Are your students podcasting yet?!

Podcasts and collaborative audio projects are becoming more prevalent in the classroom, thanks to technology that is constantly improving and the proliferation of smartphones and other mobile devices. Kids are learning on the go, and these evolving opportunities must meet them where they live—on the devices that are always at their fingertips.

Today’s recording technology makes it easy to collaborate. This feature wasn’t available until recently, and it gives educators a unique tool to improve creativity with project-based learning that empowers, engages, and excites students.

Kids love making podcasts because they love to make. Period. Whether it’s a project proposal, a presentation, or a piece of art, they want to be creators. They don’t want to merely consume, and podcasts are an awesome outlet for their original compositions. By giving our kids an even greater voice in driving their own education, we change the way we teach and personalize the way they learn.

After spending over a decade in classrooms teaching music and technology, I know the importance of taking a thoughtful approach to this rich medium. To proceed strategically, we first must understand why and how audio-recording projects benefit our kids. Here is why I recommend podcasting and audio recording in the classroom:

  • Clarification and confidence. As your students listen closely to their tone, they learn to include appropriate pauses and master their speaking through repetition. This helps them clarify their personal voice and become more confident speakers.
  • Reflection and discussion. Working with recorded audio offers students an alternative place to reflect on their thinking and engage in candid discussions about their work. These discussions are wonderful opportunities to construct new ideas and improve existing ones.
  • Read, revise, practice, and present. When students record themselves reading their writing, they get a new perspective on the written word and an alternative method for revision. Further, as they read and revise their writing, they practice before making the oral presentation to peers. This combination of writing and presenting is authentic practice for what they must master when they enter higher education and/or the workforce.
  • Assessment without anxiety. If our task is to assess our learners’ understanding rather than their writing, we can now lower their blood pressure by giving them an alternative space to explain themselves that eliminates worrying about spelling errors or sentence structure.

How to get started

One of the more effective audio-recording technologies for the classroom is Soundtrap, an online collaborative digital podcast and audio recording studio that accommodates all devices. This is an important feature for many schools because students often times bring in their own devices. An added benefit: Kids can collaborate on their projects at home—on their own time. The Soundtrap platform resembles a Google Drive file storage system for audio files, only it’s easier to use and more creative.

The following steps can help you execute a beginner podcast project effectively and inspire your classroom to collaborate on projects that excite and educate.

  • Plan thoroughly. Spend some time listening to high-quality podcasts to get a sense of what works and what doesn’t. Next, outline your goals and identify the audience. Decide on a topic and format. Determine the length of each episode and the frequency of their release.
  • Pre-production. Identify a name for the podcast and select a host. Determine who will be heard in the recording, and if you will bring in guests for interviews. Decide how long your podcast will run. (Recommended running time is 3-5 minutes.)
  • Record. Do this with short portions of audio at a time, making sure to save often. It sounds backwards, but I recommend recording the introduction last. That way, students have a better understanding of the entire podcast and can more easily sum up its theme.
  • Post-production. This is where you edit and refine the audio. Add music, ambience, and sound effects, making sure to properly credit the artists that are featured in your podcast. You’ll find that these nuances really enhance your production. Export the file as an mp3 or upload to the proper social medial channels.
  • Publish. Link your audio file to Twitter, Facebook, web pages, and other online platforms. Share and promote the podcast to the appropriate audiences.
    Inspiring ideas to get you started

If you need some audio-recording ideas, here are some of my favorite projects, lesson plans, and ideas from educators across the globe.

  • Use podcast creation in conjunction with Google Tour Builder to create virtual field trips with student-recorded tour guide voiceovers.
  • Build an original soundtrack that complements a novel’s rising action, climax, and resolution.
  • Create a “day in the life” documentary that describes the sights, sounds, and activities in an ancient metropolis.
  • On a field trip, ask students to use a voice recorder (such as the one in the Soundtrap app) to capture notes and then compile them into a podcast that touches on highlights or instructional outcomes.
  • When used correctly, podcasts and other audio projects engender collaboration, improve listening and comprehension skills, encourage critical thinking, and inspire creativity. Happy podcasting!

