[Karis Brown:] Welcome to the discussion of Podcast Perspectives of Environmental Geopolitics. In this episode, the crew will be discussing durable versus disposable assignments, and why we created podcasts for our class project.
[Dr. Shannon O’Lear:] We are here in the Makerspace of Anschutz Library at the University of Kansas. My name is Shannon O’Lear. I am a professor of geography and the director of the Environmental Studies program here at KU. And I am here with three students from the Environmental Geopolitics class. And I will ask them to introduce themselves.
[Jessica Saunders:] Hi, my name is Jessica Saunders. My pronouns are she/her. I am currently a junior at the University of Kansas, majoring in Environmental Studies with a minor in Political Science.
[Jack Harte:] I’m Jack Harte. My pronouns are he/him. I’m working towards a Bachelor of Arts in Geography at the University of Kansas. About a senior and a half at this point, I guess I’ve got one more semester to go, but we’re working towards it.
[Karis:] You minor in anything?
[Jack:] I’m minoring in Business.
[Karis:] Look at that. Well, I am Karis Brown. I’m also a senior and a half right now. Oh, I use they/them pronouns. I am also majoring in Environmental Studies and I minor in Anthropology and Journalism. I like to write, ya know?
[Jessica:] And we are also accompanied by our superhero Librarian Tami Albin, who has been the glue for our podcast projects and our OER project, which we will discuss now. And here we are at the finish line.
[Karis:] Ehh almost.
[Dr. O’Lear:] I can almost see the finish line. I think I still have some things to write.
[Jessica:] I don’t think there will ever be a finish line with this project.
[Dr. O’Lear:] Actually that’s a really good point.
[Jessica:] Yeah, okay.
[Jack:] It’s a durable assignment.
[Jessica:] It is!
[Jessica:] Which brings us into… Professor O’Lear, what was your goal with this assignment, with the whole podcast assignment? And you mentioned it being durable versus disposable. What- what does that mean to you? Why did you choose to do an assignment in this way?
[Dr. O’Lear:] This was actually an idea that came from a librarian by the name of Karna Younger, and I had reached out to her to help me with an assignment for the class. And as we were talking about the class and I was really excited—this is gonna be the first in-person class after the pandemic— and I was really excited, but I also knew probably be pretty challenging for everybody— me included—getting back into the classroom, getting back into the groove of things.
And as we’re talking, Karna just said, “Well, have you thought about assigning final projects as podcasts?”
I’d never heard of that idea, never even occurred to me and I thought, “Why, I don’t know, that sounds kinda crazy. I have no idea how to do that. Yeah, let’s do that.” I thought that might be a really good way to sort of open up the class and loosen it up a little bit.
And so that’s what we did is I decided on the syllabus that everybody would do either their final project as a presentation to the Fall Undergraduate Showcase or as a podcast. Because the traditional term paper is what we can think of as a disposable assignment where you write it, I read it, I give you feedback, and it probably just goes in the trash.
Whereas a durable assignment is something that can live on beyond the class. It might be something that somebody else reads or hears or utilizes, or maybe something you come back to to keep working on later. And I thought for a podcast that other people are going to hear, students might be more invested in really wanting to do a good job on it. Because it’s not just me who’s going to hear it. I thought that sounds like a pretty good idea.
[Karis:] I mean, the thing that I really liked about the podcast assignment was that it was an opportunity to pursue other creative skills. Along with that, like we do a lot of writing in college, um- lots of papers, lots of papers still. Like the podcast was kind of an opportunity to do something different to—
[Jessica:] It was refreshing.
[Karis:] And it was also like employing a bunch of other skills. Or if you didn’t already have those skills, you had to learn how to record things, how to— It was more about having a conversation than it was just like writing to you.
[Jack:] Yeah. Totally agree. Especially because, I mean, it does become like like you said, it becomes kind of a work of art. Really more so than just, ya know I feel a lot of the times, especially with undergraduate studies, like, like you were saying about disposable assignments, Dr. O’Lear. It does just kinda get put into that black void maybe because it’s a paper. You know I mean, it’s not like it’s getting published or anything like that.
But with a podcast, you know, it’s a personal work of art. It’s when you listen to that podcast, you know that you made it. Whereas if you take the name off a paper, you know who’s to say that it might still carry that same weight. So the format of a podcast definitely assists with it being a durable assignment more than just, you know as Karis said, another paper.
[Jessica:] I think it worked a lot better for my personal learning style and creative style, because yeah, we type papers all the time and hardly ever retain all of that information. Whereas making a podcast, you told us take a claim about the environment and analyze it through the lens of geopolitics, and that was basically it. Of course, we did the work throughout the semester for it. But it was really, really helpful for me to really use my creativity and get to pick what I wanted to talk about and then create my own work of art. I loved it.
[Karis:] I think knowing that this was going to go somewhere, that other people were going to be listening to this and learning from it also kinda fueled my passion behind it, because I don’t know, I kinda feel disillusioned a lot in college. Like, it’s like we’re learning about all these things, writing about all these things, but what’s the point?
[Karis:] Like who are we helping by doing all this research? And the podcast was an opportunity— Well, first of all, I mean, we could send people are term papers as much as we want, but who actually wants to sit through and read a term paper, especially if you’re not already in the class?
[Karis:] So like, the podcast was an opportunity to have that conversation and have that conversation be useful for other people, be educational for people outside of our classroom and even outside of college.
[Jessica:] I definitely sent my podcast to a couple of people. I’m just like, “Hey, it’s on Spotify. You can go— It’s not professional but it’s on Spotify.”
And you know I would tell people that I was talking about menstrual products and they’re like, “Well, why are you talking about menstrual products?”
I was just- “Here ya go! 15 min out of your day and you’ll figure out why.”
[Jack:] And about halfway through this semester, the spring- spring 2022, Dr. O’Lear, I think you e-mailed me or you forwarded me another student in the class’s— The question they’re asking for my podcast because their sisters or somebody- some sibling needed, needed a basis for how to discuss and cite uh— I forgot what it might’ve been, but it’s obvious showcasing of that durableness.
You know, listening to that podcast evoked that link to it being something you can cite in a high school research paper.
[Jessica:] It’s going out into the world, not into the trash.
[Jessica:] I love that. Cool.
[Karis:] The music featured in this episode is MB_weatherwav by Connum from freesound.org.