Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Problems With Teacher Created Podcasts

In my last post I listed 10 of my favorite podcasts where I was sure to learn something. Conspicuously absent from that list were any teacher created podcasts. I do listen to teacher podcasts, but none are at the top of my podcast playlist. There are several reasons for this, and for this post I'd like to break those reasons down. 

#1) They're Google Hangout videos first, and podcasts second.
I understand why using Google Hangouts is so popular: Hosts can have multiple guests from across time zones at the same time, and it's an easy conversion to change it to a podcast. But there are several problems with this. These are the issues:

- Video eats up bandwidth, and the audio suffers. Techlandia is notorious (in my mind) for this. Often times at least one of the guests or hosts sound like they are underwater in a helicopter. Also they insist on using songs straight from their laptops while they are talking or they interrupt someone with a soundboard sound effect. This disrupts the audio further. If you're going to use sound effects, put them in during your post edit. There are ways to make the podcast sound better even if you're using Google Hangouts. A quick google search led me to this article which seems to have good advice

- When you are video conferencing, there can be long gaps in the oral communication. 
This is because you're too busy smiling or making faces or looking puzzled- those nonverbal ways to communicate are completely lost on a listening audience. #LadyGeeks is a good example of this. They obviously are having a good time with each other, but it doesn't translate fluidly in a podcast. At least spend some time during the post edit to cut out those long pauses. The cracked.com podcasts are the opposite end of the extreme. There are more audio edits in one of those podcasts than I can count. It's obvious, but the result is that the conversation seems to flow in a sort of jagged fluidity. It would be great if teacher-created podcasts would put a little time into post editing to eliminate some of the awkward silences. 

- There's not much thought put into thinking about the end user.
I listen to podcasts when I'm doing mundane tasks like commuting or walking the dog. Or even when I'm writing this blog. Those tasks take up chunks of my day and being able to listen to a podcast that lets me learn something is a big plus. I would never watch a youtube video of a Google Hangouts chat though. I just wouldn't. And I'd venture to guess that most people don't have that kind of time. So having a podcast be a side effect of a Youtube video seems to ignore the audience for which the content is intended for. I could be completely off on this though. There might be a whole chunk of the professional teaching society that sets aside time each day to watch these videos. I just don't know any of them. 

#2) There's too much self promotion at the beginning. 
If self promotion has to be done, it should be done at the end. If I'm just starting to listen to a podcast, I don't want to hear a continuous stream of plugs and pleas to like a podcast. If I'm a first time listener, the only experience I might with the podcast is the few minutes that the host has spent shamelessly self promoting it. I have zero inclination to "like" something or follow someone who does this, because they haven't shown their content yet. I was excited to listen to The Amazing Teach Podcast interview Larry Ferlazzo. I'm a big fan of Larry and was interested in what he would say. It was my first time with The Amazing Teacher Podcast, and after the first couple of minutes of the host asking me to write a positive review for the podcast on iTunes, I was already exhausted. Ladygeeks can suffer from the same problem. There's so much self promotion at the beginning, you'll have to fast foward 5 minutes just to get through it (I haven't listened to every episode of Ladygeeks, but this was at least apparent during their Christmas episodes). This probably bothers me more than it should, and most teacher podcasts seem to do it, but if you want me to show appreciation for your content on your podcast, then have the content first. That's all I'm saying. 

#3) They're not very focused.
Most teacher podcasts I've listened to can probably be cut in half if they strip it of the pop culture tangents (I don't care about what you think about Beyonce), inside jokes, self-deprecation, giggling, humble brags,  or rants against people I don't know. You're trying to be a national educational podcast, so act like one. I probably listen to Techlandia the most because I enjoyed their format of introducing apps and people to follow on Twitter in every episode. But at one time or another Techlandia has suffered from all of these problems. 

On a final note, I know creating them is extremely time consuming, and I appreciate the dedication and planning involved in putting one together, but the slow learning curve of teacher-created podcasts can be a frustrating experience for the listener. 
Do I know what I'm talking about? 
Absolutely not. 
And the podcast medium still seems very, very young for teachers. I just can't wait until it grows up a little. 

Do you have a teacher created podcast that you really like? I'd love to hear what it is. 

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