Episode 21-“The Peril of the Sonoran Desert” by Rebecca Dubin

In “The Peril of the Sonoran Desert” undergraduate Rebecca Dubin talks us through the changes happening in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. This audio was produced for the Anthropology first-year writing seminar on Culture and Climate Change, taught by Professor Sophie Bjork-James. Rebecca incorporates the interview-style podcasting we’ve seen featured in previous episodes this season. In this format, she artificially conducts interviews with experts on this topic using real-life interviews she found online. The responses of her interviewees are the actual answers of each respective expert; however, these responses are voice acted by some of Rebecca’s friends.

Rebecca’s use of soundscapes to accentuate the issues faced in the Sonoran Desert results in superior quality audio that grips and engages the audience. Growing up in Tucson, this issue is something Rebecca is passionate about and expressed that even if the Sonoran Desert does not draw interest or concern from our listeners, this sentiment can be applied to any natural ecosystem we hold dear. Throughout the audio, she draws wonderful connections and uses this interview format to personalize the issue and relay the words of experts in the field.

This interview-style of podcasting is something that’s been heard before in season 3 of VandyVox and could be a useful tool for audio assignments. If given the proper notice and time allotment, it could be beneficial and unique for students to interview experts in a chosen topic.

The assignment criteria had students focus on a specific region and Professor Sophie Bjork-James encouraged them to look for multiple sources from their chosen area to encourage further learning. Professor Bjork-James said she chose to assign a podcast instead of a regular essay so that the students could experiment with both form and voice in a productive way. She indicated that, in particular, first-year students often stick to the five-paragraph essay format when tasked with a writing assignment. Shifting away from a general essay and into a new medium of expression encourages the student to think outside the box, experimenting with new ways of presenting information and discovering their own voice along the way.

Here it’s demonstrated that podcasting can be used as a means of creative break out from the steeped structure of a five-paragraph essay. Rebecca even said herself that at first, she was a little nervous to work on this project because it was unlike anything she’d ever done, but as she dove deeper she truly enjoyed the research and the creative nature of this project, finding her voice along the way.

The interview-style podcast is a type of assignment that could be used to elevate the quality of a research paper, where the interview itself can develop interpersonal connections and foster academic discussions, while the podcasting format can be tinkered with to be an authentic performance task. Below are some quick links that can help students set up their podcast and provides some specific considerations for preparing for a podcasting interview:

NPR: Starting Your Podcast: A Guide for Students (there is a specific section about conducting a podcast interview on this page too!)

https://www.npr.org/2018/11/15/662070097/starting-your-podcast-a-guide-for-students

Mark Schaefer’s 5 Steps to Conduct a Superior Podcast Interview

https://businessesgrow.com/2017/05/25/podcast-interview/

Episode 18 – “Historical Feminism” by Tanya Tejani

In this week’s episode, VandyVox veteran Tanya Tejani unpacks the complexity of personal agency within 15th century female concubines under Islam, focusing on the Kano Empire in West Africa. The audio for Historical Feminism was developed for the course History of Sub-Saharan Africa taught by Professor Tasha Rijke-Epstein. Tanya uses an interview format to discuss this niche topic with Dr. Solano, a fictional scholar who embodies the semester-long research Tanya conducted. Her unique approach to this assignment gives a taste for the wide range of opportunities that podcasting can provide.

While Dr. Solano is a fictional character contrived to embody the collection of research that Tanya compiled throughout the semester, the idea of interviewing professionals and scholars in fields relevant to a course topic is well-suited for podcasting assignments. This type of assignment could be used to elevate the quality of a research paper, where the interview itself can develop interpersonal connections and foster academic discussions while the podcasting format can be tinkered with to be an authentic performance task. Below are some quick links that can help students set up their podcast and provides some specific considerations for preparing for a podcasting interview:

NPR: Starting Your Podcast: A Guide for Students (there is a specific section about interview on this page too!)

https://www.npr.org/2018/11/15/662070097/starting-your-podcast-a-guide-for-students

Mark Schaefer’s 5 Steps to Conduct a Superior Podcast Interview

https://businessesgrow.com/2017/05/25/podcast-interview/

Tanya’s audio was produced for an open-ended creative project assigned by Professor Tasha Rijke-Epstein. The product of this project could manifest as a podcast, documentary film, comic strip, short historical fiction story, or research paper. For each creative medium, Professor Rijke-Epstein developed a draft rubric as a collaborative effort with the students in her initial class, then tweaked them for final use. The idea to have an open-ended project was born out of her work with the Center for Teaching’s Course Design Institute. Even though the 2020 Faculty Course Design Institute has been postponed until August, the staff at the Center for Teaching would be happy to assist with course design. Their contact information is listed below:

Location: 1114 19th Avenue South, 3rd Floor, Nashville, TN 37212

Phone: 615-322-7290

Email: cft@vanderbilt.edu

Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday – Friday

However, the Center for Teaching is currently offering an Online Course Design Institute, which is a new two-week online experience intended to help participants prepare to teach on online course. The institute is open to Vanderbilt faculty, postdocs, and graduate students and will be offered four times May through June: May 18th – 29th, June 1st – 12th, June 15th – 26th, and June 29th – July 10th. Below is an excerpt of what to expect in the Online Course Design Institute.

“During the institute participants will:

  • Develop a course plan for their upcoming online course, one that integrates learning objectives with assessments, assignments, and activities;
  • Build one or more sample modules for their courses, practicing the skills they will use to build other modules;
  • Plan strategies for helping their online students thrive, including strategies for promoting meaningful interaction, social presence, and equitable learning; and
  • Learn about the affordances of online teaching tools, identify tools that align with their goals, and develop practical skills using those tools.

The Online Course Design Institute will consist of a mix of asynchronous and synchronous activities, with time built in for individual course planning and digital tool practice. The total time commitment is expected to be 4 hours each weekday during the institute. Participants will work through a series of Brightspace modules leading through a course design process. They will also meet several times each week via Zoom in small cohorts for peer feedback on course plans. Each cohort during the May offerings of the OCDI will be facilitated by a Center for Teaching senior staff member.”

To learn more information about the Online Course Design Institute and apply for one of the offerings, please visit the following website:

https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/ocdi/