When Staleness Creeps In To Your Content

No matter how student-centered you are, no matter how often you tell others you are not a “teacher” but a “coach”, at some point you are going to be putting some content in to your course.  Even coaches will sit down their players and show them how to do things on a regular basis. Your students need to hear from you – and I don’t just mean a weekly due date reminder or an occasional “atta boy” comment.  Students need to hear your take on issues, facts, controversies, current events, trends, etc.

For most of us, a blog has been the extent of how we keep the content flowing while avoiding the creation of online textbook monuments.  Blogs are great for that, but they do have a few short-comings.  For one, they tend to be text heavy – which can grow stale after a while. You can insert images, videos, and audio clips in posts – but that takes a lot more time and effort to accomplish even after you have produced the media.  And even if you own a iPhone, blogging is much easier if you are sitting at a desk. Blogging on the go sounds great, but it is still pretty time-consuming.  If only there were a way to make this all easier…

Enter in to this equation Posterous.  Their tag line says it all: “The place to post everything. Just email us. Dead simple blog by email.”  That is the basic idea – but here is low-down. You create an account, based on your email. Then you create an email and send it in.Posterous takes your email and turns it in to a blog post. The subject becomes your title and the body becomes your post. But that is not all. You can add tags with ease.  But you can also attach images, audio files, and videos – andPosterous will crunch it all for you and add it to your post. You can even designate where you want the pictures to go in the post.

But that is not where it stops. Posterous will then push that content out to any site you want it to:  Twitter, Picassa, Flickr, YouTube, Delicious, and even a WordPress blog (there are even a few sites they publish to that I had never heard of).  They only give you about a Gigabyte or so of storage (you can buy more) – but you can always use other sites to hold your larger media – like videos (on YouTube). Posterous does all of the heavy lifting for all of that.

So how can this help the educator/coach/what-we-are-supposed-to-call-ourselves-now? Well, for one – it makes mobile blogging much easier.  There is even an app that lets you take advantage of the built-in camera on your smart phone to shake things up a bit each week. After a couple of weeks of text blogs – why not record yourself and post a video blog? Or why not go somewhere in the city and film something that connects with your content? A civic event, an art exhibit, building architecture, etc?  Maybe even go talk to a colleague or content expert and record the conversation (with permission, of course), and then upload that audio one week as a blog post. I know these will not be the best produced videos in the world, but the spontaneous nature of them will give the students a sense that they are “following you around” as you practically apply what is being taught in class.

Why not even make it seem more like a tour of your subject? You serve as the lead journalist of the group. Take them on a tour of the city from the perspective of your subject. Mix up the media (text, audio, video, images, etc) each week. Don’t get so formal with everything you say. Start off some of your posts with statements like “You know, I was pondering the engineering concepts in this week’s reading while at Starbucks – and I had this revelation about the relationship between this coffee cup and this week’s subject.”  But really film yourself at Starbucks having the revelation.

The less you script it out for yourself, the more fun you will have and the more students will enjoy it.

Remember what I posted a few weeks ago about Delicious as content? Posterous can push your content to Delicious. So add your class tags every week and your content will be inserted in to your class stream on Delicious seamlessly.

Oh – and don’t forget those web cams on your desktop computer. You don’t necessarily have to have a smart phone to do any of this. I know this might be hard to believe, but good revelations can also hit us while we are sitting at our desks.  So do some media productions there if you like.

(this post was cross-posted at Soundings)

Matt Crosslin

Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

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