Saturday, November 19, 2011

Podcasts in the Classroom

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To podcast or not to podcast? That is the question. Podcasts are an easy way to integrate technology into the classroom. Through the regular use of a class podcast, teachers can incorporate digital literacies in their 21st Century classroom. Many schools are allowing their students to create podcasts as news program. This might be a scarey thought for a not-so-tech-savvy teacher, but podcasts don't have to be created by the students or the teacher. There are so many already created that students could benefit from subscribing to educationally appropriate podcast programs. From these episodes students could learn valuable information from their coveted iPods. Instead of going deaf with pop-music's leading Lady Gaga, students can review information being assessed on a test. The following is a list of benefits to using podcasts in the classroom.
  • Promoting reading fluency
  • Creating a sense of audience by posting to the Internet (more meaningful purpose for writing)
  • Retelling and summarizing literature and content area information
  • Reviewing/Evaluating books systematically
  • Sharing directions for a project
  • Sharing a student's experience on a field trip
  • Narrating their writing in a podcast adding sound effects to enhance the listeners experience
  • Reviewing content area information prior to testing (absent students could review)
  • Interviewing students on what they have learned in class
But, what is a podcast? A podcast is a recorded episode similar to a radio program or television show (without the video). Warlick likens podcasts to radio program created from home, which use nothing more than a computer, microphone, sometimes free software, and a website to post the program. The program can be listened to through the Internet or MP3 player (i.e. iPod). Who knew an iPod could be used to promote knowledge. Check out the apple website for a quick tutorial on finding and subscribing to podcasts.

With the Power to Learn website, Jim Lengel (2010) posted an article entitled 50 Ways to Make a Podcast. On this site, Lengel also posted several additional articles on podcasting. One tutorial demonstrated how to upload these podcast files to Blackboard, which is according to Lengel (2010) the most popular Learning Management System in schools and colleges.

Of course, understanding a podcast is much easier by previewing a few recorded for education. The first has to do with reviewing children's literature. Emily Manning's Chatting About Books is a great series of podcasts that chats with kids, parents, authors, and teachers about children's literature ages 4 through 11. As I write this, she has recorded 39 podcast reviews. Her "discussions include reading tips and fun activities to do with children before, during, and after reading." (Manning, 2008-2011)

An example of utilizing podcasts in a fifth-grade classroom can be found at Mr. Coley's Coleycasts. To extend his instruction outside of the classroom, Mr. Coley records presentations on science, social studies, and reading. In addition, with a podcast, his students review various books they read. It is extremely similar to Emily Manning's podcast series, but it's an awesome example of utilizing podcasts in the classroom. On Teacher Tube, I stumbled upon a similar example of students making a fourth-grade podcast about reading. Within the podcast, there are a series of pictures related to the commentary, which makes listening and watching the information more engaging. The quality isn't the greatest, but I can guarantee the students enjoyed producing the video-type podcast.

The next podcast is Grammar Girl, which provides quick and dirty tips for writing grammatically correct sentences. What's the difference between "affect" and "effect?" Well, grammar girl knows the answer to this question. This podcast can be downloaded from iTunes. Recently, her true identity was exposed by USA today. Grammar Girl is really mild-mannered, former technical writer, Mignon Fogarty. As you may have guessed, her podcast has become her full-time job. So, check out when to use "further" and "farther" with Grammar Girl.

After reviewing education-based podcasts, I was a little disappointed in the selection provided through iTunes. From this selection, nothing really caught my eye. I was thinking about podcasts that would assist in teaching my fourth-grade students. There weren't categories to discrimintate grade-level; instead everything was grouped under the overly general topic of education. However, for me, I really liked the Coffee Break Spanish podcast, which can be found on iTunes under the education podcast section. I subscribed to help review my Spanish.

The last great example for student-based podcasts was constructed by Tony Vincent. His Our City Podcast has allowed several cities from around the country to provide their own description and history. Contrary to having adults produce information on the cities, students (usually elementary level) answer several questions to provide an overview of their city. From Tony's site, I was able to find many other examples of elementary student recording productions. One that I really enjoyed was from Radio WillowWeb. WillowWeb students interview other students about what they have learned. Unlike a traditional news report there are transition sound effects, music, and jokes. After checking out these podcasts, check out Tony's website to learn a little more about podcast production.

In the end, I am not a professional podcaster, but the links provided here should be enough to get you started with podcasing. This digital tool has been around for a while. Do we have to utilize this in the classroom, of course not. But, learning how to integrate new technologies into the curriculum can sometimes make teaching easier. Who knows maybe one day teacher podcasts will be mandated, but you will be miles ahead of the game. Then, you can answer: What has podcasting done for you?

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