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‘Beyond’ conference on podcasting

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Here are imperfect and patchy notes from the ‘Beyond’ Oxford Podcasting Conference. There are interesting links and backchannel stuff on Twitter by hashtag beyond09 And of course the sessions themselves will be podcast (audio and video)  – presumably there’ll be a link from the conference site.

I’ll put a summary first. Learners are comfortable soaking things up. Our challenge is to avoid the TV model of broadcasting content, and incorporate challenges into the listening/watching experience. It is not enough either to merely make available content (although this is certainly useful for learners with a range of different educational needs e.g. mobility problems, attention deficit). Ideally learners can tag and annotate particular parts of a recording in order to make it less of a lumpish thing to work with. Business models / distribution models can fold. Apple was ubiquitous at this conference. What if iTunes U folds? The way to ensure that our content outlasts any one distribution model is to adhere to shared standards and metadata. Get involved with the Steeple Project, jointly led by Oxford, Cambridge and the OU with Nottingham, UCL and Reading involved. Steeple is an alternative to iTunes U with built in interoperability between systems. A kind of future-proofing which iTunes U doesn’t have. See particularly the Steeple Podcasting Booklet which (after this evening, I’m assured) can be generated from the wiki at http://www.steeple.org.uk.

One big question mark for me is cognitive evidence about podcasting. When people say very confidently (what Brian Eno also says) that the human ear requires different textures in order for the brain to remain engaged, where is the evidence for this, and what does adding texture involve? This was an interesting conf, in that it was technical without being at all practical.

Next, the sessions – and please keep in mind that the rest of this post is a little patchy. I commend you to Twitter.

Early bird session on designing podcasts

From the HEA special interest group Podcasting for Pedagogic Purposes

We listen to a montage from the Today Programme (BBC Radio 4’s daily morning news programme).

What makes a good educational podcast i.e. a good listening experience?

Is lecture-capture a good way to use podcasting, or is it capturing the traditional.

Recording of lectures – summary of lectures or prevision of lectures?

One audience member uses podcasts for student-to-student support.

Another uses it for language learning and reflecting back on development

Hallam – audio notes project. Note-making as and when. Making notes is helpful (not necessarily listening back).

‘Colour’ – ‘texture’ – variety of voices. Switch, re-engage and give different perspectives.(But there is no colour or texture, as such, in verbal texts).

Worries from one educational academic about oratory rather than education; soundbiting from what is already a summary; giving undue emphasis. Worries about how to edit naive questioners, how to edit others’ voices.

What is the role of editor and producer?

Should podcasts be built to last?

How do we engage our listeners? How do podcasts fit into the broader world of what students do?

New Channels to New Learners: Podcasting and the Open University. Peter Scott, The Open University

OU has quite a long podcast form, including managing your rights, iTunes categories.

“Little R&D lab” of 100 people working on new media.

Over 30 universities have YouTube channels. de.licio.us/youtube+uk+hei. 600 Unis have iTunes U.

The OU doesn’t do educational production very well because they do everything in teams. Magazine Platform contains different models.

Three different channels.

podcast.open.ac.uk (registration of podcasts for any OU academics – it will enter a workflow and editorial process)

youtube.com/ou – sections of BBC-co-worked material.


This session is about being professional in podcasts – coherent feeds which can be consumed by other services. iTunes is merely an RSS generator and syncher to mobile devices.

Principle – keep your content in one place and then feed / aggregate elsewhere.

iTunes – potential relationship between registered credit cards and doing educational stuff. Now the OU is at 3.4 million downloads via that channel. iTunes U is a very visual channel and the images used are important to get people to look at your work and be interested in your work. iTunes has a strong brand which matches the OU’s quality drive. Zero geek and works well with mobile devices. Text docs (pdf transcripts) are a significant download via that channel). Who owns the content? iTunes allows those kinds of decisions, including selective released. ‘Understanding Islam’ was a popular download in California last year. Stats from first 301 days. 1 in 6 go to OU web site. Apple editorial team was responsible for a number of spikes in listenership. Giving free stuff is one of the OU’s core values. All materials hosted in the Amazon cloud somewhere so the OU’s core systems / servers don’t break. Outsourcing is attractive to vice chancellors (then there was a strange few sentences about his credit card, expenses claims, not needing to tax IT Services with it, and downloaders getting to choose the server).

