Podcasting In the Classroom

I did my first podcasts with students a couple months ago and it turned out pretty well. Click here for the finished student products. This post explains the process I used, but not the details of podcasting. For more details, here is a podcast how-to.

Pre-Podcasting
1. Before I started any podcasting, I did the “traditional” book based study. Our unit was on wave energy (specifically sound energy). We read did a few experiments about all the different areas of sound.
2. Once we had covered all the areas, I put the class in pairs and assigned them one of the areas we’d studied. I had each group write a script about their topic. In the script they had to include any sound effects and pictures they wanted to use for their podcast.

Podcasting
1. I gave a one class demo (with quiz) on the basics of podcasting*. I stressed that they need to follow this order when podcasting:

    Record your script 1st (just read through it)

, Add sound effects 2nd, Add pictures last.
* My students used Garageband, though Audacity is a free program that works well too (you can’t use pictures in it though). It’s available for PC or Mac.
2. I gave each pair of students a laptop and half a class period to get their podcast done. This proved to be way too little time. I ended up giving each group one full period or made time in the morning or after school for them to do it.
– I set the computers up as restricted users, that only had access to Garageband. That way, the students could go to a separate room and I didn’t have to worry about them getting on the internet. I just loaded all the pictures and sound effects they’d picked out onto the garageband only user account so they didn’t have to go on the internet to get them.
– Setting up restricted users is very easy on a mac (not sure about a pc). Just go to the system preferences -> users and then create a new user. Under the parental controls tab, just check the programs you want them to have access to.

Post-Production
1. I tried to create a podcast page in iWeb and it looked great, but the podcasts wouldn’t play once I got them on the web. This has something to do with a quicktime server, but I never bothered to try and figure it out.
2. I ended up converting the podcasts to mp3s (easily done in iTunes or with Audacity), uploading them to my ning account, grabbing the code to the player, then putting it on my own page.
– this sounds really complex, but isn’t
– an easier route might be Muxtape – this allows you to upload mp3s that play on a simple player that looks like an old cassette tape.

Suggestions and things I learned along the way
– Have students practice their podcasts several times before recording them (I didn’t and they kept messing up)
– Give them some time to play around and get familiar with the program before making their podcast. My students did much better after they’d had a chance to use the program a little.
– Make sure they don’t record one sentence at a time. Have them read the entire script all the way through. If they mess up part way through, they can start from there. Several of my students took the one sentence at a time approach and it sounded too choppy, so they had to do it over.
– Make sure they have a restricted user when they use the computer. If you’re paranoid, like me, about middle schoolers and the Internet, it gives you piece of mind.
– Just let them use garageband sound effects, it’s a pain to try and find other g-band sound effects.

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