Podcasting for Social Work Students, Part 2 – Why use podcasting in the classroom
In my last post, I shared the basic mechanics of a podcasting assignment that has been a regular in my BSW marco-level practice course since 2011. While the post gives details about how such an assignment could be structured, it doesn’t really address why an educator would want to add a podcast assignment to their course? Changing assignments and adding technology to the classroom can be very challenging and sometimes involves a steep learning curve for the instructor and the students.
There are a couple of reasons why I think podcasting with students is worth the time and effort. First, podcasts are a great way to disseminate knowledge. For a course, students can easily create a podcast instead of an oral presentation or record an interview with a social work practitioner about their practice, and then share the podcast with the instructor or entire class. Alternatively, students could share a podcast with a larger and more public audience. According to a report by the Pew Research Center, almost half of all American are familiar with podcasts and 25% of American listen to podcasts on a regular basis. A student-created podcast could be made available for free on the internet and downloaded to a computer or portable electronic device by anyone interested in the topic. The possibility of topics for student podcasts is endless and could focus on meeting a public service such as reporting on the latest research for mental health care or explaining how to access insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Social work educators can also create their own podcasts to replace or supplement class lectures or other content. One example would be to interview local social workers or service providers for an online course as a substitute for a guest speaker presentation.
Another benefit of podcasting is that it provides a great venue for students to practice social work skills such as interviewing, engaging a client system and critical thinking. Depending on the assignment, students could record role-playing activities and then uploaded as a podcast to course management system to be shared with the class for group feedback. Students could also record an informational interviews with community partners or practitioners and then share the interview with the class as an edited podcast. Further, instructors could record their own role plays or interviews as learning tools for students. For an example, see Dr. Jonathan Singer’s podcast interview with Dr. Shawn Shea about Chronological Assessment of Suicide Events (CASE) approach. During the interview, they participate in a role play that highlights the CASE model.
Finally, podcasting promotes the development of social and digital media skills among social work students. Social and digital media have the potential to shape how future social work professionals will obtain and assess information for evidence-based practice and advocacy. For more information about these literacies, Dr. Jimmy Young has a good summary in this blog post. Podcasting is relatively easy to learn and do, and requires students to learn think about how they will collect, synthesize and deliver content for an audio format and for a public audience. When content is made public, students begin to think about what they will say and how they will say it in very different ways compared to a written paper or even a classroom presentation. Students in my classes who have completed a podcast said the assignment forced them to think about what it means to be a professional social worker and how to present themselves as a competent and professional practitioners. Students have also reported that they were very stressed about technology and having to use it to complete an assignment. While they recognize the role of technology in the 21st century, it is hard for them to think about using it as a social worker. After completing the assignment, many of the students reported increased confidence with technology and learning a new skill.
As you plan your own podcast assignment, I strongly encourage you to incorporate a discussion or description of these benefits into the assignment. I have found my students to be much more open to podcasting when they understand the its broader benefits. Additionally, an ongoing dialogue in the classroom about pros and cons of the assignment pushes students to think deeper about their own use of technology for professional development and life-long learning. While most of my students report they have no plans to produce their own podcasts, they see the value of listening to podcasts to stay current on research findings, develop new skills and to stay engaged with the professional social work community.