In grade 7, my students get to create podcasts! Yes! It is super fun and just awesome to see them come up with an idea, create and publish (with some assistance from me). It is a fascinating experience to watch this happen. I’m going to be writing a series of posts that will hopefully help you bring podcasting to your classroom. For the record, I think this can be done in the elementary school as well (grade 3 and up). So click on past the break to learn about why its a great unit, how I assess each one, how I host each one and what equipment I use.
What is it?
Sometimes I get excited and start talking about how much I love this unit and people feel a little sheepish because they have no idea what I’m talking about. So let’s start with what it is.
Basically it is a show that is recorded and then put online for anyone to download. It can be audio only or with video and you can basically find podcasts about any topic out there. You can find these podcasts in a lot of places like iTunes, Podomatic, Podbean, etc. Check out the IT Babble podcasts on iTunes and Podomatic (sorry for the shameless promotion).
Why do a podcast?
There are a lot of reasons to make podcasts with your students. The first is that it is a flexible way to present information. This means that it is not just for IT class. It can be used for just about any class you want. Social studies: Make a podcast about a famous time in history? English: Create a book review podcast. Science: Podcast about an ongoing experiment that is being done throughout the school year. Math: Podcast about how to solve certain types of problems. It is also crazy creative. Students can be as creative or innovative as they want and with all the roles involved there is something for everyone.
In the past, as a class we would pick a broad topic and the students would make a podcast about that. The problem was, not everyone was on board with that topic and it stifled their creativity and dampened their excitement. This year I let them go all out and the results were pretty good. It was definitely the best podcasts my students have ever made.
When I started this unit with my students, the first day was to sit down and go over how I was assessing them, what they need to do (as a group), where the resources are and what needs to be turned in and how I want it turned. Needless to say this generates a lot of questions and most of them are quite good. To see the outline, I’ve attached it below.
Hosting a Podcast
There are a lot of ways to do this and I’m going to highlight what I think is the best. I want my students podcasts to be online, accessible by many and on iTunes. This makes it very real for them. It’s not just a project for school, it’s a type of media that can be consumed by the entire world – warts and all! It definitely sends a surge of excitement through the class when they see their first episode pop up online.
So, with that in mind, how do you get it online? How can you take their audio files and get them on the old Interwebs? The answer is Podomatic. You see iTunes does not host any podcasts. In other words, you have to upload it someplace else and then link it to iTunes which is what I do using PodOmatic.
I use the Basic account which gives you 500MB of storage and 15 GB of bandwidth. Basically this is plenty of podcasts. My students had to create 2 episode that were 10-15 minutes long. In total we had 22 episodes and that used up 350 MB of our storage space. Not bad huh?
As for connecting it to iTunes, you obviously need an iTunes account and PodOmatic has some instructions on how to do this. It’s pretty easy though. If you get stuck give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll do what I can to help you out.
Equipment Software & Space
This is the trickiest part of the whole thing because most schools don’t have or don’t trust their equipment with students, so here is what I use and here are some recommendations. First, I have my own USB microphone that I lend to the cause. It is the Blue Yeti and works very well. The mic costs around $100 but deals can be found on Amazon.com.
We also use the Apogee microphone called One. It retails around $250 (yikes that is steep)! The third and final set up we have is a Yamaha mixer (this is mine) and a Shure conference mic (the school owns that). That set up costs around $275.
This is some serious dough to toss around and it will definitely show up in the quality of the audio recording. There are some cheaper mice out there such as simple desktop mice like this Logitech one.
You can also use the microphone on a laptop or desktop computer but I would discourage that. If you’re in a real bind that is better than nothing though.
We are fortunate that a lot of our students have Macs and therefore come to class armed with GarageBand a pretty simple and easy to use software that can record your voice. If you don’t have Macs at your school there is another alternative that works equally as well and is free. It is called Audacity and you can download it for free HERE! It may not be quite as easy as GarageBand but it is equally as effective.
Recording in a room full of other students is distracting. It’s distracting for them, for you and for the audience that will eventually listen to it. It won’t matter even if you’re using good microphones. Finding a quiet space is important. I offered up my room at lunch time and after school. I coordinated with other teachers who weren’t teaching during that time if it would be OK for students to use their room at that time. This worked pretty well.
Even if you can’ t get a completely quiet space, try to make it as quiet as possible. The end result will be well worth the effort.
Coming up NEXT – Resources