Podcasting in the Classroom Play Presentation
Shaun Else

Shaun Else

Shaun Else is a grade 5 teacher with the Halton District Board of Education at Maple Grove PS in Oakville Ontario. He and his students have been playing and learning with technology since he began teaching in 2000.

Table of Contents

Overview

Podcasting, or the creation of a ”radio show”,  is the vehicle for students to communicate their knowledge and understanding of a variety of writing forms.  Students research, develop and publish the show content, then prepare transitions and audio effects to enhance their segment.

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Purpose of Learning Object

Introduction of writing forms:

These vary according to what is being studied in language or integrated subjects.  Some of the basic forms I present here are:

  • Scripts (general);
  • Dictionary entries;
  • Poetry, music, book, website reviews/critiques ;
  • Speeches;
  • Jokes;
  • Interviews;
  • Advertisements;
  • News Reporting.

The learning task sheets for each form that I have developed are on-line here for your use.

  • The forms provide students with instructions, examples, rubrics, and workspace to complete their scripts.
  • If available, conferencing software like “First Class” allows students to work in groups on their script anywhere.  Teachers and peers can monitor work while providing “remote” support.

Research and exposure to existing student podcasting:

Listed below are some of the examples of student/class podcasts from around the world.  Invite your students to  listen to some of them.

As you listen, take note  of …

  • subject headings and topics.
  • evidence of student research.
  • writing, creativity and quality of oral communication.
  • evidence of currulum links.
  • level of technological expertise.  Some are filled with explanations and rich content, while others are direct and simple.
podcast-mini3.gif Radio WillowWeb podcast-mini3.gif Grandview Library Third Grade
podcast-mini3.gif Willowcast #12 podcast-mini3.gif Grandview Library Storytelling
podcast-mini3.gif Radio Sandaig podcast-mini3.gif Room613 Panther Podcast
podcast-mini3.gif 01.Room 208 PODCAST! podcast-mini3.gif Room 613 Talk
podcast-mini3.gif Mills Murfee Podcasts podcast-mini3.gif Ace Kids
podcast-mini3.gif The Downs FM podcast-mini3.gif Integrated Technology Podcast
podcast-mini3.gif September Newsletter

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Description of Learning Tasks

Use a checklist (see Formative Assessment section below) as a guide to student success.

  1. Research, planning and development of  segment.
  2. Edit and rehearsal of segment.
  3. Recording of segment.  At this stage, the teacher models the use of the recording software on a data projector.   The teacher may use this step to model the entire process, from choice of writing form to final edit.
  4. Edit of segment.
  5. Possible posting of radio shows on -ine, depending on technological expertise.

Depending on class and management style,  students are given a choice to work individually or in small groups on various segments.

Click to View Full Size Image
Click on image to view full size.

Within the given tasks,  students may be asked to:

  • listen to other podcasts;
  • read news papers (national and local);
  • select and listen to “podsafe” music from websites;
  • interview to peers/parents/teachers;
  • summarize stories or movies;
  • use software to edit their voices;
  • choose transition sounds/effects;
  • export their audio;
  • write drafts and published versions of their podcast segments.

New Learning:

  • use of digital recording software;
  • possible use of digital microphone;
  • possible use of remote digital recorders (MP3 recorders);
  • possibly, concept of timelines.

Here’s a basic example of a podcast timeline:

time line image

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Curriculum Connections

These language expectations are not specific to individual radio show segments.  Depending on segment topics, other subjects could be assessed.

ORAL COMMUNICATION

OVERALL:

  • use speaking skills and strategies appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

SPECIFIC EXPECTATIONS:

  • identify some vocal effects, including tone, pace, pitch, volume, and a variety of sound effects, and use them appropriately and with sensitivity towards cultural differences to help communicate their meaning.

WRITING

OVERALL:

  • generate, gather, and organize ideas and information to write for an intended purpose and audience;
  • draft and revise their writing, using a variety of informational, literary, and graphic forms and stylistic elements appropriate for the purpose and audience;
  • use editing, proofreading, and publishing skills and strategies, and knowledge of language conventions, to correct errors, refine expression, and present their work effectively.