STEEPLE.org.uk – sharing podcast best practices.

iCoper – EU-funded project on best practices for open educational resources.

Stellar – eu project.

From Twitter – use last.fm to find out if people are listening to your iTunes U site

The Challenges and Opportunities in Podcasting at a Research University. Peter Robinson, University of Oxford

The story of Oxford Uni on iTunes U. Enterprise-level podcasting – see their booklet generated from their wiki. Aggregation across 3 universities – oxford, cambridge and the OU. Community-building.Legal stuff is very important indeed. Content management. Signed release forms for material.

JISC’s Ron Cooke is concerned that we’re lagging behind EU and US in terms of sharing materials. JISC is pioneering but the content-producing academic community is lagging behind.

Difficult to know how many AV units are in the university and how we know what academics are doing, where and for what purpose. Fresher’s fair survey about technology ownership.

Read / listen to this later, it’s good (I had an interlude assisting the person next to me finding the conference hashtag.

Need to empower people out in the departments into taking ownership and creation of their own content with a lot of handholding.

Could what has been achieved at Oxford be achieved nationally?

Pathways – perhaps a tour of material on e.g. climate change (its economics, physics, etc).

Podcast community is devolved content driven by local means. The devolved model means that nobody quite knows what is coming in.

“It has hit the admissions agenda”.

Decision to put faces on the album cover as a seal of authenticity – and sometimes quality assurance by reputation.

Eric Raymond’s Cathedral and the Bazaar.

Social sciences have taken to podcasts well – maybe there is a nature of public dissemination in their activities anyway. Marcus Du Sautoy is doing a regular. Really low-tech – single digital recorder.

Legal workflow is very important. The academic and the HoD sign off each recording.

Internal marketing. External communications officers were supportive too.

Steady flow of cheap, high quality material. Audio is absolutely cracking for most things.

Podcasting People: Stories and experiences from real life podcasters


Warwick model – students do the recording, couple of thousand lecture the


Transcription? Systems coming from military and about to be on open market with automatic transcription with a high level of accuracy. But 80% might not be accurate enough. If you want to support transcripts or captioning, worth looking into.

Skills – people can’t always speak for long periods of time. Scripted or semi-scripted podcasts. Videocue autocue systems via recording on a mac.

User studies from Osnabruck. Markus Kettrl

Think Aloud methods – make a recording or take notes. Possible to edit the recordings online and extract parts. VirtPresenter lecture capture (according to some helpful soul on Twitter) can tell you which parts of capture students cue to most, nice feature, extraction facility too.

Found it hard to concentrate for this one.

Future needs and mobile multimedia with Erewhon. Tim Fernando, University of Oxford

A technical overview of geolocation database.

Including OxPoints. Helped with a charity fun-run!!

What has a geolocation database got to do with a load of podcasters? Well if you have a podcast which is relevant to a certain building for example, it could be queried in the geolocation database. If this is used on a smartphone they can download podcasts for anything that piques curiosity.

Tim Fernando talking about considerations when targeting mobile users: audio/video; filesize; quality; chapters. No point high definition when the target device is tiny. Why push more times the amount of data than necessary.

Under the bonnet: Technical considerations in running Open University Podcasting. Ben Hawkridge, The Open University

Podcast authors should get to focus on content rather than on craft-skills or technical considerations.

Vast array of media authoring systems. What is the context – fieldwork? desktop? events?

Content management system? VLE?

Media transcoding for the right format? Or allow the authors to choose convenient format. Let the institution do the transcoding for mobile, mp3 player, laptop etc.

