Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Making Podcasts for classroom use

"Performing to the Red Light" was a program on BBC Radio 4 yesterday discussing the practical and psychological difficulties musicians experience in making recordings. Musicians have time constraints given deadlines and the need to be correct. There will be many takes in search of the final recording. "In a concert, I wouldn't mind a few wrong notes," one artist said.

"Musicianship on its own isn't enough to make a good record." There have to be a series of other things: concentration, listening, the right notes, individual excellence balancing collective excellence, and sustaining the performance. Then there are outside factors over which performers have no control.

It's not unlike making a podcast without a classroom full of students. Sometimes you nail it and sometimes you just do it knowing that you will remake that podcast again. In making the Greek podcasts, we just did them on the first take without asking for editing and splicing. So we haven't got a perfect copy in all cases. I've made mistakes that I acknowledged on the podcast and probably ones that others will point out. I suppose that does give you the flavor of a classroom.

And I know that I must pace myself. I simply became tired after recording two podcasts on the first take every day for five days for a two-week period. And my better performance/presentation depends on a good night's sleep the night before, energy level, and careful preparation. At the same time I was surprised to be exhausted every afternoon for two weeks. I'm sure that some of that is that there is no energizing from what would be a good classroom experience in real time--there's no "classroom high."

Unexpected problems included the microphone feedback which we couldn't control and seemed to have something to do with the lights of the projector and their interaction with the microphone attached to me. The cameraman and I were using a new camera so no one knew how to solve this problem.

But teaching is a dynamic between classroom participants and that hasn't so far been part of my own podcasts. I'd like to have the experience of recording a live class. At the same time, that could also be an exclusionary experience for podcast viewers.

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