SPECIFIC EXPECTATIONS:

  • identify the topic, purpose, and audience for a variety of writing forms;
  • generate ideas about a potential topic and identify those most appropriate for the purpose;
  • gather information to support ideas for writing, using a variety of strategies and a range of print and electronic resources;
  • establish an appropriate voice in their writing, with a focus on modifying language and tone to suit different circumstances or audiences.

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Required Technology

Some hardware you may need:

A computer with an internet connection and a large enough hard drive to hold your podcasts hard drive.

Most computers come with a sizable hard drive, but if you’re using older equipment you may want to get an external hard drive.  For portability and simplicity, many laptops have microphones built in.  Keep in mind a 20-minute podcast can take up about 18 megs of information.

A microphone.

While laptops have built-in microphones, sound quality can be low.   As the authors of Podcast Solutions: a complete guide to podcasting suggest, “Many would argue – and rightfully so – that the microphone is the single most important piece of equipment piece of hardware.”   If you want your podcast to sound extremely good, it can be costly, some microphones are as expensive as $4000.

The best bet is to purchase a USB microphone for approximately $50 or less.  A suggested microphone by the authors of  Podcasting Solutions: a complete guide to podcasting” is the Audio-Technica AT2020 Microphone cost: $125.

But consider that you’ll need a mixer to run your high-end mic through, like the Alesis Multimix 8 USB sound mixer, which costs approximately CDN$215.   To avoid use of a mixer, consider  using the Samson CO1U USB mic, the first affordable studio condenser mic with a USB interface.

This is also an option if you plan to do a lot of recording in the field, away from the computer itself, on location interviews, or recordings on field trips.

Handheld ditigal voice recorders are available that record voices well, and convert the voice into files your computer can read (MP3).

There are also many MP3 players (including the iPod) that have voice recording options and attachments.  You only need to transfer your recordings onto the computer to edit the sound.   The authors of Podcast Solutions: a complete guide to podcasting  suggest the iRiver line of MP3 player/voice recorder.

Two main software titles you can use to record your students’ audio are:

Audacity imageAudacity (PC/Mac/Linux) this program is simple to use, free to download, but lacks any included sound effects or instruments.

Garage Band  imageGarageband (Mac) this program is VERY simple to use, comes with Mac computers and includes many effects and instruments.

Teachers may want to edit the podcast in a data projector so that students can see the process and, as a group, be involved in creating the sound of the final product.

It is advisable to allow students to “play” with the software as a means of  helping them learn it.   The teacher can give specific points on the software as the students become more aware of its basic operations.

The completed podcast may be saved on the computer, made into a file MP3 format and posted on a website  site, or simply enjoyed in the classroom.

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Assessment

Digital Audio recording has become an easy and user-friendly task.   Students have been producing podcasts for the past few years in many countries as another creative way to show their learning.

Podcasts are posted on the internet, or just used in class, to showcase student achievement, and to help teacher assessment in such areas as understanding concepts and student creativity.

Formative Assessment

  • Observational through planning, editing, and recording processes.
  • Group work.
  • Occasional conferencing with groups/individuals to ensure equal contribution.
  • Anecdotal notes.
  • Checklist (example below).
Click to view full size image.
Click to view full size image.

Summative Assessment

  • Rubrics for planning and completion of script (see individual segment work “sheets” here )
  • Students listen to their final product and critique it with their peers and teacher to see how closely it matches/meets the parameters of the assignment.

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Scope and Sequence

Below is a possible term by term for a grade 5 class,  based on summary project podcast of social studies or science units and the study of the 6+1 traits of writing:

Writing Traits Studied Social Studies / Science Unit Date and Pocast Theme
Term 1 Ideas / Organization Canadian Government November – Prime Ministers /Citizenship / Respect
Term 2 Voice / Sentence Fluency Conservation of Energy February – Save the Earth PSAs / Earth Poems
Term 3 Word Choice / Conventions Ancient Civilizations June – Ancient News Reports

Depending on scope,you could take a couple weeks to a year creating podcasts.

The first step is an understanding of what makes a good podcast.  This requires research on the part of the teacher and students to identify the elements of a successful production (see “Our class podcast” below).

Mastery of the recording equipment and software depends on the complexity of your set-up and budget.

Students gain confidence and skill using recording software when they are given basic starting guidelines and then are allowed to “play” to discover the simple aspects of the software.

