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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Student Podcasts: A How to Guide

We all have those quiet students who struggle with participating in class discussions. We can sense their anxiety when they are asked to present in front of the class; we can see their eyes darting away from ours when it is time to call on someone to answer a question. I imagine for all of us, there have been years when a student has spent a whole year in our classroom, but we struggle to recall their voice. The reality of having almost forty students in a classroom (times that by five for the whole day) is that it can be incredibly challenging to find ways to ensure that every student is given the opportunity to verbally articulate their thinking, and to ensure that we have the opportunity to hear from each of them. Having students create podcasts is just another innovative way technology can help combat these challenges.

Last week, I asked my students to use Audacity to create podcasts as their end of unit project following their reading of the play The Glass Menagerie. For this project, I had students work with a partner to create an interview style podcast in which one of them played the interviewer, the other the interviewee. The premise was fairly simple: one of them would be playing the host of the show, while the other would be either the author of the play, or one of the three main characters.

While I tried to leave students with some autonomy and choice in regards to the actual content of the podcasts, I did provide a significant amount of support during the planning and creating stages. Before launching into anything, I highly recommend having students listen to a podcast of their choosing as an easy homework assignment the night before introducing the project. When I debriefed with my students the next day, they were able to share what they noticed about both the content and design of the podcast they had listened to which segued nicely into my introduction to their assignment.

Since the technology we were using was new to my students, my fabulous tech coach, Crystal Kirch, created a “how to guide” for them. I gave them time at the beginning of the first period, before even introducing the details of the project, to play around and familiarize themselves with the tech. I encouraged them to create a practice recording with their partner, so they could try out the different editing features included with the program.   

Everything I read online indicated that students would need more time to map out their podcasts than they would actually need to record them--I found this to be true. If you decide to have students work in groups or with a partner, definitely set aside at least one class period for them to plot out their script.

By using the script template, students were able to map out their show, determine length and content of individual segments, and brainstorm potential questions and answers to cover. The script became an important tool for them when they rehearsed and then finally recorded their podcast.

The day of recording was an opportunity for my students to exercise their independence, and for me to gather informal feedback. While walking around, I was able to observe each partnership as they navigated both the tech and the task. I was most impressed by their creativity, their adeptness with using Audacity for the first time, and their willingness to take risks while learning.  For me, my tech journey this year has been not just about my ability to use technology to teach content, but about how to teach my students to use technology to demonstrate their learning and thinking.

Student Podcast Example

To draw a conclusion to their podcasts, I had my students complete two assignments: one was a short writing assignment drawing on the content of their podcast, the second was a group peer evaluation on Google Forms. Since the podcasts ended-up being ten to fifteen minutes, I knew the reality was that I wasn’t going to be able to listen to each in its entirety in a timely fashion. By having them complete the Google Form evaluation on another group, I was able to push immediate feedback out to them in a Google Doc.   

Looking Forward

Reflecting back on this project, I am excited to consider other ways to use student podcasts next year. While I was very happy with how these turned out, I also like the idea of the podcast not being a one time event. I think the idea of monthly or quarterly podcasts would be really interesting. As always, when I try a new piece of technology, if it gets me thinking about future uses, I know it was a success.

Happy Podcasting!

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