The 15 people enrolled in Jerry Floersch's podcast class on Tuesday evenings are taking to the streets like ace reporters to capture stories from the world of social work.
Floersch is an associate professor of social work at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University. He is experimenting in this new pilot class with ways to supplement and enrich textbook content with the sounds of real people, ranging from clients to agency staff and administrators who can describe how they do their job or provide advice on a particular situation.
Floersch plans to build a database and library of podcasts, digital sound files that capture information about a specific topic, that others at the social work school can use to supplement materials in their classes. He calls each podcast a 'learning asset.' He has received assistance for the project from the Mandel Foundation.
"Part of this pilot project is to evaluate if 'non-radio' individuals can learn the skills to produce quality podcasts according to an acceptable standard," Floersch said.
He selected the topic of case management as the focus of this yearlong pilot because administering a client's care is an integral part of social work. Each student will produce one to three podcasts related to the topic.
As the "class consultant," Moulthrop is providing tips on the art of interviewing. Later he will teach the students how to edit the recorded audio files in Adobe Audition and compile five- to six-minute stories that highlight information around the topic of case management. Students will prepare podcasts on similar equipment that WCPN reporters use in formatting their news stories.
Moulthrop said that getting the interview is as important as learning to operate the technology.
"The students are doing great," he said."The interesting thing is how they are using journalism techniques to create really exciting academic materials."
The initial response for a call for participants in the pilot class was overwhelming. Fifty faculty, staff and students showed interest in learning these communications skills and technology. Floersch had to limit the first class to 15.
Students such as Jacqueline A. Smith, who will graduate from the social work school in January, are finding just how different making a podcast is from taking case information and filling in forms. Smith is concentrating on the kinds of information people might need to help young girls and boys.
"We are looking at our voice tones and how an audience might respond,' said the social worker at the Christian Care Home.
At the other end of the spectrum, social work school alumna and Benjamin Rose Institute social worker Beth Piotrowicz (SAS '05), has begun preparing podcasts related to geriatrics. She has recorded an interview with Sidney Katz, a leader in helping older adults continue to function so they may remain in their communities. She also plans to create learning assets that explore the empowerment of case management and compare how veteran and novice social workers manage cases.
Floersch began developing the idea of learning assets during the 2004-2005 Glennan Fellowship through the University Center for Innovation in Teaching and Education (UCITE). During the fellowship, students created short videos about human development.
He said the podcast database is a good start toward building a library of learning assets. Podcasting also helps students focus on the first step of getting good audio. "And it is more than just quality sound," he said. "As we listen to each other's interviews, we learn a lot about interviewing styles, engagement and listening, skills fundamental to the practice of social work."
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