Garageband is easy and fun for grade 5 students to discover on their own.  They very quickly learn to share  “cool sounds” and effects. and to cut and paste their voices with only some teacher help.  Many students already have these programs and play with them at home.

It is important for the teacher to include celebration and listening in the process,  and to encourage students to listen for areas for improvement and ways to do things differently next time.

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Accommodations or Modifications

Some of the accommodations and modifications that could be used are:

  • provision of scripts to read aloud and give simple reflection;
  • assign simple poetry for reading and reflection;
  • assign IEP student to groups that can support them;
  • provide news stories to read aloud;
  • have students author songs/raps/poems to record.

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Differentiation

Our Class Podcast imageBy building student knowledge and understanding of what makes a successful podcast,  many can succeed.

One of the tools used to support success is the use of the book Our Class Podcast, which gives children insight into a classroom that developed its own class podcast, PortableRadio.ca.  The book provides step-by-step guidance to writing and podcast production.

Students should be given daily exposure to a variety of student and professionally produced podcasts to learn how various elements add and detract from the quality and message.

Working in small groups gives support and helps toward group achievement.  Making sure each group has a balance of technologically-minded and creatively-minded students will help all find value in their part.

Students can be given different jobs, ranging from writing, sound engineer (noise maker), editor on the computer and performer.  Students of various skill and knowledge levels can find a niche and comfort level.

The final podcast can take many forms depending on the needs of your students and your differentiation path.  The podcast could be a dramatic live performance that simulates a TV news report.  Students could video their presentations.  There are websites such as VoiceThread that can be used to make audio slide shows or photo essays.

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Research Base

The internet and technology in general has given this generation of teachers a new and unique way to, “custom-tailor literacy activities to the interests, learning styles, and motivations of boys.” (page 40 “Me Read? No Way!”) I believe that podcasting fits this special mix of technology and literacy activities on a level that has not been used on a wide and useful scale until the past several years.

Professional Articles:

Podcasting in the school library, part 2: creating powerful Podcasts with your students. Annette Lamb, Larry Johnson.

Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson look at how to podcast in a simple way.  From brainstorming to final editing, teachers need guidance and this is an excellent ressource.   Typically, ideas about format are a considerable stumbling block for teachers (never mind the technology),  and the provided list and how-to guide offers helpful direction.

Creating a positive learning experience through podcasting. Xanthe Couture.

Xanthe states, “Student–teacher relationships could become more interactive…”  Podcasting is an authentic format that promotes discoveries and parrallel thinking.

LITERACY IN THE DIGITAL AGE: READING, WRITING, VIEWING, AND COMPUTING Frank B. Withrow.

Withrow explores the digital educational wave by asking how children learn.   Digital literacy is the new literacy, and podcasting is part of a greater bundle of tools that bring authenticity to the classroom.  Withrow states that the learning experiences that young children can gain through tools such as podcasting can raise students to new levels of higher-order thinking.

Newspaper articles that support the use of podcasting in the classroom:

newspaper imageThe Seattle Times Education Teachers see iPods as educational tool Quote from the article:Using little more than an iPod and a school computer, Gagliolo and her students have been making podcasts — online radio shows that can be downloaded to an iPod or other portable MP3 player. Avidly discussing their favourite iPod colors and models while they made recordings of their poems and book reports the other day, the fifth-graders bubbled with ideas for future subjects.
“We could read parts of books, to show why we like them. We could do interviews. If there’s a field trip, we could make a recording of it and post it,” said Mohamed El-Sayed, 10. “Kids anywhere will like to hear about us.”
newspaper imageNew Tools Blogs, Podcasts and Virtual Classrooms – New York Times Quote from the article:“In building this product weekly, the kids are incredibly motivated to read, research, write, and they’re telling me they can’t wait to get to school,” Mr. Sprankle said in an interview for the June 9 episode of “Connect Learning,” another podcast (not affiliated with his school). “You can’t just fake it with this show. You’ve got to own it.”
newspaper imageTell Me a Story – 912005 – School Library Journal Quote from the article:“Among the hottest trends going, podcasting lets users download audio files from the Web, store them on digital music devices, and play them at one’s leisure. Commercial outfits and chatty bloggers alike are podcasting, and so are progressive educators, like Chauncey, who are beginning to adopt the communication tool to captivate their students.”
newspaper imagePodcasting Craze Comes to K-12 Schools – Edweek.org Quote from the article:“Educators are starting to see how podcasting can help hone students’ vocabulary, writing, editing, public speaking, and presentation skills, said Dan J. Schmit, an instructional-technology specialist at the University of Nebraska’s college of education. Students can also learn skills that will be valuable in the working world, such as communication, time management, and problem-solving, he said.”
newspaper imageStudents and Teachers, From K to 12, Hit the Podcasts – The New York Times Quote from the article:“A podcast is like few other devices that a teacher can use in advancing a student’s development,” said Daniel J. Schmit, an instructional technology specialist in the college of education at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and the author of “KidCast: Podcasting in the Classroom.” “It teaches them to do research, to communicate in print, to speak effectively and grab attention with sound.”

