In recent years the popularity of podcasts has increased across multiple fields of study, so the increase of podcasts in education is no surprise. In addition, social audio apps are evolving rapidly since the release of Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces in 2020. Many educators are either already exploring or are interested in expanding their students’ creativity to include student-created podcasts.
My own podcasting story began in 2007. I was an ELA and Business teacher who had just been given a MacBook Pro. The truth is the new laptop was very intimidating after using Windows for so long. However, it only took a few months of exploring all the software on my new device to realize the power I had in my hands. In the Spring of 2008, I decided to test out Garage Band with my ELA students. I put them in groups of 4, gave each group a topic to research and then asked them to record an audio segment of their findings. My plan was to learn to edit the audio and piece together all of their learning into one audio file.
Two things happened with this experiment: I was stepping out of my comfort zone learning new technology to empower learning and they were stepping out of their comfort zone to work together to show their learning in a new way. My only regret is not holding on to that finished audio file.
Fast forward to 2019 and you would find me as a digital learning specialist and classroom teacher who set a pretty high and ambitious goal for that school year. My goal was to have my SWAT team put together a student-led podcast from beginning to end discussing topics they were presenting on and other trending topics in educational technology. What I could never have anticipated was in March of 2020 we would all leave for Spring Break and not return until the fall. Instead of letting that stop them, my students decided to move forward with the goal and created, produced, edited, and published 4 episodes you can find here. We also used Wakelet’s collaborative option to house our episode links and notes on our website. Here are those collections: https://wakelet.com/wake/aS5Ct9kkad-X2imh7d1ts
Like any student-led project, students will cultivate skills that will last a lifetime. Students must learn to talk through decision-making with their peers, illustrate reasoning for those decisions, and critically analyze what should be done if things don’t go as planned. They will practice project management and learn how to encourage each other while also giving clear feedback on what the scripts should include or avoid.
Did we have bumps along the way? Absolutely. In the beginning, I had a few students who were so anxious about recording their voices that they shed a few tears. A few others learned that if they do not complete their portion of the project it can completely halt everyone else from moving forward. Like any immersive learning experience, things will not be perfect and adjustments will have to be made, but the gift of creation outweighs any of the downsides.
If you are still unsure of the benefits of having students explore and create podcasts, here are 5 additional benefits:
- Expand team-building and collaboration skills: Have students work together to create a 2-minute audio project and give them the choice of topics, scriptwriting, and which digital tools they will use.
- Practice the design thinking process: Using the design thinking process with students allows them to visually see that it is ok to make a mistake and that not getting it right the first time only adds to their learning process and their project.
- Develop public speaking skills: It is easy to assume that because students are immersed in the age of social media that this comes easy to them, but they need more guidance than ever with public speaking. Give them a set of quick easy guidelines to practice with as you nurture their communication skills.
- Support language learning: Have students listen to podcasts first! This encourages active listening and gets them familiar with podcasting formats. In addition, producing a podcast may also increase the confidence of students who are learning new languages, as well as their native language.
- Empower student voice and choice: Podcasting projects will amplify student’s voice and this is a powerful way for your students to express themselves, cultivate their creativity, showcase their learning and learn the art of storytelling.
Here are a few tips that might help as you begin the journey with your students:
- Start Small: Make the projects or mini-projects attainable. Have students practice 30-second audio pieces individually, at first. Do what works best for your content, environment, and learners.
- Familiarity: Use digital tools they are familiar with or tools you feel confident in using. If they are iPad users have them use the Voice Memo app. If they’ve used Flipgrid or Mote, use those. You know your students best, so if you think they are ready for a new platform, go for it!
- Aim: Give them measurable and specific goals for their projects, big or small. Single point rubrics are a great way for students to see your expectations and adjust if needed. They are also a great way for you to give feedback.
- Plan: Use a planning document for you and your students, like this one, or better yet, create a Wakelet collection, share the collaboration link with students via LMS and have them brainstorm their ideas together!
- Relax: You do not have to be the expert in all things podcasting! Remember, it is impossible for us to know every digital tool inside and out. Give your students the autonomy to research and come back to you with their recommendations. There is a way, not the way!
In the most recent episode of #TheWakeletPodcast, Tisha and Michael from the Wakelet Team discuss student podcasting in more detail with Chey Cheney and Pav Wander, hosts of Staff Podcast! Listen to the full episode, and discover a bunch of incredible resources here.