Division of Academic Affairs
In this special episode, Garvey Pyke interviews Cheryl Spainhour from the Communications Studies department at UNC Charlotte about how she uses podcasts in her Feature Writing course.
Garvey Pyke: Welcome to this special edition of “Teaching & Learning Matters.” My name is Dr. Garvey Pyke, and today we are lucky enough to have with us Ms. Cheryl Spainhour from the Communications Studies department at UNC Charlotte. Cheryl has been teaching at Charlotte for 10 years, and we have learned that she has been using podcasting in her courses. We’d like to discuss how she came about this idea and how it has worked out for her. Hello, Cheryl. Thank you for coming.
Cheryl Spainhour: Thank you for having me, Garvey.
Garvey: First of all, if you could please tell me, what it is that you teach and how it is that you came about the idea to use podcasting in your courses?
Cheryl: I teach Journalism classes for our department. We offer a journalism minor in the Communications Studies department and one of my classes I really felt lent itself to podcasting was Feature Writing, an advanced feature writing course I teach every semester. And a couple of years ago a colleague talked to me about podcasting and how fast it was catching on and sent me to some sites to look around. And I realized that that was something that was just going to become more prominent in journalism and that it would be good thing for me to share with my students.
Garvey: So how do you use podcasting, what role does it play in your course?
Cheryl: Well about three fourths of the way through the semester while the students are working on a feature article outside of class, I devote class time to podcasting. And I explain to them what a podcast is and then I show them an example from NPR’s “This I Believe” series so that they can see sort of a good example of one that’s done publicly on the radio. And then I encourage them to write a commentary or opinion piece. They get to write in the first person and to talk about something, to write about something that they’re truly passionate about. Then while I’m doing that exercise they do a feature swap in class where they read features and analyze them amongst each other. And I take them one at a time to our interactive lab that we now have in our department and record the commentary that they do and turn it into a podcast and load the better ones up to my journalism web minor page.
Garvey: That sounds great. So how do the students like it?
Cheryl: I think they really like it. First of all they get to write in first person which I don’t let them do very often in my classes so they’re really, they enjoy that aspect of it. In writing about something they’re passionate about, of their choice. And some of them that are interested in going into some sort of broadcasting field like picking up that experience of talking, so to speak on the radio. And so I think it’s a good experience for them, both in a written exercise and oral presentation and then having the journalism web minor page as a venue for those that are better amongst them.
Garvey: How much time do you spend working on this? Sort of walk us through the process a little bit for those of us who are intimidated by the work flow.
Cheryl: I am fortunate to have a student do an independent study with me every semester that operates as a webmaster for me for the journalism web minor page. And so that student’s responsibility also is to help me to record the podcast. So one thing that I would say is that you really need somebody that is knowledgeable about recording with you if you don’t have those skills yourself. And I know how to do them in case that student can’t be there on that particular day. But it’s really good to have two people because you need one person at the at the helm recording and the other person sort of directing the process of getting a student to come into our lab, making them comfortable, communicating back and forth with them until we get the right kind of podcast recorded and then getting the next student and so on. So I think it is a two person process.
Garvey: Is this something you will continue using in your courses? And if so, do you think you may expand it into other areas or other uses?
Cheryl: Absolutely! I think that I’ve been doing it for three or four semesters now and I get a little better each semester at what we’re doing technically and also articulating the exercise I think to the students. And we’re presently developing an online hybrid journalism class and another class that will be strictly online that I think will have elements of podcasting incorporated in the syllabus.
Garvey: Do you have any other advice for your fellow faculty?
Cheryl: I think be patient with yourself in the process. Make sure that if you don’t have the technical skills that you sit down with someone, and I know there are people on this campus that will be happy to help you, but if you sit down with someone and go through that process with them and be patient with yourself and learn how to do this before you get with the students and try to assign something like this, you’ll feel more confident and more competent in your role as their professor or lecturer. So I think that’s important. And know that this is really a trend not just in journalism but I think that podcasting is something that’s just gonna become a bigger trend in the world of more and more professors do their lectures and record them and set them out as podcasts. And I think there’s a lot of meaningful ways in education to use podcasting so use your imagination.
Garvey: Thank you, Cheryl. We certainly appreciate your coming here today.
Cheryl: Thank you so much.
Garvey: If you would like to learn more about podcasts or how you can incorporate them into your courses, feel free to contact the Center for Teaching and Learning, C-T-L-at-u-n-c-c-dot-e-d-u or call us at 704-687-3022. Until next time, so long, and remember: teaching and learning matters.
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