Learning from Doing
Last week, the team that produces Leading Lines participated in a roundtable discussion about the progress we’ve made with the podcast. We talked about what we originally hoped to accomplish, how we would like to see the podcast evolve, and what we have learned from our various interviews. For me, the discussion surrounding learning opportunities was most interesting, as the conversation led us to discuss what we have gained from the actual podcast production process.
As we explored this topic, we talked about how the material work of putting together a podcast made us realize how difficult it is to achieve a professional sound. Not only do podcast producers need to worry about mundane material issues (e.g., being sure they have the right equipment, checking that the spare batteries are charged, making sure there are no ambient sounds), but they also need consider production aspects such as the order of questions, ways in which to guide the conversation, and the resources needed to prepare for the interview. As we began thinking through the materiality and process of producing a podcast, we realized how differently we now listen to podcasts. We now each think about issues like scene, editing, sound, and the overall choices that are made to produce a holistically crafted message. If I say we have become more “critical” of other podcasts, I don’t mean in it a negative sense; I simply think we have all learned to think in a more discerning manner about the overall construction of a message. In learning to build podcasts, we have learned to think harder about this particular modality. It is probably no surprise that at least three of the people working on this podcast have now gone off to work on other ones.
Why is this important? If I’m just talking about podcasting, or Leading Lines specifically, perhaps it’s not all that important. However, there is a larger point here: people who engage in the production of ideas or messages through different modalities are able to think more clearly, more critically, about how they are reached through those modalities. The more you have built something as simple as PowerPoint slides, for example, the more you reflect upon how others’ slides successfully or unsuccessfully communicate to you. The more you produce, then, the better you consume.
If we apply this lesson to Vanderbilt as a whole, one of the takeaways is that the better we prepare our students to present their ideas through multiple means of communication and modalities the better equipped they will be for the job market and perhaps more importantly, for citizenship. And in a world in which there is so much information (and misinformation), it is critical to produce citizens who consume and produce information with a critical eye.