychology Podcasts @ UConn

UConn psychology professor Dr. David B. Miller is recording small group discussions which enhance his two large psychology classes. One podcast is called iCube ("Issues In Intro"), about which Miller says:
[These] are informal discussions with students on course material following each week's General Psychology lectures. Students who participate have the opportunity to ask questions for clarification, as well as expand on course material and discuss issues not necessarily covered in class.
He supports the General Psychology class with two other audio sessions, called precasts ("short, enhanced podcasts previewing material before each lecture") and postcasts ("re-explanations of concepts that might be important and/or detailed and, therefore, justify repeating" which are created following some, but not all, lectures).

I am a regular listener to both, and find them very useful. First, the explanation of psychology topics is fun because of my interest in cognitive science. Second, the podcasts are a fascinating insight into how one of "my" professors works with his students in my liaison department. Finally, they are a great example of how all educators can use new technology to enhance our teaching.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to sit in on his recording session and it was a delight. There were about 20 students sitting around two tables, and virtually all of them were engaged with the conversation. I felt that I could see them learning, and that was a wonderful sight. The podcasts are a great, tech-oriented but not tech-dominated, way for Miller to provide additional information to students in his large introductory class. The beauty of them, it seems to me, is that they are helpful not only to the students who are able to attend the recording session, but also that they are available to other students as a podcast to listen to at their convenience, and as often as they like.

I liked the idea of podcasts-supporting-classes very much in theory, and I was even more impressed with the idea after having seen them in action. I am inspired to try to apply this to my own classes; instead of running exclusively text-based chat "office hours" for my GSLIS classes, I think I'll try Skype sessions next semester. Students who want to do text-based chat can do that, but students who learn more from hearing could benefit too.

But back to Miller: he has discussed his podcasts at various conferences and print publications; check out his 2006 article Podcasting at the University of Connecticut: Enhancing the Educational Experience in the October 16, 2006 issue of Campus Technology. Oh, and he's written his own theme song, PsychoBabble, which he discusses in a standalone podcast. For real!

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