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Podcast Mini Tools (Teaching Resources)

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For several years I've been using a couple of (free) tools to quickly create targeted content for students in my courses. While this is not a unique approach, for anyone looking to reach your students with a slightly less impersonal touch, a Podcast Mini Tool (PMT) might just be the ticket.

Let me answer some basic questions, then provide the links to the tools I use and let you try them out for yourself!
  1. Who is the Target Audience?
  2. What is the Purpose?
  3. When is it Appropriate?
  4. How to…

To begin with, this technique came about as a result of necessity more than anything else. I found when grading essays, quizzes, online discussion responses and other assignments there were often two or more common issues or errors noted. Sometimes it was the result of less specific guidance and other times it was the result of inaccurate interpretation of the guidance for the assignment.

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Depending on the class size, commenting on shortfalls individually could take several hours. One way to address shortfalls is to make a blanket statement and attach it to everyone’s assignment. However, regardless how well crafted, it still felt impersonal. An off-shoot of this low tech solution was to prepare a blanket comment, then parse the appropriate areas for each student’s assignment and send it off. Less impersonal, a bit more effective, but a little time consuming.

In using the PMT you actually comment along as you go. For individual essays, reports or other writing assignments, you provide a wealth of valuable feedback specific to the student needs. More on that later.

Target Audience:

The target audience is the individual student. Feedback comes in three basic forms:
Constructive - tells the individual how to make something better or do something better; 
Corrective - tells the individual how to fix what was wrong or make something right; and
Praise - validates the individual and the work they performed
If you follow this order student responses to your assessments will improve.


The primary purpose of the PMT is to quickly and effectively provide guidance and feedback response on students’ work effort. A secondary purpose is to reduce the likelihood of misinterpretation or misunderstanding of intent. To be effective the student must interpret the written explanation in the manner you intended, or it loses its impact. Unless you have built a strong academic relationship with the student, your intended message in your written text is subject to distortion.

Appropriately Applied:

A good thing about the PMT is that you aren’t required to use it all the time, or for every student assignment. For example, if you’ve assessed multiple choice / True-False quiz, there may be little use in preparing a PM. Conversely, if you’re grading an essay style exam where more critical thinking and application of logical reasoning is required, a PM will better Construct, Correct, or Praise in terms of feedback than would the traditional text response.

Lastly, when the content that is being assessed is detailed or complex, or you have students at a geographic distance, the PMT is a good way to bridge the distance and encourage multilevel engagement.

Movenote This PMT allows you to record audio/video and display the assignment on-screen as you assess it. A strength in this PMT is that the recordings can be saved as MP4, uploaded to YouTube, or the Movenote host site. The recording can be imbedded into the learning management/course management system, or simply sent as a link to the individual student or the class as a whole. Regardless of what device they access the internet with, they will be able to view the content.

Screencast-o-matic This PMT actually captures your screen and records audio/video. In some instances you may want to do more than point out errors in an assignment; you may want to provide another example. Since this PMT captures the screen, essentially anything you can replicate on screen will be recorded and made available to the student or the class. Recordings can be saved as MP4, AVI, and FLV formats.

The caveat to both of these PMT’s is that the free versions are limited to 15 minutes. The reasons why that is not a problem are 1) You can make unlimited recordings i.e., Pt 1 of 4; and 2) Anecdotal evidence suggests attention waivers after 15 minutes of watching a computer or cellphone screen.

Go Ninja…Academically
To get sort of Ninja while reading and assessing assignments, prepare a script with common errors or issues you noticed after each assignment assessment. Then as a summative explanation, prepare a blanket Podcast Mini outlining the common points of interest for the class as a whole and submit it to the class as a whole.

There is a strong likelihood that other educators have used other tools with varying degrees of success, so I don’t purport that the PMT is the only solution. What I can say is that it has been effective for me, and has helped reduce my grading/assessment of written assignments and increase my student interaction.

Check it out and see where PMTs will take you!

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated in any manner with either of these products, beyond being a free user.

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