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Duke University Brings Together ‘Podcasters’ for Academic Symposium


Students at Duke University have listened to foreign language lessons and reviewed lectures using their iPods. In New York, other students put together unofficial audio guides for the Museum of Modern Art and made them available as podcasts.

The projects were among those mentioned this week during a symposium that was expected to bring about 500 educators, journalists, podcasting practitioners and others to Duke to discuss how podcasting is shaping business, law, journalism and college classrooms. Organizers said they believed the two-day event was the first academic podcasting symposium.

Podcasts are downloadable audio files that are often similar to radio programs. They can be broadcast on Apple’s popular iPods or computers with compatible software.

“Podcasting is kind of at this transitional moment,” said Casey Alt, the symposium coordinator and Duke’s Information Science and Information Studies administrative director. “It’s growing rapidly. It’s becoming more commercialized, more corporatized. It’s kind of entering a sort of adolescent phase.”

The purpose of the symposium was take to look at podcasting and “maybe have some impact of where it goes,” Alt said.

Some universities are tapping into the phenomenon as they look for new ways to reach college students.

“What we should be doing is making use of the media that they use” such as cell phones, instant messaging and iPods, said Tim Lenoir, a Duke professor who teaches about the social and ethical implications of modern science.

Last year, Duke handed out free iPods to its incoming freshman class. The university, which spent $500,000 on the pilot program, hoped the players would enhance student’s learning. The program was scaled back this year and iPods were to be issued only to students enrolled in certain classes.

Podcasting makes it easy for faculty to use new sources of material in the classroom, said Lynne O’Brien, director of Duke’s Center for Instructional Technology. For example, she said one professor has students listen to recorded lectures by others on famous philosophers and then discuss the lectures when they get to class. Students also use podcasts to listen to other audio materials and share their own reports, O’Brien said.

David Gilbert, an adjunct professor at Marymount Manhattan College in New York, said his class made the unofficial audio guides for the Museum of Modern Art. The guides helped the students “kind of become minor celebrities overnight.”

“The most important thing is to teach them they can produce their own media,” Gilbert told the panel. “They don’t have to be passive consumers of the media.”

Associated Press

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