Creative Writing Students on Podcasts

My EL170, Introduction to Creative Writing Course just wrapped up the semester (well, formally–that is; we plan to meet one more time to read and screen finished projects), and it was, I think, about as good as it gets for a teacher, and a pretty remarkable first blogging experience for them. If ever a class had a chance of moving the blogging community out of the classroom and into their lives at semester’s end, this would be the one. Of course there’s the distraction of summer, and the fact that 80% of them are going abroad next year. Will this community and its vehicle call loudly enough to keep them blogging collaboratively? Will the creative writing focus morph into something altogether different?

One interesting outcome of this blog-centric class is their embrace of the podcast. They loved recording their own work and then hearing it on the blog, and they found it helpful to hear someone else reading their work, and to hear the rest of the class read their work. I see it as one of the elements that created a kind of magic here this semester. They even asked me to record the silly poemI wrote and read to them in the final class meeting.

Now they want me to record myself reading a story to them. And they want the one student who has to leave campus before the group get-together to record her poems and post them to the blog, so we can play them that evening and have them for posterity.

I also think the podcasting had something to do with the number of students wanting to try out digital storytelling for their final projects–having discovered the pleasures of reading aloud and recording, they were open to experimenting with multimedia authoring as well. One piece of the technology puzzle naturally led to another, and as they gained skill in using the tools, they also gained the critical apparatus necessary for becoming astute readers of New Media. Once again, if the pedagogy leads the technology use, and if that pedagogy has the formation of a strong learning collective at its center, then the learning outcomes will be quite stunning.

I came across this podcasting lit game today as I poked around a bit to see what other people in lit and creative writing might be doing in their classes with podcasting. A useful tool for learning about writers’ voices. I’d like to see the professor let the students do the readings, too, though, for I am convinced that they learn by doing the reading and then playing it back.

Less successful though promising this semester (but only because I ran out of time before I could post the podcasts) was recording students giving short presentations twice–once in my office where they could read their talk if they liked, and then once in front of the class. My plan is to embed both versions on the blog for them to compare and to evaluate. Our students need a good deal of practice in public speaking, and though we can give them feedback, hearing themselves will provide much more effective self-evaluation tools. Podcasting is so effortless (compared to videotaping, for instance) that we should be able to model and analyze their presentations with them almost on the spot. Next semester…

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