Podcasting Basics: Simple Steps for Introducing Podcasting into Your K-8 Class, Part 2


In the first segment in this two-part series, teacher and consultant Brad Pearl explained what kinds of hardware and software you'll need to introduce podcasting into your classroom. He also shared advice for selecting a first project and getting students involved in the work of recording podcast segments.

In this segment, Pearl explains how to edit and publish the podcasts your class produces. He also offers suggestions for managing a classroom where it seems like every student is going off in a different direction in pursuit of the perfect podcast.

Meld Individual Segments into a Podcast
Once the segments are recorded, it's time to "sew" them together into a program. In the case of Pearl's class project, he assigned two "anchors" to introduce the segments. By now, he had several volunteers for that job--students who were already confident about their recording abilities."

This is where you tap into the power of GarageBand or Audacity. Both include drag-and-drop editing features that let the user mix and match recordings into a single file. As Pearl explained, "You just choose File > Import, and then [the recordings] come right into GarageBand, and you just move them around."

The editing work eventually can be taken over by the students themselves, once they become adept at the software. Pearl's older students also learned how to drop copyright-free music sequences into the podcast, as well as add sound effects, called "foleys." (He always checked their work to make sure students weren't adding something to a segment that would embarrass the students in that portion of the podcast.)

Prepare the Podcast for Online Posting
There are a multitude of places to publish podcasts, said Pearl. He publishes his to the Apple .Mac service, which hosts his domain, k12podcastacademy.com. The process is to go into a program on the Mac called iWeb, which generates a template for a podcast for that site. It includes placeholders for text, an image and the podcast media. Once he has added a Web page title, a picture and the description that describes the podcast, he clicks "publish," and iWeb takes care of pulling the podcast off his computer and posting it to the Web site. It also adds a "subscribe" button that lets subscribers download new episodes automatically to iTunes, the iPod library.

Non-Mac users might consider Podbean, said Pearl, a site popular with teachers that allows people to sign up for free accounts and publish their podcasts online.

If you have a blog, you can also host your podcasts there, but it's important that it include two functions: 1) some kind of function that lets fans subscribe so that they know when a new episode is published; 2) a link to the actual podcast file so people can download it.

The important thing to remember, said Pearl, is that the process doesn't require great technical prowess. The teacher doesn't need to know any RSS coding, nor HTML. Tools such as iWeb and Podbean include tutorials that walk the new user through that first experience of publishing a podcast.

Publicize the Podcast
Getting attention for the podcast, said Pearl, is something the students do quite well themselves. Once that first show is put up, the kids go home and tell their parents and friends.

Then they start thinking about their next show. Once the students in Pearl's labs had been introduced to the basics of podcasting, they went on to create a dance review, a weather report and a book reading.

Podcasting, concluded Pearl, is "absolutely powerful. It's incredible. Kids are going to love it because now we can reach the world."

Extra Credit
Managing the Podcasting Class

One of the major obstacles that Pearl sees in introducing podcasting into the classroom is that it requires a different level of classroom management. "It's not the fact that we don't have the technology--because many schools have the Internet and they have computers," said Pearl. "But often, you'll go in and see rows of computers not being used because people get scared that the kids will just go crazy if we assign a project in class--that they're not going to work, that they'll just be going to other Web sites."

Yet in a podcasting project, it's natural that the class will be broken up into teams. Some students might be recording scripts, while others are doing field recording, editing segments or writing text and drawing graphics for posting with the podcast. In other words, said Pearl, teachers have to learn how to manage "all these different hotspots in the class at once."

His solution--not easy by any means: "You have to go very slowly and build that capacity within kids. That takes time and expertise."

He suggests training a couple of students at a time on each aspect of the podcast work, then buddy them up with other students whom they'll train. "After a while you'll build the capacity within kids and pretty soon everyone will be able to everything. But it's going to take a few months."

Pearl recommends Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56 by Rafe Esquith. As he describes it, "It's a great book about a guy who struggled for many years trying to come up with a system where the kids would really manage the class that wouldn't be based on fear but based on trust." That level of trust, he said, is hard for people to do--"especially in inner-city schools."

--D. Schaffhauser

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About the author: Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at [email protected].

Proposals for articles and tips for news stories, as well as questions and comments about this publication, should be submitted to David Nagel, executive editor, at [email protected].

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.