I’m proud of my Grade 6 classes. After the launch of the year-long book review podcast project, dubbed ‘Book Broadcasting’, they have achieved a great deal. The students happily created their own podcasting names: one class are ‘Bookworms’, the other ‘Bookaholics’.
I blogged about getting started with Book Broadcasting back in November. Since this time, the students have developed their oral confidence, literary ability, and technological skills. Of course, it wasn’t a completely smooth process…
Teething problems and Tips
Adding the ‘intro’ and ‘outro’ to an existing Garage Band recording
Some students found the process of adding the whole class ‘intro’ and ‘outro’ (which were separate recordings, shared with the students via an upload to Google Docs) a little challenging. Technology leader Kim Cofino’s way of ‘training’ or coaching particular students within each class, often members of our student Tech Team, significantly helped. Everyone benefits from this approach: each class has at least one student empowered through additional responsibility and who benefits both his or her peers and teachers through offering help and expertise.
Exporting a Garage Band recording as an mp3
While some students easily followed the instructions I posted on my school blog for saving and exporting a Garage Band recording as an mp3, others submitted their podcasts as zip files or mp4 (to name a few!). This meant that when I uploaded them to our host site, Podbean, their podcasts could be played from that site, but then the students struggled to embed them or play them from their school blog posts.
This semester I’ll allow time for a small group of students within the class to create a brief video tutorial (using Quick Time Player) which we can then upload to Vimeo and save to our blogs. This will demonstrate the exporting process, far better illustrated by the students, rather than me, and through the audio and visual combination of a video tutorial.
Storage: starting up and setbacks…
During the launch of the Book Broadcasting project, I worked closely with Kim Cofino to set up a free account with Podbean. This is a promising podcast hosting site that offers flexibility in regards to the appearance, organisation and accessibility of podcasts. I used this to gradually upload the Grade 6 students’ podcast book reviews. From this site they were also able to embed their podcasts in a blog post.
As an initial ‘host and launch’, I felt that Podbean was a good option. However, there were some drawbacks to using it, primarily to do with the limitations regarding monthly storage which inevitably accompany a free account. A further problem arose from inconsistent access; on certain days the site couldn’t be reached due to ‘heavy traffic’, indicating bandwidth issues. There are options to upgrade, which may well be something to consider when departmental ordering time approaches…
An additional way of accessing the podcasts was also tried: creating an iTunes feed. This proved successful, and now some of the students’ podcasts can be found via the iTunes store. Ultimately, finding a way to self-host the podcasts or having our own podcast server may be the best option for investing longer term in a project which I hope will grow and develop at YIS.
“This is great!” Cross-school commenting
After working with the Grade 6 students, I wanted to connect them with my Grade 10 class via their book reviews. Grade 10: Older, somewhat more cynical, and perhaps seeing podcast commenting only as a novel distraction… were they going to boost the Grade 6 students’ confidence, or deflate it?
Oh, Ms Cox: have more faith! It is particularly now that I’m taking time to write and reflect that I realise how often the students at YIS make me proud. The Grade 10s started to grin after listening to their younger fellow students, especially in response to some of the more animated book reviews, breathlessly broadcast to the world beyond. After discussing the range of responses to their reading books, the Grade 10 class then focused on preparing supporting comments, which acknowledged strengths, then offered constructive feedback and advice or suggestions for improvement. They accessed the Grade 6 students’ blogs via our Learning Hub Middle School blogs and searched for the podcast using ‘book review’ or ‘Sakura Medal’.
I subsequently expanded the project to my Grade 12 homeroom. When faced with technical difficulties commenting on the podcasts, they thoughtfully emailed the students their comments directly. It was a real pleasure to hear Grade 6 students’ reactions when they realised a busy, eighteen year-old IBDP student had taken the time to listen to their book review. I believe this is testimony to the caring nature of our students as well as the power of technology to more closely connect different year groups.
Developing a World-wide audience
Well, this is the next step, and it’s in the making. Gradually we are bringing Grade 6 together with students of their age group in other schools around the world. In addition, their podcasts will be added to the review sections of the relevant Sakura Medal book website. This is sometimes visited by the authors, as well as other school children around the globe who are reading the award-nominated books.
Stay in touch and tune in to the podcast book reviews of Grade 6 Bookworms and Bookaholics as we build up to their next project: exploring the detective and mystery genre…