- By Katherine Grayson
The last two times pods invaded this planet, they prevailed. Will they
(should they?) win again?
It was 1978 when the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers hit the big screen,
and after shuddering through hours of Hollywood-style horror, I had nightmares
about waking up in a pod as a creature with no soul. Some campus podcasting
detractors might say not much has changed since then.
In January, the University of Cincinnati equipped seven instructors
with podcast-armbands, arming them to teach-and-record, and enabling students
to jump online and download to their MP3 players the day’s lecture, student
presentations, and class interactions. It’s almost as good as being there.
And that, in essence, is the basis of the argument against widespread use of
classroom or lecture hall podcasting.
“Some say podcasts will make it easy for students to skip class—why
show up when you can get it all online?” reported Lori Kurtzman in the
Jan. 6 Cincinnati Enquirer (“UC Podcasting Trial Merges Education with
Technology”). Indeed, Kurtzman is only lending voice to something that
many campus profs have been wondering about since Duke University
(NC) launched its freshman iPod program in 2004: Why should colleges and universities
make it easy for their students to never attend class again? Is this yet another
case of schools looking for excuses to utilize new technologies, in order to
lure tech-spoiled kids to their campuses?
No. The use of MP3 recorders to enable podcast of classes and lectures is simply
a good example of a 21st-century higher ed system that is more enlightened and
less threatened than its 20th-century predecessor. And I am old enough to recall
the hoopla about students bringing calculators (let alone laptops) to class:
Teachers feared that if students weren’t required to perform calculations
with pencil and paper, they might stop using their brains altogether.
As it turned out, calculators didn’t make us stupider after all. By removing
the time-consuming tedium from calculation, they enabled us to surge ahead into
ever more sophisticated levels of calculation, and freed us to move into deeper
levels of theory. Need I look back at what abandonment of pen-and-paper and
adoption of word processing, computing, and Internet searching has allowed students
With all of this experience with technology on campus behind us, why d'es irrational
fear of technology still persist? Why do so many still worry that kids will
opt to stay in 6-by-8-foot dorm rooms for four years, rather than mingle with
peers and experience live interaction in the classroom or lecture hall? If that
was to be the case, why was there not a mass exodus of traditional students
from the actual campus to the virtual campus, when higher ed hit the cyberworld?
Why do high school students still compete to get in to real colleges?
Anyone who can remember back to his years of note-taking in a lecture hall
will realize how precious the ability to revisit a live lecture can be—the
words we couldn’t hear because of bad acoustics; the points we missed
because of preoccupation with someone cute in another row; the whole lectures
we lost when our notes blew out the back of a VW convertible.
Stop blasting those iPods, and give the kids a break, folks; they’ll
keep coming to class. Your lecture is just going to get through this time.
—Katherine Grayson, Editor-In-Chief
What have you seen and heard? Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Katherine Grayson is is a Los Angeles based freelance writer covering technology,
education, and business issues.