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One of the neatest thing about being a librarian at Kirkwood is the opportunity to get to know my faculty colleagues and hear about their innovations in the classroom. From Kirkwood CASTLE , T4LT podcasts from our distance learning gurus, and  the myriad faculty led workshops at KCELT, I never want for learning here.

I’ve been particularly interested to follow how our faculty and staff are using YouTube to create, share, and transform their teaching and learning. DJ Hennager is a Science instructor with several popular videos on YouTube and a passion for using podcasts to transform his classroom, increase learning, speed innovation, and improve teaching.  He was gracious enough to share his expertise with me in an email interview.

Nicole Forsythe: Tell us about yourself: who you are, what you teach, and whatever else you want to share about yourself.

My name is D.J. Hennager.  I am a dad, a husband, and a teacher of students in Anatomy and Physiology II and Human Nutrition.

NF: So you make and use video podcasts for your classes. What subjects do you podcast and how do you use them to teach?

DJ: My podcasts generally support my Anatomy and Physiology II class but I also make videos that I hope assist my colleagues in teaching.

The more I use YouTube, the more I think it solves many teaching dilemmas to create a richer learning opportunity for students.  Essentially, the way we teach now creates some pretty defined limits (time of learning as class is at a particular time, length of attention as you must pay attention for 110 minutes, number of repetitions as you may only hear this once even though the brain has difficulty deeply processing new information, type of input as you will get much of your information from reading a textbook, etc).  These defined limits also limit the type of learner.  If we are to compete internationally, we need to expand our population of learners.  Said another way, if I want to learn through reading, the situation that allows that is somewhat limited; I need to set aside time and space to read.  If I can learn through listening, suddenly I have a great deal more opportunities to learn. Essentially, I can learn anytime my hands are busy but my brain is free; when I am mowing the lawn, driving to work, cleaning the garage, waiting at my daughter’s dance class, etc.   I believe that YouTube greatly opens up the student’s opportunity to learn.

Additionally, the social collaborative nature of YouTube will, I believe, lead to improvements in teaching.  By making videos, you can share your teaching methods with others.  This sharing motivates me to higher quality, but it also forgives me of incorrectness because the social environment will improve the content.  Additionally, by seeing how others teach, I can build on my teaching when I am exposed to superior methods.  While there is some fear that video will replace the instructor, if the instructor uses video to consistently accelerate what it means to teach, then video will not replace the teacher, teaching will innovate more rapidly.

NF: How long have you been podcasting? What inspired you to start doing it?

I have been creating podcasts for two years.  I started because there are just some topics where you would like to be able to draw out the bigger picture, how the individual topics are interconnected.  While students seem to really understand the connections during the lecture, I was often hearing things like “it made so much sense when you drew it out in class, but when I got home, I lost it.”  So, the podcasts were a way for the student to revisit the lecture as it was drawn in class and essentially have the lecture wherever they are; on their iPod, on their phone, on their computer at home.

NF:  How has it changed your teaching?YT_whypodcast

I see teaching as helping the student get the most out of themselves for an acceptable amount of frustration.  Any time technology simplifies learning and reduces that frustration, I can ask more of my students; whether by introducing more complex subject matter or by using activities that are higher-order learning.  Additionally, having delivered content outside of class, I then have more time in class for discussions or coaching.

NF: How much time and effort have you spent on production – from idea to finished product?

At this point, since I am really just recording videos of subject matter I have covered in class, it takes about an hour to record and process a10-minute video.  I think once I realized that students simply want you to replicate the classroom by drawing things out, rather than producing glossy animations, the process was greatly simplified.  I record a drawing, edit it quickly, and publish it.

NF: How do students respond to your podcasts and/or the way your teaching has changed?

I have an on-line survey to collect input after the completion of a course; students can visit a Google form and provide input.  On the question “I regularly use your YouTube videos and find them beneficial” where 1 is “strongly agree” and 5 is “strongly disagree,” the running average is a 1.5.   I can also judge a bit by YouTube insight which indicates that my videos were watched ~600 times a month in Iowa.  I interpret that to indicate that students are using the YouTubes.

NF: Anything else you’d like to share?

If you love to teach, you love to teach.  Just looking at one’s insight numbers –  how many view and whether the video was watched to the end can be quite fulfilling.  Whether it is teaching the one who commented that they were inspired to stay in school, seeing that you are teaching the third world, or seeing your views tick towards having taught a million, YouTube expands my ability to teach.


As a librarian, I see my role not only in connecting students to resources, but connecting ideas, people, technology, and trends. DJ helps me to think through how I can be a better teacher and understand how social technologies empower the learner and teacher in us all.  Other teaching-oriented Kirkwood podcasters include gkpeter, kirkwoodlms, and your always-learning Kirkwood librarians.

What do you think? Are you podcasting? Why not? What have you found?

As a final note, DJ has started experimenting with engaging students in discussion via Twitter. See how his first attempts went in this T4LT podcast: http://t4lt.blogspot.com/2011/10/t4lt-interview-dj-hennager-on-back.html.