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?
- 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.
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!