Podcasting: Empowering Students to Share Learning Beyond the Classroom

This guest blog was written by Nasrin Jafari and also published on her website.

Our students are more opinionated and informed about the world than any generation before them. Modern pop culture, technological advancement, and rapidly changing social norms have continuously given our students more opportunities outside the classroom for self-expression and connection with the world around them. Any teacher who knows the power of active learning environments will see this development as an opportunity to engage their students. And yet, the recent waves of standardization in instruction have made sharing student voices beyond the classroom harder than ever. We need to use technology in ways that empower young people to advocate for the changes that need to be made in their communities. Student podcasts are an effective medium for students to critically engage with content, draw connections between the classroom and their own realities, and – most importantly – take action on what they learn.

 

What are the benefits of creating a classroom podcast?

For one, creating a podcast challenges students to consider their audience, which is a crucial skill to learn not only for podcasting, but also for writing, forming new ideas, and navigating varied social settings. Creating a podcast also empowers students to discover and develop their unique voice through critically reflecting on their opinions and knowledge of the topic at hand while sharing them with a wider audience.

An example of a platform that elevates student voices is The Bell, a podcast co-founded by Taylor McGraw to promote a more urgent dialogue about inequities in the New York City public schools. In his extensive experience interviewing students for The Bell, Taylor explains that he has seen students “transform into passionate advocates for educational equity. By speaking up about these issues in a variety of settings, they are inspiring others, young and old, to follow their lead.” Nelson, a high school senior who has spoken on The Bell and co-founder of Teens Take Charge, said that, I learned that it was okay to speak out on the problems I saw around me. Since I was given the chance to speak up, I felt empowered to make more change.” By integrating simple podcasting technology into the classroom, we can harness the power of students voices and turn the classroom into a place of insight, discovery and connection.

 

How can you start a classroom podcast?

Materials:

  • Phone or microphone (to record)
  • Laptop (to edit/produce)
  • Audacity audio editor (to edit/produce)

 

10 Simple Steps to Produce a Classroom Postcast:

 

1. Determine your topic.
Will your class discuss how to teach and talk about history? Explore opportunities to integrate technology in the classroom? Grapple with tough topics, such as race and inequality in schools?

2. Target your audience.
Will your class be speaking to parents, educators, fellow peers, or policy makers? Determining who your audience is will help your students decide what type of language to use, what kind of counter arguments they can expect and what approach will be most effective in reaching their audience.

3. Name your podcast and create a graphic.
Have your students come up with a podcast name and use something as simple as a class picture for your graphic.

4. Brainstorm episodes.
Think about various topics that will be of interest to your chosen audience. Remember: Your students should be able to speak confidently on these topics.

5. Plan the first episode.
Once you’ve brainstormed episode ideas, have your students write an outline or loose script for their first episode. The episode doesn’t need to be read verbatim, but guiding points and questions will help the conversation flow. Also, be sure that your students decide what format they will use, such as co-hosted conversations, guest interviews, or storytelling.

6. Record the podcast.
When your students complete their episode outline and/or the script is ready to go, find a quiet room (this is important!) to record the podcast. You can use a phone to record the episode, or for better sound quality, you can purchase an external mic for less the $50.

7. Upload and edit the podcast.
Once your students have finished recording, upload the audio onto a computer and edit it using Audacity, a free, online audio editing software.

8. Upload your podcast to an online platform.
Some favorites are Soundcloud, Podomatic, or Buzzsprout.

9. Share your podcast.
Once you’ve posted the podcast online, have your students think about which people, schools or organizations they would like to share their work with. Help them write and send emails or soial media posts to “value aligned” individuals to gain more listeners.

10. Plan the second episode!
After a successful first episode, take the lessons learned from the process and audience feedback to produce a stellar sequel!

