I’ve been a fan of podcasting since I downloaded my first few shows almost a decade ago, and over the past few years at the University of Southampton we’ve promoted listening and encouraged academics and students to start their own programmes. It’s hard to say whether there has been wider adoption across teaching & learning at the University, certainly, the conversation has been livelier and we’ve been able to provide advice to more people keen to explore this media.
I wanted to give you a quick summary and some of the projects we’ve been involved as a Digital Learning Team and five of the podcasts that personally have kept me company on my commute in and on walks to and from different campuses.
The podcast that has been a constant almost weekly has been the TIDE – Today in Digital Education Podcast presented by Dai Barnes and Doug Belshaw. I’ve really enjoyed listening to the presenters catch up each week and talk about the work that they do, stories in the news that catch their eye and ideas they’re developing in their respective areas. There’s a good degree of challenge between the two of them, they’re passionate about the subject matter, not afraid to speak from personal experience and share a great sense of humour and ease that really engages the listener.
It was with this in mind that I started recording ad-hoc episodes of FBKSoton and certainly enjoyed chatting with my (since departed) colleague Fiona Harvey about the opportunities for teaching & learning at Southampton. It takes time and discipline that I don’t have to maintain a series, but it was a great start and certainly inspired me to use audio with students.
There have been a number of projects that I’ve been involved in a Southampton and it’s great to meet academics who are interested in exploring alternative forms of assessment with their students. Although many in the Biological Sciences – Science Communication cohort couldn’t call themselves regular listeners to podcasts, they were able to create their own shows and learned the techniques for writing and recording quickly. Those who wrote a script and read this out missed the opportunity somewhat to express their voices, but those who found friends (often a lay-person) to riff with or opportunities for informal conversation were more successful. Certainly, we unearthed some talented presenters, able to engage with the topic and share with their audience.
Our 2016 Podcast Conference enabled us to create material to support academics and many enjoyed a day of talks from notable and eminent podcast presenters. These included the founder and host of The Edtech Podcast Sophie Bailey who spoke about the break she’d made into setting up her own company, becoming a presenter, researcher, journalist, and advocate for the Edtech sector. This series of fascinating shows brings the best people together to discuss innovation and ideas in education and technology. Sophie creates a strong rapport with guests, helping them to talk through often complex subjects in an open and accessible way. There’s always a balance too between the need to establish and promote an edtech startup and the educators’ desire to understand how this technology would benefit learners.
Our desire at Southampton was to encourage and support a community of podcasters and it’s interesting to see how many home-grown or resident podcasters there are. From the newly produced Public Policy Podcasts to more established gems such as the Science Shed presented by Dr Nick Evan’s and Dr Steven Lee. These podcasts talk about the research that’s ongoing at Southampton and ways to promote and talk through issues and ideas.
Policy is an vital area in HE, where many of us who work in the sector are affected directly by the decisions made by regulatory boards, government bodies, public sector agencies and other interested parties. WonkHE produces a weekly podcast which perfectly captures passionate debate around the sector, with the highlight Episode 5 – The Enemy Within presented by WonkHE editor Mark Leach, a call to arms, designed to stir debate, putting forward a plea for sense and understanding around the future of the sector.
The best podcasts are intimate and human, voices touch, interrupt, engage with humour and lightness. They act as a record of a moment, they capture sense-making amidst the sometimes confusing world around us. I hope that Southampton continues to showcase new voices, and that audio continues to be valued by those who consume and create it. As I leave Southampton after four years, this will be a media that I have enjoyed working with and one I look forward to exploring further.