Delivery service – RSS? Atom?

Logging and stats – vital. Make the case for continuing. What does a download mean? How does a download of a 3 min vid compare to a download of an hour’s lecture?

Portal to bring together podcasts from diverse sources. OU built own CMS.

Can you hear me now? How to get your videos into UK secondary education. Bjoern Hassler, Cambridge University

Where do teachers hang out? Places made for teachers eg national science learning centre, cpd for teachers. Website + resource bank.

John Hickey, Apple

By 2012 one in four phones will be a smart phone – what will they be doing?

He couldn’t explain the computer or ipod to his grandma. His nanna asked him “Do you know what technology is?” “Technology is anything that wasn’t around when you were born”.

The OpenCast Community Project. Olaf Schulte, ETH Zurich

Panel Session – ways forward


  • Laura James, CARET – Cambridge University
  • Paul Gerhardt – Archives for Creativity (he’s in a new JISC think tank about the use of multimedia in education)
  • Olaf Schulte, ETH Zurich
  • Lynne O’Brien, Director of Instructional Technology – Duke University
  • Peter Robinson, STEEPLES Project, Oxford University.
  • Peter Scott, Director of KMi – Open University

Q from JISC – strategies in place for staff to use podcasts rather than simply broadcasting them? How will they be used?

PR: the next challenge. How to add value. Audio feedback?

Bloke from Hallam: audio feedback is very interesting to academics.

OS:Video feedback too.

LoB Experimenting with VoiceThread to organise comments (sometimes by role)

Q: Access for disabled students – podcasting as a tool for increasing accessibility or does it pose problems?

A: Induction loops in all Cambridge lect theatres – incredible that this infrastructure has not been used to capture with better quality.

Q: Let’s get back to content and away from technology for a moment. How can we get our academics producing flagship content?

A PS: One of the best things we can do as academics is creatively make our students’ lives difficult. Old lectures are to sell students the idea of going to the library. Trying to get students to become “complex objects”.

A PR: pet tip for podcasting. Instigate as many peer-to-peer interactions between thinkers. He had one hour’s notice to interview a particle physicist about the CERN Hadron Collider – he did it over skype with pieces of paper on the bed. So, think outside the box, don’t just think lectures. Asking a naive question can prompt an academic to reconnect with what they are trying to communicate.

Q: …?

A Laura – metadata is important. People have different views of things. Recommendations might not work. “If you liked this here is something that you will find challenging”.

A PS: We will think more and more about giving away stuff we used to think of as our crown jewels. Institutions will begin to allow lecture slots for other things than lectures.

A Lynne: Being recorded can inhibit student questions.

Q: In 2 or 3 years time will podcasting become like PowerPoint? If so what can we do so that we can encourage students and academics to normalise it.

A OS: He would like to capture everything as a type of knowledge pool. The use is interesting, but he is more preoccupied with archiving.

A PR: The ear is attuned to prefer different textures of voice. Less than 10% of academics are excellent orators. Plus they are getting an umbrella concept across rather than constructing a watertight argument [be good to get his evidence for this].

A Lynne: Why are we still talking at students for four hours a week? Isn’t their tolerance in a mm age diminishing.

A Peter: I compacted my lectures by thinking carefully. Students like passively taking stuff in. We shouldn’t get sucked into a TV model.

Q: Digg

A PG – disciplined environment of YouTube 6 minutes video. Michael Wesch. Generates responses in the same medium within the same discipline.

Q: How many distribution models do we need? We’ve seen so many models. They’re not all going to survive. Cost and longevity are the issues.

A from Bjorn (floor): Doesn’t matter as long as there are compatible metadata standards (OpenContent) then our recordings will outlast any single distribution model (dead business model).

A PG: Project which committed stuff to laserdiscs.


Written by Mira Vogel

April 3, 2009 at 16:28

Posted in event, podcasting

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