Leeds Met’s website is strong on reflection. Yes, I know that’s an ambiguous statement. What I mean is that ‘reflection’ is a prominent feature of the University’s home page at www.leedsmet.ac.uk. Down the right-hand side, in the ‘Leeds Met Daily’ section, are six links: ‘VC Reflects’, ‘International Reflections’ and so on. Following a link takes you to a short text which is changed frequently. If you browse the archives you’ll see that the formula is precise – exactly 200 words, in two paragraphs – and that, apart from ‘VC Reflects’, the pieces have a wide authorship. The ‘Assessment, Learning and Teaching’ series has a new item every working day.
I was recently asked to collate a week’s worth of ‘Assessment, Learning and Teaching’ (ALT) reflections, commissioning items from people making an ALT-related point. Sounds good to me - a golden opportunity to explore and promote Sounds Good! I decided to go for a variety of pieces each with a different perspective on the project – a teacher giving audio feedback, a student receiving audio feedback, and so on. So far, so conventional, but I thought I’d try to break a bit of new ground, in a way which was consistent with Sounds Good’s audio theme: a podcast version of each 200-word text.
How has it gone? It’s been a lot of work. So far – and as I write this we’re not quite done – my bright idea has involved me in 136 emails, about two dozen phone calls, several face-to-face conversations and two recording sessions. And it isn’t turning out exactly as expected. On the positive side, the editor offered an extra, sixth, slot. On the other hand it was impossible at short notice to obtain a student piece which could be used, and podcasting doesn’t work properly with Internet Explorer 6, the browser still on the desktops of many Leeds Met staff. Hmmm!
Yet despite the extra work and the problems, I think it’s been worth doing. I was delighted with the number of colleagues offering to write and agreeing to record a reflection. On balance, the exercise has probably contributed to building our team. However, the downside of colleagues’ willingness is that I received too many reflections, which meant making some awkward choices and probably disappointing those whose efforts weren’t used. I’m grateful to the editor for the extra slot, for her skills in manipulating the texts to fit the required format, and for her willingness to enter the unknown territory of integrating audio into the University’s content management system. Thanks are also due to colleagues running the podcasting server, especially for finding a workaround for IE6’s problem with podcasts. I’m sure we’ve all learned more about using this technology which is still fairly new for us.
From where I sit, the most obvious benefits of producing the six reflections accompanied by podcasts seem to be about team-building and our collaborative learning. I’m under no illusions about our products changing the world. Our written and spoken pieces are but a tiny contribution to assessment, learning and teaching. As for the podcasts, I introduced an additional constraint by keeping them faithful to the precisely crafted text, apart from a first sentence introducing the speaker. It would, no doubt, have been easier for our podcasters if they had had a piece designed primarily to be spoken. On the evidence so far, professional broadcasters have little to fear from the competition at Sounds Good!
But that’s a manager’s perspective. What do consumers and contributors think? Check out the ALT reflections for 31 March-7 April via http://www.leedsmet.ac.uk/the_news/alt_reflections/index.htm. Each one has a link to the related podcast feed at: http://ewok.inn.leedsmet.ac.uk/soundsgood. Comments, please.
(Posted by Bob Rotheram, Project Manager, Sounds Good)