Educators feast on hope.
- We hope to make a difference.
- We hope students will become life-long learners.
- We hope it won’t take too long to grade that stack of assignments we’ve been neglecting all week.
- We hope the students bring us our favorite candy the day after Halloween.
Mostly, though, we hope to find curricular silver bullets that can engage students, integrate content, and increase the effectiveness of both communication and instruction among all the vested stakeholders in our education system.
We ask, “What relatively simple thing can I do that will bring together students, teachers, parents and administrators in a relevant context where they can converse about subjects of import while simultaneously producing valuable products?”
Alright, maybe we haven’t all been asking that. But we should be.
Enter Ben Grey and Jeff Arnett, stage right. Their presentation, Creating a District Podcast Network, demonstrated the power and potential of a few simple tools to strengthen both communication and instruction while also creating bridges between silos.
At the heart of their presentation they ask, “How are your communications strategies engaging your stakeholders?”
If your answer to that question sounds like mine: “Um, well. Gee, let’s see. Golly, I’m not sure. That’s a good question.” then podcasting may be the tool to fill a niche you didn’t know you had.
“You need a strategy that can be as versatile as a stick shift.”
Students don’t typically attend school board meetings, or visit the super’s office, yet if administrators and students can engage one another, both sides stand learn in ways they haven’t before. (Not to mention, it gives the super a connection with student learning beyond simple numbers and data.)
In the classroom, podcasting bolsters the literacy curriculum, that is, the curriculum that develops students’ ability to communicate. Students brainstorm, write, revise, edit and then produce in their “voice”.
Additionally, if done well, it begins to tackle the problem of student choice.
As most educators know, students don’t have much choice. When can they check out of a session? “Eh, this teacher isn’t doing it for me. I’m heading to the class next door.” Yet, as adult learners we can, and do.
The power of a podcast is that it can give students ownership. With the power of the project in their hands, students begin to really learn about branding & marketing, about the importance of editing, proofing, finalizing.
Essentially, podcasting puts them in the driver’s sea; precisely the place we want them to be as adults.
From a larger (school or district) perspective, podcasting provides administrators more control to define their brand.
- Students learn through authentic engagement
- Schools/districts take charge of the public’s perception of them.
(In many ways it speaks to the trend of schools, teachers, and even students to some degree, having their public perception shaped by outside media, test scores, and policy makers who may vilify for their own purposes. But I digress.)
Another benefit of podcasting is that it is an adaptable product, rooted in communication. The power of the podcasting isn’t the product, the power is the learning that happens in the process. That’s where the real learning takes place. What’s more, it allows students to demonstrate their learning.
Wanting to get started?
- What are your learning goals? Start with that. Then look at how technology can get you there.
- Give it over to the students. Their ideas, their vision, their action. Empower.
- Pull in stakeholders. Have students direct questions in podcasts to principals, supers, and others. Find ways to engage your population. (Add verve to your communication strategy.)
- Materials: Two snowball microphones, Audacity or GarageBand, and a computer.