A podcast lecture that deserves a listen

Count me among the edublogger huns who, in their reflexive efforts to deflate the hype, are known to disparage the practice of recording lectures as fodder for podcasts. But if the speaker is good enough, then bring it on. Today’s exhibit: John Willinsky at the UBC Okanagan Learning Conference a couple of weeks back. (Download file – 60 min – 56.7 MB MP3)

Dr. Willinsky has a ridiculously long and impressive history of scholarly achievement, and he’s the founder of the open access Public Knowledge Project. For present purposes, what’s most important to know is that he’s one of the best speakers I’ve seen anywhere. He’s fluent (working without PowerPoint or notes), erudite and funny as hell. I never pass up the chance to see him speak, and am never disappointed.

This keynote finds Willinsky in fine form. He discusses the power of the human voice, the revolution in knowledge, the “pure, unadulterated self-interest” of open access in scholarship, riffs extensively on wikis and weblogs (first time I had heard him go at length on these subjects) and intersperses the lecture with compelling historical digressions and frequent wisecracks. I hate to reduce his points, but to me the grand theme is the imperative (and potential) for technology to facilitate genuine learning in service of an education that transcends skills training.

I’ve listened twice (thank you long bus commute), and can’t recommend it strongly enough. If more talks were this good, I’d be hyping podcast lectures shamelessly.

Via Jim Sibley at Adventures in Instructional Support.

UPDATE (May 16): For those of you hesitant to commit to a full hour (however awesome) Hugh Blackmer has extracted four bite-sized snippets:

…a whole new relationship to the access to knowledge… 1:33
…why would people construct knowledge on that basis? (re: Wikipedia) 1:45
…learning is nothing unless it’s a contribution to others… 0:52
…pure, unadulterated self interest… (re: open access journals) 2:00

About Brian

I am a Strategist and Discoordinator with UBC's Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. My main blogging space is Abject Learning, and I sporadically update a short bio with publications and presentations over there as well...
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9 Responses to A podcast lecture that deserves a listen

  1. Gardner says:

    Can’t wait to listen, though I’ll probably have to wait until after Faculty Academy to do so. What I really want to say, however, is that I welcome the spread of compelling lectures on podcasts, because such examples may (I hope will) lead to better emulation and thus better public speaking and thus better lectures among the professoriate. The lecture has its place, a fine and noble and essential place, but like anything else if it is done badly it sucks the oxygen out of the room (and brain).

    I love compelling public speakers. It’s like hearing a great band play. A mind band. Or as Vicky Suter used to say, a “thought-jam-band.”

  2. Great turn of phrase: “thought-jam-band.” All our lectures should be thought-jams. Something to aspire to. 😉

  3. Brian says:

    Gardner, I know exactly the kind of lecturing vibe you are describing. And I love it. But in my experience very few people are able to deliver it. I don’t think the things that go into making a great lecture are that mysterious — I suspect the mojo oratorio is about half-way between the qualities of literary communication and performance-oriented forms like live music. I think it’s a dying art, so I agree that sharing good contemporary examples is vital.

    To take Vicki’s concept of the thought jam-band a little further (and yeah Darren, I always liked that term too), there are some musicians who are so good all I want to do is sit and gawk at what they do. Myself, I always preferred playing rehearsals to gigs, in large part because I knew I wasn’t any good — I just wanted to play.

    If I recall correctly, Vicki was alluding to jam bands as a genre with her phrasing — fairly explicitly referencing those Dead-type bands like Phish et al… I’ve never understood the appeal of listening to those endless jam-shows that get traded (or now, posted online: http://www.archive.org/details/etree). Sonic mush. But the few times I’ve attended a jamband show myself (or partied with Deadheads) I’ve enjoyed it. That sense of presence and co-construction of the vibe is everything. I’m the same way with electronic dance music — I almost never listen to it alone.

    The lecture strikes me as almost a classic literary form. But Gardner, I’m glad you invoke that sense of excitement that gets imparted when you have the sense a mind is thinking through (or rethinking) the subject, feeding off the energy of the listeners. Possibly going somewhere that person has not quite gone before.

    Good luck with the Academy. You know I’m sincere when I say I wish I was there…

  4. Carl Berger says:

    Willinsky’s lecture illustrates three elements:
    1. Content…a good story to get them involved
    2. Context… early reference to the Simpsons
    3. Delivery…Willinsky uses stentorious power with side comments

    What joy!

  5. Brian says:

    Oh my, evidence here that both Hugh Blackmer and Carl Berger not only read my blog, but heed my recommendations. Now I know pressure.

    “Stentorious power” is a wonderful (and apt) description.

  6. Jon Udell says:

    Stunningly excellent talk. I also listened twice. Thanks Brian.

  7. Fabulous rhetorically – with content, context and delivery. I agree – worth more than one listen!

  8. That really was an enjoyable listen, thanks for the pointer Brian.

  9. Brian says:

    Oh my, the flow of impressive visitors is not letting up. Thanks to each of you for stopping by.

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