 

While launching your classroom podcast will be an involved (and at times frustrating) undertaking, this is the type of authentic project from which students and educators stand to learn greatly. Nelson speaks of his podcasting experience as “one of the best opportunities I’ve been given.When asked if student-run podcasts would be manageable and beneficial in the classroom, Taylor responded, “Absolutely. Podcasts present a compelling medium for schools to use to amplify the voices of students.” As a former educator, Taylor’s mission is a reminder that quality education empowers students and provides avenues for them to take action and make change within their communities. When we turn classrooms into platforms that elevate youth voices, we show our students that their stories matter, that they are heard, and that they can be agents of change.

 

About the Author

Nasrin Jafari is an aspiring education reformer who leverages cross-sector partnerships to mobilize educators and school leaders on the front lines of education reform.

She currently works in a middle school, writes about k-12 education on her blog, and organizes community events that address pressing challenges facing NYC schools. Don’t miss her upcoming conference this spring: Frontier 2018!

5 Ways to Actively Engage Students in Learning

 

Robyn slipped her textbook between the pillow and the mattress, one hand resting on its hard cover. It wasn’t exactly comfortable and she didn’t really believe what Sarah had told her, but she wasn’t going to take the chance. She needed that B+ and if it had to happen through osmosis, then so be it.

Robyn isn’t real and neither is her story, but it represents something that’s happening in our classrooms every day.

The “textbook under the pillow” trick was a silly superstition that kids used to practice the night before a big test. I like to think of it as passive learning at its most extreme – the kind of learning that just happens to you without your effort. It can be seen in the classroom when students are asked to copy down definitions directly from the textbook or when they are asked to take turns reading aloud to the class. Passive learning such as this is rarely effective because:

Students learn best when they have the opportunity to interact with new information in multiple ways.

The brain is like a series of circuits that receives signals from the world around us. When a signal is received, it creates a pathway that links new information to old. The more pathways, the more likely the student is to thoroughly process the information.

If students are not actively involved in the learning, they are not always making the connections necessary for later recall. The worst part? The brain receives such a massive amount of information every second that it must pick and choose what is most relevant. Facts that do not appear relevant to the brain may not even be saved for the short term, let alone transfer to the next unit of learning.

Not to worry; there is alternative to passive learning. (And no, this isn’t where Robyn starts doing curls with her textbook.) There are some small things we can do as teachers to promote active learning in our classrooms. Let’s harness the power of technology to better involve our students in the learning process.

Here are 5 active learning ideas to try in your classroom:

Do away with “Round Robin” reading.

Instead, take advantage of audiobooks and apps like Audible, where students can listen and read along with audio recordings of thousands of texts. Amazon WhisperCast is a convenient and cost-effective way for teachers to share digital texts with their class.

 

Take a “break” and allow your students to become the teachers.

Jigsaw learning is a structure where students collaborate in small groups to learn a new a topic and then teach it to their peers. Google Classroom makes it easy for students to access a variety of resources for jigsaw learning within a single platform.  It even gives teachers the ability to differentiate at the click of a button.

 

Provide interactive reading experiences.

The Comments feature on Google Docs is an easy way to ensure that students are not simply reading the words of a text. As students read from the Doc, have them “stop and jot” their thinking by highlighting portions of the text and commenting. Not only will it promote active reading, but teachers will also get a better idea of what students are gathering from the text.

A student uses the comments feature in Google Docs to annotate an assigned reading.

 

Drop the textbook.

Not to say that it’s totally useless, but it’s important to present information in multiple ways. Don’t discredit the innumerable educational videos on YouTube. Anywhere Math, Math Antics, Crash Course, and TED-Ed are a few of my favorite channels. You can even create your own playlist of relevant videos and share them with your students via Google Classroom.

 

Let them talk.

Ever notice how you often proofread by reading aloud? Sometimes hearing yourself speak the words allows your brain to better process. Give your students this same experience by using tools like FlipGrid or Seesaw, where they can audio/video record verbal responses. This can be a great way to assess for understanding or promote student reflection.

Kindergarten students use an online application to record their answers to questions with a computer webcam.