Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Podcasts open up new world for Douglas instructors

Peter Wilkins (l) and David Wright believe podcasts can help create
a more intellectual community for the College.

By Tamara Letkeman, doug Editor

When David Wright and Peter Wilkins discovered their mutual love of graphic narrative, the two Douglas English instructors didn’t just sit down and talk about it – they broadcast their conversations to an audience of potentially millions of listeners through a series of podcasts.

“We just sat down one day with the microphone and found a subject we were both interested in,” David says. “We liked the idea of every so often sitting down and having a conversation about it. It serves as a kind of basis for other projects we’re working on. We have a blog called Graphixia on the same subject.”

A few months ago David hit on the idea of creating a forum for faculty to talk about their interests outside the classroom through podcasts. After their first podcast on graphic narrative – the series is called The More Trivial, the Better – he and Peter discovered it was also a good way to have a focused conversation about a specific topic.

“It’s the presence of the microphone,” David says. “This is not how we normally talk, but because the microphone is there, it’s a welcoming presence in the room that’s telling you to stay on track.”

But more importantly, the platform of the podcast itself got them thinking.

“We began asking ourselves: How do new technologies change discourse? How does the medium change the message? How do different formats produce different kinds of discussion? Peter says.

They took the idea a step further: as both instructors teach classes in graphic narrative, it could be possible to use the podcasts as another teaching platform, a kind of supplement to classroom lectures. Or perhaps students could make a podcast as part of an oral presentation.

“That’s part of what Peter and I are doing,” David says. “The experimentation, the groundwork for what could come out of this. So we’re kind of less interested in the conversation we’re having than in what it can do.”

The pair also believes that this type of podcast – where faculty members showcase their different interests and passions – will create more of an intellectual community for the College.

“The idea is that faculty from different disciplines will sit down together and talk about certain subjects, and in that way you get different takes,” Peter says. “The result is that you get people to talk casually, you get to hear how intellectual practices are brought to bear on ordinary things.”

Listen to The More Trivial the Better – there are three podcasts so far – on iTunes. Check out David and Peter’s graphic narrative blog, Graphixia.