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Learning Through Webinars & Podcasts

April 12, 2010

This week I downloaded a bunch of podcasts from last September’s annual meeting of the American Association of State and Local History.  You can download the podcasts directly from the AASLH web page or through iTunes.  The podcast topics include Web 2.0 Technology and Social Media, Discovering Your Hidden Audience, Creating Diverse Partnerships, and so forth – about 20 in all.  The couple I listened to so far have, in one case been interesting – the Lincoln administration with some interesting comparisons with President Obama – and the other quite helpful in exploring how three different institutions use social media.  The social media podcast illustrates two ways I find this information tool useful.  First, the topical coverage is basic, in this case covering Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and so forth.  Second, the podcasts include case studies that offer insights on how to adapt and apply these tools to my own needs.

Cuts in travel budgets make conference attendance more selective.  To answer this challenge,  more and more organizations reach their membership through inexpensive or free webinars and podcasts of Annual Meetings.  For example, in addition to the AASLH, for the past several years the Society for Applied Anthropology posted selected sessions from their annual meetings as free podcasts.  Will the Society for American Archaeology be not more than just a few years behind this trend?

Free webinars include those sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution such as their Problem Solving With Smithsonian Experts kicking off this week.  The American Association of Museum also offers low-cost webinars, free podcasts, along with free webinars that ultimately end up on YouTube.

All of which raises the obvious – with so much stuff out there, how does one choose?  Here is my take on this point.  Gordon Wiley was considered the last “generalist” in archaeology.  As a discipline, we clearly are quite specialized.  Two decades ago I wrote my MA Thesis on the analysis of flint artifacts from a single site.  I now serve on a committee of a doctoral student who is testing a very specific type of non-destructive spectral technique for fingerprinting flint raw materials.  Specialties are now sub-specialized.  I find that podcasts, webinars, and the like are excellent resources from which I can choose resource information to which I will devote more time.  For example, with social media, podcasts and blogs are very helpful in directing me to specific resources that answer specific questions.

How do these resources answer your research needs?

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