Whether you’re teaching a communications elective, a journalism class, or really, any ELA class at all, there is so much to tap into in the world of modern media. The process of sharing ideas in the modern world is becoming more and more intertwined with multimedia, and our students know this. Giving them a chance to explore and present ideas through mediums like podcasts, blogs, infographics, and social media will help prepare them for the world they’re graduating into. Plus, it will help engage them right now, since its relevance will be obvious to them.
Today, I just want to quickly share some ideas for integrating media-based projects into your classroom. This is just the tip of the iceberg, and I bet scanning through this list will help you start brainstorming many more possibilities. This is a fun world to dive into!
#1 Listen to Podcasts
There are so many wonderful podcasts out there to listen to with your students. You can create an engaging text out of a true crime podcast like Serial, inspire students toward growth mindset with podcasts like How I Built This and School of Greatness, teach them the power of storytelling and effective interviewing with This American Life, and much more. Avoid the audio-listening-awkwardness by having them create sketchnotes as they listen, or set them up with headphones and take them outside for a ten minute walk around campus during an episode.
#2 Create Tiny Podcasts
The technology and process of creating a podcast can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Take Gretchen Rubin’s mini podcast, A Little Happier, as an example and create tiny podcasts with your students. Let them get familiar with the idea of recording their voice using the simple free online voice recorder, Vocaroo, and then drop their podcast onto a Google Slide to share with you and their classmates.
I recorded an episode all about what it’s like to be a podcaster, if you’d like a guest speaker to go with your tiny podcast unit. You can find it here.
#3 Try a Research Podcast
Doing a research paper? Dreading it a little bit? It can be hard to spark student enthusiasm for research papers, but research really is so fascinating. They can learn about ANYTHING they’re interested in! Try changing up the format to help hook them on the positives of research. Instead of writing a long paper, challenge them to find the most interesting stories and facts from their sources and boil it all down into one action-packed podcast episode (or miniseries).
#4 Or a Research Infographic
Another way to create a research product with an authentic audience is to have your students design infographics based on what they’ve learned. In this way, they can explore the subtleties of using design elements as part of an argument related to research, a great media literacy skill. Infographic colors, icons, and overall style will affect the way their viewer interprets the research they present, and each category requires intentional choice.
#5 Use Instagram to your Advantage
It would make an inspiring social justice project, if students spent time researching issues they are passionate about, then started Instagram accounts to inform others on the subject of their project. This could be done individually, in small groups, or as a class. If you own the account, depending on your school’s rules, you might be able to create a public feed with imagery and captions by members of your class (avoiding personal information or photography featuring students). Maybe the whole class could collaborate to research and share about one issue they are collectively interested in, inventing a new hashtag, reaching out to other, similar accounts for collaboration, and/or working with new forms like Instagram stories, reels, and IGTV.
#6 Experiment with Blogs
While many platforms feature less writing these days, blogs still tend to be wordy. And many nonprofits, corporations, and small businesses have them as a key outlet, keeping them relevant in today’s world.
There are many free blogging platforms, like Blogger, WordPress, Wix, and Google Sites. Again, depending on your school, you may need to have students blog offline, but they could always take what they’ve created online after they’re done in your class (remind them not to ever share their personal info).
Blogging is a great way for students to write about what they’re interested in, practicing the skills you want them to, on a subject they care about. You can create a passion blogging unit or use them to complement a genius hour project.
You can also use them as a way to showcase student work, as a portfolio, either individually or as a class.
Dive deeper in this post, A Beginner’s Guide to Student Blogging.
So there you have it! Six ways to integrate modern media into your classes, and probably a half dozen more already bubbling to the surface in your mind. Communication today may look very different than it did twenty years ago, but it still draws on all the wonderful ELA skills you’re teaching every day.