Books I have used to research the topic of Podcasting in the Classroom:

kidcast image“KidCast: Podcasting in the Classroom” by Dan Schmit. Publisher: FTC Publishing.

podcast solutions image“Podcast Solutions: The Complete Guide to Podcasting” by, Michael W. Geoghegan , Dan Klass. Publisher: friends of ED, an Apress Company.

Our Class image“Our Classroom Podcast” (978-0-7791-7696-0) was published by Scholastic in January 2008

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Evidence of Innovation and/or Exemplary Practice

This project shows evidence of innovation and exemplary practice because of its levels of:

  • risk taking;
  • potential integration of subjects;
  • “newness” of this application in the educational context;
  • level of creativity and higher-order thinking;
  • its ability to promote interest in various subjects;
  • its ability to be applied to most subjects to help students express their learning.

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Other Applications:

Maple Grove Griffin imagePrimary grades can apply this technology to help promote reading. Poems, speeches, and other oral exercises can easily be turned into a podcast.  Podcasting every day oral presentations, or written exercises, adds incentive and interest to any lesson. See the Maple Grove Radio Podcast for some examples (click logo)PODCAST BANNER

Maple Grove banner image

To simplify, podcasting can be reduced to the use of a simple audio cassette and recorder.   Basic “radio shows” can be made with low tec, or imaginative manual sound effects and transitions.

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Impact Analysis

I enjoy podcasting because it is authentic –a real task with a real audience.   The students get a sense that podcasting (once published on the web or played for their peers) is “really them” showing what they “really know” about a subject.

There is pride and motivation to strive for perfection that is rarely seen in typed or handwritten assignments.   The students recognize their voice as an extension of themselves.

Student Impact

Students new to grade 5 are asking on the first day, “When will we do some podcasting?”   Children are eager to write and produce for the purpose of podcasting.  There is a desire to achieve excellence and pride in their work increases, in part,  because their podcasts may be posted on the web.

Teacher Impact

Podcasting is enjoyable for students  but, of course,  it is the expression of student learning that is the main purpose of the activity.  To that end, it is not necessary to have a slick production like many of the class podcasts out there now.  There is no need to be intimidated.

Children will see how the traits of writing come alive when they write to produce.

School Impact

Be prepared for other teachers to consult you for help or information on how to get started.  Teachers in other grades will ask for your podcasters to come by and record a presentation.  You will notice an elevated sense of expertise in students as they proudly put on demonstrations for teachers.  Children will look for every opportunity to podcast and may form clubs.

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Additional Resources

Make Your First Podcast

LearnOutLoud.com – Your Audio and Video Learning Resource on the Internet

Russell Educational Consultancy and Productions

Apple Education

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Copyright/Proper Citation Considerations

When using audio from other sources, it is best to use such sites as:

  • PodSafe Music Network where all the work is free and “pod safe”.
  • ccmixter.org where you can…share, remix, reuse — legally.   “We’re a nonprofit organization.  Everything we do — including the software we create — is free.”
  • Creative Commons provides free tools that let authors, scientists, artists, and educators easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry.  You can use CC to change your copyright terms from “All Rights Reserved” to “Some Rights Reserved.”

Using copyrighted music or sound effects for podcasts without the owners explicit concent is illegal and punishable by law.

Reinforce to your students that they can not use most popular music they hear on the radio or that they own on CD on their podcast. Using the Podsafe Music Network or CCMixter are two excellent sources of music and sound effects that you can simply download and insert into your podcast without fear of breaking the law.  There are many sites like this, simply “google” terms such as podsafe music, creative commons, or opensource music.

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