OK, I’m listening
A 2019 Edison Research survey reported that 51% of Americans above the age of 12 have listened to a podcast. Interest in podcasts has increased 122% since 2014, with the majority of that increase coming from ages 12-24. Monthly listeners are growing up to 24% a year. That’s four times the number that go to the movies every week.
I’m the technology integration specialist at Lewis Central Community School District, a 3,000-student district in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Teachers come to me with content and standards, and I come back to them with the right creative tool. Separately, I’m an avid podcaster and have co-hosted the Dads In Ed podcast since 2013.
We’re doing more podcasting now at Lewis Central because podcasts are easy to do and the students love making them. We are using a cool tool called Soundtrap which brings podcasting directly into the students’ own hands. Podcasting helps students develop effective listening, problem solving, research, writing and speaking skills and, they’re excellent tools for meeting the learning standards.
An app that brings out the magic
Creative ideas are powerful foundations for learning, and we make sure kids have opportunities to build on these ideas. Recently, one of our high school English teachers, Molly Pettit came to me with an idea to replace the standard two- or three-page written book reflection required in her literature class with a podcast.
We’re a GSuite for EDU school and one of the more effective audio-recording technologies I found for classroom podcasting is Soundtrap (soundtrap.com) Soundtrap is an online collaborative recording studio that accommodates Android, iOS, Chromebook, Mac and Windows. It’s easier to use than the other audio-recording platforms we’ve tried, and the kids can use it across phones, tablets and laptops. Cross-platform integration is an important feature for our district because so many students bring in their own devices. With Soundtrap, the kids work in an invited group in a secure, walled environment. As an added benefit, they can collaborate on their projects from home—on their own time.
For Molly’s podcasting project, her students were divided into groups according to one of three plays they chose to read: “The Crucible,” “Antigone” or “The Importance of Being Earnest.”
What Molly’s students knew
Together, the students listened to several podcasts before beginning their own. We did some brief training on the Soundtrap app, and I demoed ways in which they could use the platform to fade in and fade out, make intro music and add other unique elements. The kids then created an anchor chart that identified the elements in a strong podcast.
Using the anchor chart as the rubric for the project, Molly’s students knew ahead of time exactly what they needed to include in their 10- to- 15-minute presentations to meet the learning standards. It was an audio report, but because they still had to write and communicate, they could meet the language standards.
“As part of their reading/literature standard, they were required to form arguments and engage in debate. They also had to cite quotes and use text evidence within their podcast. That was a big part of their rubric,” Molly recounted.
Her podcasting project hit heavily on speaking and listening standards. Because Soundtrap is cloud-based, the students had access to a collaborative platform that allowed them to build off each other’s ideas. Soundtrap is also simple to use, making it easy for the kids to record and edit their work. If any other teachers are interested in bringing Soundtrap podcasting into their classrooms, here are some tips:
6 tips to get your podcast going
- Ask the kids what they’re interested in. Participation will be greater if they’re part of the selection process.
- Keep it simple. Look for tools that integrate easily with what you’re already using. If you’re a Google Suite for EDU school, find tools that let you sign in with your Google account. Same thing if you’re an Office 365 school.
- Think convenience. Many schools are seeing the value of a single sign‑on, where the kids can use the district account instead of creating separate ones.
- Tap new sources. Almost every state has an International Society for Technology Education (ISTE) affiliate. Attend one of their conferences. Access their resources, which are filled with good tips.
- Stay open. Ask your neighbors what they’re doing, even if it’s not the same grade level. I remember, as a fourth-grade teacher, hearing a music teacher talk about teaching notes and chords using a “pizza” method. It became a fantastic way for me to do fractions in my math classroom.
- Create a rubric. What are the objectives of the podcast? What standards must we meet? Do we need a draft? How can I assess the standards on a worksheet?
Soundtrap podcasts push students to collaborate in authentic ways and have academically rigorous conversations around text. They’re easy to create and consume, and they give kids a platform for driving their own education.