I’ve got to admit that podcasts (or video/visual podcasts) are among my favorite classroom projects to produce. Mostly, it’s the excitement of the students who immediately come to life when media is introduced, but there are other good reasons.
- In their media-saturated world, it can be very powerful for students to learn the behind-the-scenes craft of making media. It demystifies the process, and empowers students by allowing them to create media rather than just watch the finished product.
- There are a range of skills that podcasts exercise: brainstorming, planning, scripting, writing, drafting, revising, researching, rehearsing, speaking, time management, and technology skills (if students are old enough to manage the recording & editing process themselves).
- Some students find themselves when media becomes part of the classroom. Students who are bored or unmotivated by pen-and-paper school become energized and even take on leadership roles if media appeals to them. Most times, even when the media project ends, those students are more invested in the classroom than they had been in the past. I’ve seen this happen countless of times, and it’s always really exciting.
- Students create content that can rival professional outlets. Sure, the tools are less sophisticated than what pros use, but most media tools mimic the “real” tools well enough to sound and look good. Sometimes, student-created content is more of a commodity than pro content, especially to other students.
- It’s fun. Sometimes it can be chaotic to work with media, especially if the tools you have access to aren’t in tip-top shape and it’s your first time out. But the energy that happens with your class is infectious. You’ll feel it as a teacher and hear it in the voices of your students.
- You have a final project that is shareable, publishable and timeless.
How do you create a podcast?
It’s a combination of equipment and planning. Become familiar with the steps needed to produce a podcast and plan to enact them in your classroom. Be patient with yourself and the kids.
In terms of equipment, it doesn’t take much to produce podcasts. I usually recommend a USB microphone as the only cost factor (I use the Snowflake mic by Blue. Costs $60, it’s portable, and sounds terrific). If you want to record students away from a computer, you’ll need a digital audio recorder. (If you have an iPhone, you can use the iTalk application…it’s free.) You can download audio editing software for free. I use Garage Band as a Mac user, but Audacity is free, cross-platform and very very easy to learn. Want to learn how to use Audacity? Google “audacity tutorials” and just see all the amazing resources that come up.
There’s also gcast.com, billed as “so easy your Grandma could do it,” which is pretty accurate. You don’t even need a mic…you can record a podcast like a voicemail, using a phone. Even the call-in number is toll-free. And, you can download your recording as an MP3 file to edit and embellish later. Again, it’s all free and a great site to use with students. I’ve used in in real-time with a class–groups called in and listened to each other all within a 40-minute class period.
I wrote an article called “How to Podcast: Some Tips for Starting Out” which may be helpful to newbies.