I personally fell in love with podcasts when I was teaching with an hour+ daily commute. I fell in love with the idea of student-run podcasting when I realized its potential to hit all the key ideas I thought made for good learning: voice & choice, authentic audience, real-life technology integration experiences, problem-solving, and a chance to hit multiple learning standards in one engaging project!
I listen to all types of podcasts about everything from educational PD, current news, and total fluff. What I like about all these types of podcasts is that there is an opportunity for learning and connection. I love that I feel like I know people I have never met. I can get a full sense of someone's personality. And that's what I wanted for students. A chance for them to share their unique voice, build confidence, and take some risks to learn and feel connected. The amazing tie-ins to the English-Language Arts curriculum made this project a no-brainer!
However, I knew absolutely nothing about creating my own podcast.
For better or worse, a lack of knowledge doesn't always stop me. I approached Steph (@MrsDwyer7) and asked if she'd take on this project with me. Thankfully she was all in! So, then we just had to figure out how to do it all. In order to help anyone else who may want to tackle this endeavor, I have outlined our process for getting started.
MAKE A PLAN:
When I approached Steph, she immediately thought of a way to incorporate podcasting into her classes. This is certainly the first step. You'll need a plan. Brainstorm through some of the following questions:
How will this podcast fit into your class?
What learning targets will you address with podcasting?
How will you make time for student planning/recording/editing?
How often will you release episodes?
How much responsibility will you as the teacher take on and how much do you want students to run things?
Steph and I didn't know entirely how we wanted this all to look and work, but we knew one of our big goals was student engagement. So it only made sense to turn to our students in the planning process. If they helped plan it, they were certainly more likely to care about the project.
FIND THE TECH & GET STARTED:
1. You'll need a podcast platform. There are several options out there, but Anchor had been recommended to me by several trusted people, so I didn't look any further. I figured I would look into that platform, and if it didn't work for my purpose, then I'd spend some more time researching options. Turns out, Anchor was perfect and everyone was right. It is easy to use, free forever (they make money by hooking you up with sponsors if you so choose), and automatically pushes out to major podcast platforms such as Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts. I created an account with Anchor, followed the directions, and was set to go within minutes. I am not a technology novice, but considering I had no experience with anything podcast-related, I was shocked by how easy it all was. There is one limitation I found to be a bit frustrating. You can only have one podcast linked to an email address. If you wanted to have different podcasts for different classes, you would need to set-up each podcast under a different email. Steph and I determined that a teacher should be responsible for actually posting the podcast episodes, mostly because this was all new to us. So, I set up the podcast with my email. You certainly could opt to have students control this part of the process as well if you think it is appropriate.
Anchor provides some cool performance analytics that can be shared with the class once the podcast is up and running including total plays, top episodes, listener locations, platforms, ages and genders.
2. You will also need a way to record your podcast. Anchor offers the option to record within the site, but we opted to use GarageBand because our school is one-to-one with student iPads. I wanted students to have as much control over the process as possible. I didn't really know anything about GarageBand so I turned to youtube to teach me. I figured out enough to get myself and students started. We are still learning as we go - and that's OK! I love that we did not wait for perfection to get started. In fact, on our second day of recording, we were having an issue and Zack, one of the students said to his buddies,
"This is so fun! We have a problem, but we are figuring out how to fix it."
If nothing else comes from this experience, knowing students felt empowered in solving an authentic problem makes this process all worth it.
Click on the image below to view a template of the instructions we shared with students.
3. Students who have an interest in music and some know-how with GarageBand created potential "intro" audio clips. We decided on one we liked to use with each episode of the podcast. I ended up adding this intro to each episode prior to posting. When we do this again, I will post the file to our LMS and have students learn how to do this themselves.
4. We had students create a schedule, and I worked with a small group of students to record a podcast episode bi-weekly for two different classes which allowed us to release an episode once each week. On recording day, one student set up GarageBand on their iPad, we hooked in an external microphone (using a headphone/microphone audio splitter which is necessary for an iPad or iPhone), and the students recorded the conversation they had previously planned based on their chosen article. A couple of points have made this process a little easier:
I set up an additional iPad running a stopwatch so the students have an idea of how long they are talking and when they should start thinking about wrapping things up. We aim to keep everything under 10 minutes.
If students think they've messed up to the point where they will want to crop something out, they are instructed to pause for a few seconds, then keep going with the podcast. We find it's easier to do all the editing at the end, and keep the flow of the conversation going. The slight pause makes the mistake easy to find, and easy to cut out.
5. The students then worked together to edit the recording. Once it was complete, they sent me the file and I added the intro, uploaded the episode to Anchor, and shared our work on Twitter.
The 2019-2020 school year did not go as planned for anyone. When physical school closed due to the pandemic, and our students had more or less settled into the new routine, we opted to keep "Our Take" going by recording Zoom conversations. This was another learning curve, but thankfully one that was easy to navigate. When recording a Zoom meeting, an audio file of the meeting is automatically saved and downloaded to the host's device at the conclusion of the meeting. This file can then be edited and uploaded as the podcast episode. Not only did this allow us to continue the podcast during distance learning, it already has my brain spinning about options for podcasting with students or individuals beyond our own school. How cool would it be to connect students across the country or world to create a podcast where they share their unique perspectives?
Even without a global pandemic, there were certainly things we wanted to adjust regarding our podcasting project. We realized our students needed more instruction on "voice" in writing and speaking. We started to plan mini-lessons to address that topic and others but had to put them on hold during remote learning. My advice, however, would be to continue to look for ways to elevate the learning and the quality of the product the students are creating. Student engagement and investment will likely stay higher when students know their work matters. Just because the initial plan is rolling, does not mean that there is not room to adjust and improve. What better real-world application is there?