Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Various Updates

And another three weeks have passed since the last entry. Blogging for academics really cannot mean a post a day... but among these three weeks was: spending one week abroad at a conference in Mannheim, Germany, and then the first week of term with a re-written lecture and various other planning and preparing of teaching.

My conference talk was about reconciling grammar and phraseology (you can't, really), and I think it was well-received. It's always hard to tell, as my presentation style is very different from most other talks at pretty much any linguistics conference. Most talks will feature slides full of text, and very few images. Perhaps the odd diagram or two. Mine, on the other hand, hardly contain any text. Lots of pictures, and some slides with one sentence, blown up to fill the whole screen. And about 60 slides for a 30 minute talk. Now all I need is a black turtleneck sweater...

I also use this presentation style in my lectures, and in today's lecture on phonology I had the impression that the audience (first year students) did indeed listen (apart from lots of coughing, but I blame the weather for that). There is so much useful information about presenting effectively on the web (and in books), but this does not seem to have filtered through to academia. On the other hand, I don't know if there are any studies on how students respond to different presentation styles.

Then my Discourse Analysis module started. I duly split the students up into groups, deciding on the spot that the students in one seminar group would be 'group coordinators' for this half term, and then of course timetable clashes and late registrations messed up my nice 10/10/10/10 distribution, which now seems to be more like 12/7/9/12 or something. Still have to wait for another week or two before this settles down. And of course, some students didn't turn up, and consequently missed all of the detailed administrative monologue I delivered. I also hope the students where not too overwhelmed, but I will see over the coming weeks how this turns out.

Yesterday I then produced the first podcast for the module, 12 minutes altogether. I think that's plenty long enough to listen to me talking about odds and ends... I thought it was a useful way to round up what had been done in the seminar group meetings, repeat and expand on various issues. Tomorrow and Thursday in the group meetings I will find out if anybody actually listens to the thing!

Producing it was not very difficult. Just jotted down a list of things I wanted to cover, got the digital recorder set up, and started talking. One thing I noticed when doing the post-editing: I need to make it clearer when I restart. Probably say 'RESTART', that makes it a lot easier to find where to cut out bits where my spontaneous talking lead into a cul-de-sac. I don't like writing a full script, as it would be a lot more time-consuming, and it would take away the informal/conversational character of the podcast. Who would want to listen to me read out stuff? No, just as in lectures, free speech. I did notice some things I didn't like, eg my blatant over-use of the word 'basically', which I need to cut down on next time. But for the first attempt I am quite happy with it.

So, nothing for three weeks, and then a massively above-average-length post. I'll try to go back to a more regular schedule of smaller posts, and will try to also write a bit more about the 'research' part, which is the slightly under-represented triplet of the blog's title...


  1. Any feedback yet from the students on the podcast? My second one goes live today (I use the timed release function on WebCT, which is the first feature I've ever found on it that I like...) I find listening to my voice excruciating and am also struck by all the annoying verbal tics I have ... but the students seem to have really appreciated them, and the follow-up seminar was far better for it (I think). Looks like I'll stick this out till the end of this module at least.

  2. In the first group, most people seem to have listened to it, and thought it was the right length and generally useful. I put it up on my own web-space, and basically (there's that word again!) made it available as soon as it was ready. You could attribute that to lack of forward planning, but I like to view it as being flexible and relevant to the seminars (as I also summarise bits of the seminar discussions (which would also be useful for students missing seminars I guess) and make announcements about things).

    I got used to my own voice. Using a good quality recorder and microphone probably helps. And the more you do it, the less you end up caring about it. Just remember that the students listen to your voice in seminars and lectures, and to them it would be no different in a podcast. And you can also reflect about the way you speak, BASICALLY, and try to polish your free speaking as well!

    Initially I thought I'd use the podcast to fill the gaps between the fortnightly lectures, but I am now coming round to the idea of doing a weekly podcast, also summarising the seminars. It'll then become routine and probably faster and easier to produce. And it gives you an opportunity to say things you forgot to mention at other times.