An (aspiring) Educator’s Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘howto

Podcaster workshop: What makes a good podcast? (part 1)

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Last week, I decided to start podcasting. Being the tech geek I am, I Googled the web for howtos, and quickly found the best freeware and (reasonably-priced) digital recorder. Now, my box is cracked open, and I’m asking myself hard questions about podcasting. What makes a good podcast? It seems like howtos for podcasting focus on what should come second -the tools of the trade, rather than what should come first – content.  If I’m going to create a podcast for listeners, or use podcasts in my classroom next year (both to deliver content and for student projects), good content has to be at the heart of my planning and execution.

Dan Meyer says it best:

Consider these three mediums, in increasing order of technical difficulty: blogging, podcasting, and vodcasting.

  • Successful blogging requires original thought, sturdy writing, and bloodthirsty editing.
  • Successful podcasting requires original thought, sturdy writing, bloodthirsty editing, and a command of the aural experience.
  • Successful vodcasting requires original thought, sturdy writing, bloodthirsty editing, a command of the aural experience, and a command of the visual experience.

In order to achieve the same communicative result, not only does the number of necessary skills increase across all three mediums but the editing process for each grows harder and vastly more technical, the difference between hitting the delete key in one and wielding Final Cut Express’ digital blade in the other.

What does it mean to have “a command of the aural experience”? Should I ship my digital recorder back to Amazon because my content is best conveyed via blog? I’m a big fan of writing workshop in my classroom. Students work through the phases of the writing process: immersion, collecting ideas, drafting, revision, editing, publishing, and celebration. I’ve decided to put myself through a podcasting workshop.

Now, I’m in my immersion process. In the classroom, I read texts by genre, author, or craft strategy. Then, I chart students’ observations about the texts, and we make an attribute chart. Over the past few days, I’ve listened to a variety of podcasts. I’m in the process of creating an attribute chart.


When I started making the chart, I realized it needs a different layout in its final version to separate different podcast formats (two hosts w/no interviews, roundtable/multiple people, narrator and story/interview, etc). This chart is still a good way to get started. When I have listed all attributes, I’ll sort podcasts into type. To start an attribute chart, pick your favorite podcasts (or ones you think are noteworthy), and figure out which features are shared between the podcasts. The final steps are to figure out which common attributes I should include in my podcast and the “holes in the market” – attributes my podcast will have that others do not have.

Stay tuned for my completed and sorted attribute chart in part two of my podcaster workshop series. What are attributes you’ve noticed in your favorite podcasts? Are there holes in the market – attributes you think should be in some podcasts but are missing? Can you reccomend podcasts I should listen to and add to my attribute list?

Podcasts listened to: Science Friday Podcast (NPR), This American Life (NPR), Stuff You Should Know (, various news podcasts (The Economist, BBC, CNN, etc), Rachel Maddow Green 960, SMARTboard Lessons PodcastWicked Decent Learning Podcast, Project Xiphos, Bit by Bit, and EdTech Weekly.


Written by TeacherC

3 April 2009 at 6:33 pm

Eduhacks for Your Health

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A few years ago, I spent my summer vacation volunteering full-time at an alternative school located within the walls of a juvenile detention center. During the first few weeks there, I realized that my new insight into the juvenile justice system and teaching came with a few pounds.

The culprits were everywhere (no pun intended). I would stress eat like crazy.  A few students attempt to jump someone during your first period math class –> Hungry? Why wait for a Snickers. You witness a student get beat up on the bus and the police tell the attackers that you are the one who identified them –> Break me off a piece of that Kit Kat Bar. A student successfully smuggles a stick of dynamite into the school –> Nobody had better lay a finger on my Butterfinger. Teachers and administrators would fill the lounge with cakes, cookies, candy bars, sodas – any food indulgent enough to drown sorrows. On top of that, I ate the same breakfasts and lunches that the students ate (they were free and I had to be frugal). The students of the alternative school at the same meals as the students in lockdown. They were designed to provide the most calories at the lowest cost.

I started running. By the end of the summer I ran for 2 – 5 miles each day. It was therapeutic. I lost a few pounds.

It’s three summers later and I’m about to start an intense MA+credential program. On most days, the co-teaching carpool leaves at 6:45 am and my university classes don’t end until 5 or 6 pm. This is great training for my future life as a teacher – I’ll probably keep the same hours.

I read the Elementary Educator’s post entitled What To Work On This Summer: Creating Habits of Intelligence. My goal is to create “habits of health” that I can master now and integrate into my busy schedule.

1. Bento Boxes.

I stumbled on the Disposable Aardvarks, Inc. blog. A vegan mother of three crafts bento boxes for her family. Bento boxes are widely used in Japan. Parents create easy-to-carry lunches that are healthy and visually stimulating. The box sizes keep portions small. Also, the process of creating a bento involves (fun) design and healthy thinking.

Links: and Cooking Cute Blog: A site with recipes, links to online supply stores, and how-to guides.

Disposable Aardvarks Inc: Mentioned above.

My Lunch Can Beat Up Your Lunch: Bento photos and recipes. Handbook: Along with recipes and photos, this site has a great how-to guide for newbies. The author explains how to start make quick, inexpensive, and healthy bento boxes.

2. Changing my relationship with food.

I’ve had a turbulent relationship with food since childhood (childhood obesity). I still need to loose a few pounds. Instead of focusing on dieting, I’ve changed the way I think about food.

I stay away from processed foods and opt for whole/natural goods, cook meals using amazing recipes, savor every bite, and make sure that my indulgences are worth it (homemade pine nut rosemary shortbread cookies instead of 2 bowls of cereal). I’ve also adopted a vegetarian lifestyle.


GoVeg: An article about the meat industry’s impact on the environment. My favorite food blog…mmmm…..poppy seed pancakes….pine nut rosemary cookies…homemade black bean burgers…

Simply Recipes: I’m trying the sauteed zucchini with Gruyere recipe tomorrow…

Delicious Days: Quirky recipes.

3. Exercising.

I feel great when I exercise. I lift weights 3 – 4 times per week and make sure that I do some form of cardio 6 days per week. I’ve tried to fit my workouts relatively short time windows.

ExRx.Net: A great site for information about weight lifting (and fitness in general). I use the 2 day split (upper/lower) workout template. An indispensable resource about weight loss and fitness. John’s BMR calculator is an easy to use tool to figure out how much exercise and eating you should be doing. I love his focus on lifestyle change rather than dieting.

Tae Bo: Billy

4. Connecting with others via SparkPeople.

SparkPeople is a great website that features innovative web communities along with free exercise/weightlifting/eating plans, online exercise videos, a database with how-to demonstrations for each exercise, and calorie tracking. I use this site to keep track of my eating and exercise, share advice, and cheer on others. There are even a few spark teams for teachers.

Time for my hour of cardio…

Written by TeacherC

5 June 2008 at 10:24 pm

A Dance Eduhack: The 2 Minute Dance Party (Revolution)

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Dance first.  Think later.  It’s the natural order. – Samuel Beckett

Next time you’re mad, try dancing out your anger.  – Sweetpea Tyler

We’re fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.  – Japanese Proverb

I stumbled across the 2 minute dance party in college. It’s 3 am. You’ve exhausted your supply of diet coke, coffee, and peanut butter M&Ms. Your mind has gone so fuzzy that you can’t remember simple facts. Your thoughts wander. Sample inner monologue: “Did the Civil War end in 1864 or 1865? Should I use an OLS or logistic regression model to model the determinants of binary dependent variables? Why is OLS ‘BLUE’? Who played Cowboy Curtis on Pee-wee’s Playhouse? What’s my cell phone number?…. Who am I?!?”

Enter the 2 minute dance party. I throw on a song with a fast tempo and dance like Kevin Bacon in Footloose. When the dancing is over I attempt my studies with renewed vigor – usually, it works. I retain more of what I read, come up with innovative ideas, and avoid the 3 am existential crisis.

It turns out that there are a few studies about the impact of exercise on learning (see NPR story). One of my projects this summer is to come up with ways to mold movement into my lessons. Daily 3 minute dance parties, active science experiments, jumping jack spelling bees, acting out stories, and concept relays are just a few ideas.

I don’t want my classroom to be like that little town in Footloose.

We all love Ellen’s dance parties:

Written by TeacherC

4 June 2008 at 11:42 am

On Edupunkism

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Edupunk.Isn’t.Dead (“That works…” – an EducatorBlog Comic)

“A guy walks up to me and asks ‘What’s Punk?’. So I kick over a garbage can and say ‘That’s punk!’. So he kicks over the garbage can and says ‘That’s Punk?’, and I say ‘No that’s trendy!'”

Billie Joe Armstrong

“Punk to me was a form of free speech. It was a moment when suddenly all kinds of strange voices that no reasonable person could ever have expected to hear in public were being heard all over the place.”

Greil Marcus

I have a friend who is extols the virtues of direct vocabulary instruction. My word of the day today is edupunk. My friend would say that my use of the word edupunk is “so 2000” – but better late than never (this doesn’t apply to use of the phrases “whoop there it is”, “that’s whack”, and “fo ‘shizzle”).

Here are resources for the aspiring edupunk:

TechLEARNING Blog: Daily web 2.0 tools and tips for teachers.

Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling: A primer for educators who want to use digital storytelling in the classroom.

Hypertextopia: An innovative online project that aims to change the way people write and tell stories.

The Library of Congress: Teachers should integrate photographs, sound clips, copies of old pamphlets, and many other primary sources into students’ learning.

A great lesson plan that integrates Library of Congress materials into a Civil War lesson.

Google Reader: The easiest way to subscribe to and view blogs. Educators should try to read blogs a few times per week and search for eduhacks (kind of like lifehacks, but for teachers).

ToonDoo: A free and easy to use comic strip creator that teachers and students can use to communicate ideas in new ways.

WordPress and Blogger: Blog it out.

Fo’ Shizzle my Edufizzles.

When washing their mouths out with soap isn’t an option.

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That Works…. – An EducatorBlog Comic

Forget the soap

I believe that the use of profanity is an issue that teachers should tackle. Why? First, many swear words have a derogatory history. Even if students don’t know this history, they are engaging in forces of discrimination and oppression. Second, students need to understand the words they use and strive to achieve new levels of complexity in their language. I’ve realized the occasional F-bomb gets my point across in certain situations but realize there are more sophisticated and appropriate ways of expressing myself. If students believe that they are using adult language, they may not push themselves to develop superior modes of expression. As this NPR story points out, children use profanity because they are trying to adopt adult modes of communication and behavior – they are trying to push themselves out of childhood and into adulthood. As a normal part of language acquisition, children pick up these words from parents, peers, and the media.

Third, students need to understand swearing disrupts professional environments. Students should understand that how they address peers on the playground and on the bus may not be appropriate for all social situations. Linguists call this code switching. Successful adults know how to change their manner of speech when necessary. The syntax, grammar, and content of my speech that I use to speak to a dartboard competitor at a sports bar are different than what I would use to communicate with my students.

Here are a few innovative ways that teachers can educate students about the power of their own words:

After overhearing a derogatory phrase or profanity, educate students about why the terms are inappropriate. Many teachers just tell students “DON’T DO THAT!!!” instead of creating a learning experience. Students need to understand the history of the word from a linguistic and social perspective. How has the word been used in the past? Has the meaning changed over time?  How do students use the word now?

Then, the analysis needs to go a step further – students need to understand how their use of the word connects to history. Are they promoting values of respect and social justice when they use those words? How might certain ethnic, cultural, and social groups react? On a simpler level – is it ‘nice’ or ‘mean’ to use those words?

Students need to feel like they have control over the language they use. After students learn about the history of a word and the social implications of using the word, the whole class should make an agreement that the word will not be used. Older/more advanced students can discuss the merits of using the word in art, literature, or pop culture.

There are many ways to integrate these ideas into the classroom – the discussions would look different in a middle school and a high school classroom. Maybe you have students make wordless posters about the word or how people feel when they hear the word. If you are reading controversial material that uses profanity and derogatory language (Joyce, Twain, slavery/Jim Crow narratives, the history of the Holocaust, etc) you can discuss these words as they appear in the material and debate whether or not they should be used in that way.

The key is to give students the information that they need to make better choices. This will not work in all cases – there will always be students who choose to use profanity and derogatory language. If students understand the negative history of a word (its relationship to slavery, oppression, the Holocaust, etc), maybe they will be less likely to throw it around in daily conversation. Also, students need to feel like they have a personal stake in the learning environment and understand the power that their words have on others.

Teachers should clarify policies with administrators before they tackle profanity in the classroom – are teachers aloud to teach material that has profanity? Can a teacher utter profanity in certain education contexts? Are permission slips required for these experiences?

If teachers create an environment where profanity is not an issue, we can focus on the development of sophisticated language skills.

Here are a few links:

Online Etymology Dictionary: the history of words.
Interactive Dictionary of Racial Language: An instructor of a college course on race and language has her students post entries.

“Ghetto” – The New “N Word”: Harold M. Clemens that argues that the word “ghetto” perpetuates racism.