For my special project I worked on a series of information literacy instruction podcasts. I’ve enjoyed it, even though it’s been frustrating at times (sometimes for fairly trivial reasons). Podcasts are an interesting way of teaching information literacy, because they can be used as just another way of getting the information across to students. I’m not sure they can really replace instruction sessions, but they can be used as a supplement to them (along with tutorials, readings, etc.). At Alabama, we started the Keys to the Capstone podcast series this past summer, with one of our interns recording a series called “from topic to paper,” and I continued on from there.
My work on the podcasts kind of gradually developed as the semester went by. I knew that it would be my special project from the very beginning of the semester, but we were primarily focused on teaching in the first couple of months. During that time I primarily just did some planning – an outline of each episode along with some free writing about each topic. Once our teaching ended the podcasts became my primary focus, and I spent a lot of time in November and the early part of December working on them.
In fact I have a hard time explaining to people the amount of time I’ve spent working on what will end up being just three five minute podcasts. Some of that is my own fault – I’ve become a bit obsessive compulsive about them (I’ll re-record entire segments because I didn’t like how I pronounced the word library, etc.). Some of that is also because of technical issues. I spent some time practicing mixing voices, editing, etc., but it’s still been a bit of a challenge. For example, I had one interview with Andy Johnson, an English instructor here at Alabama, who just has a booming voice (I literally wondered at one point why he wasn’t narrating documentaries for a living). I tried to mix the volume to make his segments sound about the same as my other interviews, but it seemed like he got louder as it went on. So when I recorded my parts of the episode I turned the volume up a bit to make myself louder. Eventually we decided to cut his segments out because I was having a hard time conceptualizing the episode around his quotes (more on that later), but now I’m having to re-record my parts of the episode (that’s pretty much all I have left to do) because they’re almost jarringly loud compared to the other episodes.
The main problem though was in conceptualizing the episodes. The first podcast series was, for the most part, focused on interviewing other librarians, but for this one we decided to interview GTA’s and Instructors from the English department here at Alabama. And it was difficult at times to keep them focused in on information literacy issues. My first interview was with Katie Stafford, and we ended up talking too much about Google, and how it was different than “academic search engines.” The best interview was with Emma Furman (for the Boolean operators episode), and in retrospect it’s not surprising that that one was the best, because she had taken library science classes and knew what Boolean operators were and how they worked. I didn’t want to just script out answers for them (although I kind of did that for the second interview with Katie), but I found it difficult to keep them on topic. For example, during one of Andy’s segments he talked about how important it was for students to keep in contact with their professors during their office hours. I didn’t stop him, or try to prod him in another direction, because the second he started talking about it I knew it wasn’t going in the final cut, so I just let him go.
I think for the most part bringing in some outside perspectives worked well though, and it was worth trying. I enjoyed learning how to use the technology, and I’m pleased to be able to put the podcasts on my resume. In retrospect, I missed an opportunity to put together a blooper reel – it’s amazing how utterly and completely tongue-tied I could get at times.