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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“Saved the Day”

I put this title in quotations because 6 people think I saved their day from 4,057 miles away….Instead, I did what any high school (maybe even middle school) student could, would, and should do if given the access and reason.

Back story: Meet my parents – Robin and Steve.  My mom is a retired English teacher and my dad is a farmer that will never retire. In 2011 they went on their first international trip to the UK.  That was the first of many.  My role has been their travel agent, something I quite enjoy.  I get to surf the Internet for cool B&B’s, make reservations, map out pretty and practical routes and then live vicariously through them via their agenda and Facebook posts.  They just returned from their 5th trip, (this time going with 4 friends) which I had the pleasure of planning.

Break to: SUPERMAN JUMPS OUT OF THE PHONE BOOTH!!!  Or, rather, Meredith answers a panicked FaceTime call over the noon hour.

Robin: “Meredith, we have a problem. This B&B only has one room available for tomorrow night, we need three!” (First thought, uh-oh I messed up…mom assured me not, their mixup, blah, blah….second thought, maps.google.com).
Me: “Hang on mom, we’ll get it figured out – no worries.”
Robin: “Steve, look how cute she is when she’s concentrating.” (Remember, this was FaceTime, I was on a mission and these are my parents)
Me: “Mother. ” You get the idea of how the rest of the conversation might have went between a daughter and her parents…

Fast-forward 15 minutes: I had done a quick online search of the area they were traveling, found the desired route for their next booked B&B (taking into consideration the roads my dad felt comfortable driving on), split the difference of mileage (based on how much drive time they wanted to get done the next day), clicked my favorite “Hotels Nearby” button, cross-referenced that list with tripadvisor.com (over 320 million user reviews of anything travel related-seriously, check it out), found two possible B&B contenders, viewed their respective websites, read reviews, made a decision, called the winner (using my computer I’ll have you know) and made the reservation with a very nice English-accented woman named Vanessa, whom the traveling party met the next day and adored!

Did  I remember the date of the signing of Magna Carta?  No. (June 19, 1215)
Did I remember the name of the current Prime Minister? No. (David Cameron)
Did I do a crazy algebraic equation to get my mileage? Nope.

What I did do was:

  • Apply critical reading and thinking strategies.
  • Determine importance of information and its relevance to essential questions.
  • Separate information and ideas into component parts.
  • Make inferences, identify trends, and interpret data.
  • Separate information and ideas into component parts.
  • Exercise flexibility in information seeking and collaborated with peers.

In shorter terms, I analyzed, evaluated, interpreted, and inferred. All wonderful, great skills we want our bright, 21st century learners to be practicing and applying. I used what resources I had to solve a problem, a real problem. It wasn’t rocket science and it wasn’t fancy-dancy Academia stuff but those 15 minutes of clicking and surfing “saved the day” for 6 people on vacation. It put their minds at ease and I played a role with that, which makes me feel good.  

I want students to feel good about the work they are doing in schools. Are they helping someone or something? Are they solving a a real problem? What work are they doing in school to be part of a solution? What are you doing to be part of a solution?

 

 

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The Art of APEX

Earlier this week I had an opportunity to visit an extremely forward thinking school in the Des Moines area, Waukee APEX (Aspiring Professional Experience). After circling the downtown block with the correct address several times, I finally committed to parking… “Really? This is the school?” There was no school signage, business people were going in and out, and there wasn’t a student in sight (at least, upon first assumption). My world was about to be rocked. Inside was, indeed, a business. Most of the people I saw were employees but mixed in were junior and senior students from the Waukee school district, dressed and definitely acting the part of an employee.  Their “classroom” is housed the business space of DLR Group and without prior knowledge, one would think of these young individuals as paid employees doing regular work.  They was 17 students, an instructor and a buzz of activity. This particular course was Designing Communication Solutions which is within the APEX Business, Technology & Communications Strand (other strands can be found here). Throughout the semester, these students are paired with businesses to complete requested projects and work for a few hours every afternoon instead of attending conventional, bell-to-bell classes.  I would normally put air quotes around work but I can’t, they are doing real, actual work for real, actual businesses.  They have clients to consult and deadlines to meet. Sounds familiar – like my job – but they are high school students. LOVE!

Through inquiry-based learning and authentic experiences, students build skills in key areas: productivity/accountability, complex communication, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and flexibility/adaptability. They are featured below (graphic art/design credit: Brandon Vacco, APEX Student).Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 12.33.09 PM

As a mother, educator, community member and regular ‘ol human being – I want this opportunity for ALL kids. Rural or urban. Small or large district. Financially stable or financially struggling. How do we make this happen? If you are a parent, ask your child’s teacher what real-world applications are happening in your their classroom. Volunteer your business or expertise if you see a fit.  If you are an educator, keep doing awesome things but #makeitbetter – there is always room for improvement. If you see an opportunity to work outside the 4 walls of your classroom, take it! Only good can come from students seeing the relevance and real-world application of the work they are doing in their classroom. And if you are removed from the local educational institution for whatever reason (kids have graduated, etc.) – get back in there, attend a school board meeting, ask questions, offer your services, listen, volunteer, be active! It takes a village.

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Win at BIG

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to tour an amazing school. Yesterday, I met some incredibly talented kids doing unbelievable work. Yesterday, I saw the future. Today, and this day forward, I will share their story in hopes we can move in this direction as an educational system. Iowa BIG knocks down the traditional walls of school and follows this mantra: Let your passions drive you to do something great and be open to building authentic relationships and teams. -Dr. Trace Pickering, Co-Creator & Associate Superintendent.

Iowa Big in Cedar Rapids, was started in 2012 as somewhat of an unorthodox experiment. Three years later and octupled in size, it is bursting with student success that needs to be shared. Something is working very, very well in this fully competency-based model. Below is a breakdown of the differences between the BIG model and traditional or “regular” school:

The Iowa BIG Model: The Current K12 Model:
-Content is delivered on demand as a project requires.

-Students are measured individually against the Iowa CORE, Common CORE, and NGSS.

-21st century and employability skills are embedded in every student’s experience.

-Curriculum comes from business, nonprofit, and government agencies in the form of projects, problems and initiatives.

-Responds directly to needs in the economy by embedding students in the economy.

-Personalized educational experience to honor student goals.

-Focus on service and entrepreneurialism.

-Subjects are integrated as they appear in the adult world – content is contextualized for deeper learning.

-Learning centers on fundamental tenet of core subjects like economics and computer programing.

-Designed to prepare citizens for the information-age world.

-Focuses on delivery of specific content.

-Curriculum is often standardized and legitimized by historical use.

-Content is delivered on a pre-determined schedule.

-Focuses majority of efforts on preparing students for college.

-Subjects are separated from one another for ease of scheduling and management.

-Students are clustered by age and ability level for efficiency purposes.

-Designed to prepare citizens for an industrial-age world. 

Who doesn’t want the Iowa BIG column for our children?! Is what they do in Cedar Rapids the perfect solution for all schools and should our educational system do a complete overhaul? No and the leaders at BIG would agree. Should we start the discussion and movement towards a VERSION of this model in our schools? YES! It will look very different in rural communities and that’s okay, it should. Cookie-cutter is not what the BIG idea is. If we keep our focus on offering students an opportunity to follow their passions and interests, integrate the community to use the student’s learning in context to the real world, and integrate subjects just like they are used and referenced in the real world it will be a win:win for everyone, especially our students.

 

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