Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Awesome Classcast!

Hey Everybody, I've been listening to podcasts for years and years. For the uninitiated, a podcast is basically a downloadable internet radio show. There are comedy shows, talk shows, information shows, it's like on demand cable for radio. You're no longer confined to NPR, morning drive, talk radio, and music that's being pushed out by record companies. It's awesome.

A long time ago, I thought it would be fun to make one with students, but I've never had the confidence in my ability to herd kittens well enough to put out a consistent podcast. Well, despite the fact that my students move around my classroom like kittens with random missions, I've realized that the best way to do something is to try, fail, and tweak your process. There's so much to be learned by doing things that way with your students! So I did some research, ordered a Blue Microphones Yeti USB Mic, and decided to give it a try!

At the start of this week, we had Superhero Day. Some students dressed like superheroes, and we talked about what heroes mean to us. I decided to make this the topic for our first episode. I told the kids, instead of writing a blog post this week, they could write a blog length essay, story, or something about superheroes, and we'd record it to include in the Awesome ClassCast. We brainstormed topics for the week. We had If I Was a Superhero, My Favorite Superhero, writing a fictional story about a superhero, and Real Life Superheroes.

As the week went on, stories were going up, and I got a few recorded, but ended up spending a great deal of Friday afternoon recording my students. In a room that was fairly noisy, very little excess noise made it through on the mic. I love the Yeti! The kids and I had so much fun recording their stories, and fixing minor mistakes using Audacity.

The recording process was a revelation for young writers. One girl realized why revision is so important as she tried to make sense of her writing. Another student realized that when you dash off a quick piece of writing, it doesn't matter how charming your words are, if you don't write enough, you don't get through the door. One of my boys learned about staying on topic better than he ever had from a whole class assignment in the past. Other kids really found their voice for this. Addison's performance sold her writing better than she would have just on paper.

While we were working on that, I had students working on reading and writing goals, and other students working on an outdated machine with an old music program, Super Duper Music Looper. I was impressed with the song Ian came up with on his first time out, and made that our theme song for episode 001.

Unfortunately, our time management skills were good enough to get everyone recorded, but not to get every aspect of production done. While my goal is to have student fingerprints on every stage of the process, that's not always possible, and on our first go-round, I decided it was okay to just get it done. Episode 002 will have student artwork, and a student announcer. This time, I had to settle for the adorable, and not very dulcet tones of my little pal, Rudy.

I chose Podomatic to host our podcast because it's free! We aren't going to be recording long episodes, so the 500 MB/month of hosting, and 50 GB/month of downloads should cover us. I still haven't figured out the feed address to use with my pod catcher, and I haven't gotten us registered on iTunes yet, but again, it's up, and that's a good start. If we need more service in the future, we'll just have to look into funding options.

So today, instead of having a blog to follow, I'm going to be a little selfish, and ask you to check out and follow our podcast. It's just shy of ten minutes, and you can run it in the background.

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