Challenging your students to create and collaborate – and still meet standards.

GUEST COLUMN | by Josh Allen

PUSH FOR PODCASTING. Educator Josh Allen (pictured above), a tech integration specialist at 3,000-student Lewis Central schools in Iowa, has broken the standards barrier and helped teachers put students in control of their learning. Podcasts push students to collaborate in authentic ways and to have academically rigorous conversations around text,” he says. In this article, Josh explains why—and how.   

The tsunami of smartphones, tablets and electronics devices coupled with Wi-Fi in almost every vehicle makes podcasts a hugely attractive option for our young people today.

Kids seem to gravitate towards these kinds of creative tools, so it’s little surprise that podcasting is making a big comeback with our youth and that it’s an instant hit in the classroom.

Exactly how many listen?

A 2017 Edison Research survey (http://www.edisonresearch.com/the-podcast-consumer-2017/) reported that 42 million Americans above the age of 12 listen to podcasts at least on a weekly basis, and 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. Separately, I’m an avid podcaster and have co-hosted the Dads In Ed (https://dadsined.com/) podcast since 2013. Teachers come to me with content and standards, and I come back to them with the right creative tool.

What creative tools are

Creative ideas are powerful foundations for learning, and we make sure to give kids opportunities to build on these ideas.

Recently, one of our high school English teachers, Molly Petit 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.

“Creative ideas are powerful foundations for learning, and we make sure to give kids opportunities to build on these ideas.”

We’re doing more podcasting now at Lewis Central because they’re easy to work with and the students love making them. Podcasts are an excellent tool for meeting the learning standards, and today’s audio-recording software makes it easy for them to collaborate across multiple devices and operating systems.

Molly’s students were divided into groups according to one of three plays they chose to read: “The Crucible,” “Antigoneor “The Importance of Being Earnest.”

Together, the students listened to several podcasts before beginning their own. I demoed ways in which they could fade in and fade out, make intro music and add other unique elements, and then the kids created an anchor chart that identified the elements in a strong podcast.

What Molly’s students knew

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.

“This project hit heavily on speaking and listening standards, in particular being able to have a creative conversation, and to build off of each other’s ideas, form an argument and have a debate,” Molly says.

“As part of their reading literature standard, they also had to cite quotes and use text evidence within their podcast. That was a big part of their rubric.”

We’re a GSuite for EDU school (https://edu.google.com/k-12-solutions/g-suite/) and one of the more effective audio-recording technologies I found for classroom podcasting is Soundtrap (https://www.soundtrap.com/).

It’s an online collaborative recording studio that accommodates Android, iOS, Chromebook, Mac and Windows. It’s easier to use 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. As an added benefit, they can collaborate on their projects from home—on their own time.

6 tips to get your podcast going

Here are a few tips for getting a podcasting project off the ground:

1. Ask the kids what they’re interested in. Participation will be greater if they’re part of the selection process.

2. Keep it simple. Look for tools that easily integrate with what you’re already doing. 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.

3. Think convenience. Many companies are seeing the value of a single sign‑on where the kids can use the district account instead of creating separate ones.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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?

A final push for podcasting

Podcasts push students to collaborate in authentic ways and to have academically rigorous conversations around text. They’re easy to create and consume, and they give kids a platform for driving their own education.

Josh Allen is a Technology Integration Specialist at Lewis Central Community School District, a 3,000-student district in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He’s also co-host of Dads in Ed, a parenting podcast. Write to: