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male students using microphones in school

Ed Tech Basics: How can we use podcasts in the classroom?

Jodie Lopez is an ex primary school teacher who won a number of awards for her use of technology across the curriculum. She moved from full time teaching into working with education technology companies to help bridge the gap between schools and products/services on offer. Jodie is a mum of 2 young boys. As a Teaching Awards judge, she loves to see and hear about all the fantastic work teachers and school are doing. You can find Jodie at @jodieworld on Twitter where she is always happy to answer any questions you may have about technology for your school!

In my first blog of this journey of introducing technology to two schools, I detailed the approach I will be taking. In the second blog I shared some of the ways I have been working with the teachers and teaching assistants so far.

Due to COVID waves I have not been able to go into school in person as much as I would have liked by this point, but the schools are still progressing by trying out new technology and introducing new discrete computing lessons into their repertoire.

We finally felt, however, that the risks have reduced significantly enough for me to go into school and do some teaching with different classes in the junior school.

Bringing your classroom to life

I wanted to introduce podcasting lessons to some classes using the Easi-speak microphones. Technically a podcast is only such when it has been uploaded to the internet for people to listen to or download, and that won’t happen with many of the things we record. Certainly, at the start of introducing podcasting we will mostly be deleting a lot in the beginning! But I like to teach children about podcasting as a professional medium from day 1 as this sets up our future expectations and aspirations. We talk about examples they may have heard – celebrities reading books aloud, a sports podcast parents might listen to in the car, or edutainment podcasts from Cbeebies and similar.

Boy using microphone in classroom
Teaching through podcasts

I like to teach the first lesson on podcasting to each class so that the class teacher and TAs can sit back and watch and take part. This is not because I do anything revolutionary that no one else could possibly too. It is simply because the teacher is then focusing on the lesson content rather than them trying to manage the technology. Teachers are the experts in their classrooms and when introducing technology, especially for those who are tech averse, can throw them off. Sometimes things do go wrong. We had one microphone which did not work, for example. If a teacher is already worried about the lesson involving new technology, then something doesn’t work, then they may either change the lesson to something not so tech heavy or they may end up feeling the lesson did not go well and lose all confidence. I really like to avoid that for teachers when introducing new things.

So, I taught 3 different classes – from Year 4 to 6 – a podcasting lesson with their teachers present to watch. Most of what was produced by the end of the hour will be deleted. But there were some gems in there! And I linked into what they were studying as I did not want the teachers to feel that by deleting most of what we did on the microphones that we had wasted an hour. There was still plenty of learning in that time.

I always start these lessons by explaining a bit about podcasting and introducing the vocabulary around that. Then, and this is important, I let the children play with the microphones for about 3 or 4 minutes before we do anything else. They can get loud in that time, but I allow it to safely happen and then stop them when I think they have gotten that initial excitement and curiosity out of their system.

Once they have had a play they can then calm and listen better than when they are just eyeing up the box of shiny exciting tech! I expect them, in those 4 minutes, to have learnt what each of the buttons do. That is the only task I set. This also shows the teachers that they do not have to be experts in the technology. This equipment is designed for little hands and is intuitive. The children also have no fear at this point so happily play around. Then they know, within five minutes, how the tech works and get the point of it.

Core lesson content

In Year 4 they were studying the Lemony Snickett book ‘The Dark’ about a boy with a fear of the dark.   Therefore, their task, after discussion, was to think about some irrational fear or a situation they might be scared in. Then they imagined they were in that scenario – trapped in a lift, or near a massive spider for instance – and write a script of what they would be saying if they were whispering into a phone to tell a friend what was happening. We talked about the kind of vocabulary we might use – lots of synonyms for scared – and what happens to our voice when we are frightened – shaky, breathless, quiet if we want to avoid a monster hearing, or screaming if something jumps out maybe.

They then worked in pairs to record their scripts. The scripts help them to practice what professional podcasters do and can focus their thoughts (but I do encourage a little bit of improv too when they are showing they are on task for lessons like this one!)

In Year 6 we followed a similar pattern, but they made some adverts about their junior school which will be used by teachers to tell the incoming Year 3 children all about the school as part of a transition project. They then also recorded interviews with each other to ask questions about what they wanted to know about their new secondary school for September. The class teacher in one class decided they were then going to use the rest of the week to work on their scripts again and perfect them to record really good adverts – as one hour is not usually enough for a polished article. And this is exactly how I would be doing this for my own class – a week of input and writing as you would for any topic, followed by a chance on the Friday to go and record your final piece. The written evidence is all there too but you have this extra output which can really enhance certain units.

Young girl talking into a small hand held machine to record her voice

All in all the sessions have been a success so far and I cannot wait to go back to work with the last 3 classes and to hear what everyone gets up to with their new podcasting skill while I am not there!

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