Perils of Podcasting

From Scott’s podcasting for principals tutorial:

What can I do with this? Well, I don’t know about you but I can talk faster than I can type. So maybe I’d like to send a message to my class… Ta da! I’ve just freed up 20 minutes of my day. What else might we do with this?

I’m all for stocking one’s toolbox but the upbeat monologue here makes me wary. You can talk faster than you can type, which, great, but I hope you temper your blithe optimism with some concern for your listeners’ experience at some point.

Not only do most of your listeners read faster than you talk but if you don’t edit for clarity – eliding those ums, ahs, scripting beforehand, and clipping out those accidental digressions – they carry the burden of your communication.

Which seems kind of typical of my relationship with podcasts: lots of waiting and finger-thrumming while you circle a point you could’ve made in half my time had you typed up a coupla draftsWhich, come to think of it, is the single biggest problem with pod- and vodcasting: the drafting process is too complicated for your casual enthusiast..

The suspicion just creeps over me every coupla months or so that the constant introduction of new tools has left your average, well-meant educator a permanent amateur, able to save some time for herself using these tools, unable to do anything better. And since we’re all in that same state, there exists very little peer pressure towards excellence, excepting occasional posts from certain School 2.0 curmudgeons.

Tell me I’m wrong.


I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. I don’t necessarily disagree with your point here – I read many more blogs than I listen to podcasts for just the reason you have stated. However, some people are oral learners, so perhaps a podcast works better for them. I’ll compare it to reading a book vs. listening to a book on tape. I never listen to books on tape, but someone out there must because according to the Audio Producers’ Association, the 2007 audiobook sales are estimated at $923 million. ( )

  2. > Tell me I’m wrong

    i think you’re dead right. i think it’s what bugs me about a lot of the technology advocacy that i see – half of the time it’s sold as being easier for the teacher rather than as clearer for the students.

  3. Devil’s advocate: Speaking is one of the five core content curriculum standards for Language Arts Literacy in my state, and probably the most overlooked one, what with the emphasis on reading comp and writing for the state-mandated tests.

    Podcasting provides a potentially more meaningful vehicle for honing rhetorical and public speaking skills, with the added bonus of accessing an audience outside the classroom. The 25 kids in your class might not care about your stance on issue X, but post it to a class blog, and maybe you’ll get some engagement.

    I do agree, however, that these things need to be scripted and rehearsed. I just finished a project involving podcasting with my sophomores, and they were required to write, revise, read, revise again, then do at least two dry runs before they got within five feet of a mic. Even as they recorded, I was pleased with the critical ear they used as they did take after take until it didn’t suck anymore.

  4. Er, quick clarification: before “your stance on issue X,” I should have said, “25 OTHER kids”, as in a public speaking class or some other course in which students are required to give speeches or oral presentations.

    Looks like my written communication skills need work, too.

  5. There are two types of podcast I do: Scripted news reports, and book talks which by their nature are not scripted. Both fulfill state standards on oral communication skills. Students need to be able to participate orally in both formal and informal settings. Other teachers add readers theater. I tend not to edit he informal ones for a couple reasons. One is laziness, the second is that I don’t want it to be overproduced when I’m recording something informal for a number of reasons including not having another professional thinking well, that was fast-paced and then have them think I don’t use “pause time” etc. that is critical with ELL instruction (especially in the lower grades).

    I also show the students the editing so they can see how to do it themselves. By the end of the year, I hope to have them doing the audio editing in audacity.
    When I do my “adult” webcasts on Ed Tech Talk, we do not have a script, but we do have an outline and timetable. On some shows we have not follow this well, and have not been as tight. On others we have not followed it well, and it’s been magical. I’m more an improv style teacher. I like a plan, but I like to adjust on the fly. My podcasting style is similar. Bottom line you need a plan, but you also need to be open to the moment.

  6. I don’t think you’re wrong.

    I would add, however, that I think many blogs are just as bad. I skim a lot of the blogs I read (yours is a rare exception) because I think many folks don’t spend the time revising and editing. (I’m guilty of this sometimes as well.) One the double edged swords of all of these web 2.0 technologies is the ability to get information out there quickly. We don’t have to make sure it meets anyone’s standards. So, we need to hold high standards for ourselves.

  7. Thanks for this great post. I have been surprised by the excitement over podcasts for exactly the reason you mention: I barely have time to read all the blogs I am interested in… listening to them is out of the question. I love listening to books on tape (, beautiful novels read by very talented readers. That is wonderful for novels – but when it comes to the typical contents of a blog post, I definitely prefer to read, not lose time listening, unable to skim, etc. :-)

  8. There are perils in everything. I’ve seen crap graphs, crap papers, crap dioramas and yes, I’ve listened to crap podcasts…oh and I’ve read crap blogs.

    Giving students and teachers another outlet, another means of demonstrating meaning and understanding, is what all the techy stuff is about.

    Markers made things more colorful, but let’s be honest, a whole lot more opening and closing of markers had to take place…time wasted when simple pencil would have sufficed.

    “let’s teach proper shading!” exclaimed the advocates of the pencil.

    Andrew Keen’s message only goes so far with me.

  9. @ken Hear, hear.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t subscribe to many podcasts – I get the BBC’s 606 (soccer call-in show), Savage Love, by Dan Savage, and two from UK newspaper The Guardian: Islamophonic (which broke my heart when it went from weekly to monthly to whenever Riazat feels like updating it) and Football Weekly.

    As for finding time to listen to them, they keep me company on the 50-minute 1-way commute (and the occasional extra hour to and from grad school).

    Do I get my English teacher credentials rescinded because I don’t subscribe to Grammar Girl? (not that it’ll matter in 6 months, anyway…)

  10. Ken, while teachers work diligently to make essays clearer – outlining, drafting, re-drafting, purging typos, grammatical errors, and unclear thinking – the same process is generally absent from podcasting and vodcasting.

    That diligence is supplanted, instead, by the blithe optimism I found in Scott’s piece. “This is cool! It saves time and it’s kinda fun.”

    Which, awesome, but whether you’re into Keen’s message or you aren’t (have you read his book?) that’s some low-hanging fruit right there.

  11. Over here in my little slice of heaven, I plead, beg, cajole, and damn-near demand that words like ‘outlining’, ‘drafting’, ‘re-drafting’, and so on are THE MOST IMPORTANT STEPS in any -casting project.

    What’s interesting to me about the notion of, “This is cool! It saves time and it’s kinda fun,” is that whenever I try to introduce/entice teachers to consider -casting, they tend to say things like, “too complicated and not worth the time”.

    It’s only after I tell them that the aforementioned skills are what really matters that they then begin to consider trying some new end product.

    I’ve read Keen’s tome and it’s obvious that the Silicon Valley he references is not Silicon Valley High School.

    He shoots fast-moving, but ultimately dull-pointed arrows at a system of education that his tiny frame hasn’t been around in quite some time.