As media consumption changes, so should the way students learn media production. Schools across America are leading the way by embracing student-produced podcasts.
Student podcasts range in style and function from audio-only daily versions that have replaced morning announcements, to video podcasts that individual classes produce as projects. Teachers rave about the marketable skills students are learning as well as the practical benefits of podcasts for schools.
For the uninitiated, podcasts are a series of episodic digital audio or video files that are downloaded through Web syndication or streamed online to a computer or mobile device.
In Northampton, MA, students at JFK Middle School produce a bi-monthly podcast designed to deliver school news. Subjects include everything from lunch menus to after-school activities, and students are responsible for every aspect of the production. Technology teacher John Crescitelli oversees each recording and is pleased with the enthusiasm his students have shown in the podcasts.
“This is something the kids can really embrace,” Crescitelli told the local Hampshire Gazette. “I'm really excited that our whole district is focusing more on technology.”
With some podcasts generating well over 100 hits on the school’s Web site, it’s no wonder that administrators are on board. Some even view the podcasts as a potential replacement for newsletters and other communications.
Students at Longfellow Middle School in La Crosse, WI, have been producing educational podcasts since 2006. Like their Massachusetts counterparts, the Longfellow students offer variety in terms of topics. The podcasts, syndicated over Apple’s iTunes music store, have covered diverse subjects such as a mealworm's metamorphosis and strategies for improving memory.
"Their audience has moved to the entire world," Jeanne Halderson, one of two seventh-grade teachers at Longfellow who supervised the podcasts, told The New York Times. "The students find that exciting. It's a lot more motivating to write something that the whole world can hear, rather than just something for a teacher to put a grade on."
In some cases, entire districts have jumped on the podcasting bandwagon. The Philadelphia district has a Web page dedicated to podcasts produced by students in the district’s various schools. Kids sound off on everything from combating bullying to celebrating the arrival of spring.
With so many avenues to publish and technical equipment getting cheaper by the day, schools should take a serious look at integrating student podcasts into the curriculum. For a few hundred dollars, a school can purchase the required mixer and microphones, and free recording software, such as Audacity, is available.
Podcasts readily support classroom learning objectives. For example, consider these student activities: