An (aspiring) Educator’s Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘students

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

The Self-Publishing Classroom: Script Frenzy

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Today’s post on The Writing Teacher inspired me to think about a script-writing unit for writers’ workshop and social studies.

“Who wants to spend the next thirty days writing a script?” This is the question that led my sixth grade class on a writing adventure that took us from war-torn beaches to invading aliens, and from invading gnomes to talking kittens trying to break their fellow felines out of the pound. It was a journey of creativity and wonder, and a ton of teachable moments!

Script Frenzy is an international script-writing event that occurs April 1st – 30th every year. Participants have one month to write a script (Script Frenzy says “screenplays, stage plays, TV shows, short films, comics and graphic novels” are welcome). The website gives students tools and tips to write their scripts. Teachers can receive a free Script Frenzy Classroom Kit.

Next year, I hope to make this a social studies project where students turn historic events and narratives into scripts.

Check out The Writing Teacher’s article for ideas and links to help you plan and execute your unit.

Who knows, maybe I’ll be mentioned in an Oscar’s acceptance speech someday….. (Insert witty web 2.0-eduism catchphrase here)

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Lindsea over at Students 2.0 makes a great point about the diy/edupunk internet movements:

The only thing that I see missing in these discussions of “edupunk” are students. Sure, in theory students are supposed to be given more power, but where are the student voices in the actual discussions of edupunk? This Jim Groom, smart and interesting man though he is, is an adult, a teacher, and (I’m sorry) not actually punk or DIY. Coining this new term and making it seem cool because it uses the word “punk” doesn’t change the fact that a teacher made it up, teachers are discussing it right now, and a teacher will be implementing the theory.

I realize that the application of the term isn’t exactly focused on the real punk community, it’s obviously about education. But I’d like to make it clear that the punk and DIY cultures are the domains of the younger generation now. The students will be the leaders in whatever underground change there may be.

I agree with her. Adding technology or any other edupunk reforms is a disaster when student feedback doesn’t drive the process. The February 2008 Washington Post article A School That’s Too High on Gizmos provides examples of this:

For a while, I thought it was just older teachers like me — immigrants to the Internet world — who were chafing at the so-called technology initiative, but it turns out that even the youngest teachers are fed up. “They would rather have a cyborg teaching than me,” one young English teacher complained to me. “It’s technology for the sake of technology — not what works or helps kids learn, but what makes administrators look good, what the public will think is cutting edge.

I think that the term ‘edupunk’ fails to capture what the DIY reform movement is all about. The most important aspect of the reform is changing the nature of student-teacher relationships. Instead of a top-down classroom hierarchy where the educator creates the rules of the classroom and controls content, the classroom needs to be an interactive community where interactions between students and educators drives curriculum. A great example of this is the behavior management techniques discussed on Elona Hartjes’ blog:

Establishing a positive classroom climate is essential for a safe, positive learning environment, and establishing classroom agreements are one of the ways to do that.

I used to call the classroom agreements rules, but rules seem so top down, and I don’t want that. Some kids see red when they see the word “rule”. I want them to see green instead. I want students to buy into the classroom code of conduct, not rebel against it.

At the beginning of the semester we establish our behaviour agreements. Basically it boils down to attentive listening, appreciation, mutual respect and right to pass.

In my graduate level special education courses, the instructor (a master teacher and researcher) said that the best indicator of student success and fulfillment is how much the voices of the students matter. She said that “pretty” classrooms with store-bought posters and teacher-made cut outs may not be as successful as classrooms where student work clutters the walls and spills out into the hallways. Many of the Optimal Learning Environments (OLE)  techniques for at-risk learners involve student publishing, student chosen curriculum and literature, and student lead presentations and discussions. I am passionate about student empowerment. Often, to be a child is to be trapped in a world that you have no control over. Teaching students that their voices/writing/art/debate matters should be the first step in education (instead of teach first, contextualize later).

The term edupunk is also misleading because I don’t want ‘underground’ reform. Information networks and tools must be accessible to educators struggling to meet the changing needs of diverse learners.


Written by TeacherC

5 June 2008 at 12:28 pm