This was originally posted by eSchool News.

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Check Yourself

I recently had an opportunity to listen to Mr. Kevin Brookhouser’s speak on the 20time Project at the Toronto GAFE Summit. His message: teachers who offer choice can meet learning goals while creating powerful experiences that lead to increased motivation, creativity and divergent critical thinking. Simple yet very profound. I wrote the following thoughts while on my plane ride home.

My teaching career started when I was in high school during a job shadowing experience.  A real-world learning experience inspired me as opposed to memorizing facts and figures in my core subjects…who knew!  Imagine 16-year-old me, I liked music, I was pretty good at it, the music rooms were my second home. When I had the opportunity to mentor someone, it just seemed natural to shadow my band director.  I had my “lightbulb” a-ha moment when I was presented with an opportunity to teach a rhythm lesson to 10-year-old budding percussionist. I helped her through grasping a concept and when she got it, I got it…I want to teach. 

Little did I know, that moment would lead me down a very interesting path in education.  It has been a path that has engrossed me, a path that is unfinished, a path that if you squint hard enough drops off to…where?  

Prior to seeing clarity with the scary (yet awesome) realization that our 21st century educational thoroughfare is being built as we travel it, I taught instrumental music in a very rural and high-poverty school for almost a decade.  I loved it, was good at it, and kids usually liked coming to my class.  Naïve-me thought their engagement in my class was a reflection on my teaching – ha!  I eventually figured out they liked coming to the band room for the same reasons I liked it when I was in high school – they enjoy music, they like playing an instrument, and my classroom felt safe.  One could argue that none of those reasons are because of me.  This is where my mother’s voice pipes up and says, “Now Meredith, they feel safe and secure in your room because you fostered that. They love music because you have inspired them. Etc., etc., etc.” Ok Mom, I’ll take a tiny bit of it but it really comes down to the fact that they felt empowered in my classroom. 

Learners felt safe – check.
Learners felt supported – check.
Learners were given autonomy – check.
Learners were given an authentic audience – check.
Learners were passionate and interested in the content – check.
Learners saw a potential future with the work they completed – check. 

Here’s the kicker – my learners chose to be in my class.  That’s huge. It wasn’t until I was out of the classroom teaching teachers, facilitating professional learning, presenting to all content area educators that I realized most educators don’t get to experience the luxury of being an elective teacher and how absolute key that was to my (accidental) classroom success. 

Now and probably for the rest of my time on this earth, I will encourage all educators (and leaders!) to pattern after or emulate an elective class by giving student voice, choice, and ownership on their learning while also providing some authentic audience and networking outside of the classroom walls.  Technology obviously provides an accessible avenue to achieve this work.

I’ll sign off by asking one simple question: Do you want to take your class?

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In Memory of Anna Dewdney

My house is mourning a favorite children’s author – Anna Dewdney.  Her Llama Llama books are some of our favorites in our library and when we got word of her passing, we were all very sad.  Her obituary ended with, “She requested that in lieu of a funeral service that people read to a child instead.” How appropriate and absolutely beautiful.

Morgan, my 7-year-old daughter, thought so too.  That night, she decided that Ms. Dewdney’s books were on the docket for bedtime ‘tine (shortened from routine because at one time, one of our girls struggled with the word in its entirety and shortened it). During the story time section of our routine we were reading Llama Llama Made At Mama. I had a quick thought to record Morgan reading.  I had my phone on me (sadly, this is typical as my phone is my crutch and addiction), I opened my Soundtrap app, entered the Studio and pushed the record button. 4 minutes later, voi! I added a couple of beats at the beginning/end and had Morgan listen to it. Her face lit up and chest puffed out when she heard the recording.  She was proud, happy and excited.  All the things we want for our children, students, learners.

I’ve since passed the recording on via Twitter, text to Grandma and Grandpa, email to her teacher and now this blog post. Here’s my takeaway:

Personal Connection + Ownership + Authentic Audience = Awesomeness

Give it a listen (there may or may not be little sister Cameron asking, “to see da pitchores” around minute 1:25).  Thank you, Anna, for inspiring me and my family today and future days. Rest in peace.

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