Student podcasts in a history of mathematics course

I would like to take this opportunity to showcase some of my students’ work from last year.  I taught a class called “Great Theorems and Ideas in Mathematics.”  It was an upper-level history of mathematics course with a focus on some of mathematics’ greatest theorems.  I used William Dunham‘s Journey Through Genius for a good part of the course.  I supplemented this with my own notes and with Burton’s The History of Mathematics.

I’ve been involved in our college’s radio station, WDCV, for eight years.  Last summer the radio station received a grant from the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters to produce some short public service announcements.  A few faculty members and I decided to have our students produce these PSAs in our classes.

My Great Theorems students had produce two recordings each.  The first was a profile of a great mathematician (3 minutes long) and the second focused on a great theorem or idea in mathematics (4-5 min.).  Because of the intended audience, they were told to make them completely nontechnical and entertaining. They used the free cross-platform software Audacity to record their work (which needs the LAME mp3 encoder plugin to export to mp3).  I gave them intro and outro music to bookend their pieces. After they submitted them we played them on the radio, uploaded them to iTunes, and posted them on the college blog.

Here are the assignments that I gave them for the biographical and the great idea podcasts.  Feel free to modify and use them for your own classes.

I learned a few things after receiving the first round of podcasts.

  1. I’m glad I made the students turn in rough drafts (typed and properly cited).  Almost all students erred on the side of being too formal.  They read like math papers, not entertaining podcasts.
  2. Students had a very hard time cutting their text down to 3 minutes.  They lobbied hard for more time on the second recording.
  3. They should verify ahead of time that they can pronounce all the proper nouns in their podcast (especially the name of their mathematician!).
  4. They need to be told explicitly not to have a “guest performer” read the piece.
  5. Some of the most introverted students can have the best delivery.

Give them a listen!

I need to thank Davis Tracy for obtaining the grant and Brenda Landis for giving my students a crash course in Audacity, providing the headsets, and uploading all the files.

One Comment

  1. faroz06 says:

    great insight about podcasting and great blogging so far…

Comments are closed.