132: A Case Study in Successful Student Podcasting

Want to get your students podcasting, but feeling nervous about the tech? That’s totally understandable!

Today on the podcast, I’m happy to welcome Beth Duncan, a creative teacher from North Carolina, who has created an ongoing podcast series with her students. She’s going to share how she got started with her project, how she guides students through it, how she has incorporated the other teachers and staff at her school, and what the final product looks like. Her confidence, creativity and enthusiasm are infectious, so get ready to be inspired to start podcasting with your kiddos!

You can listen in below, or on the podcast player of your choice.

The Inspiration for the Project

A few years ago at a tech conference in Raleigh, Beth attended a session by Jennifer LaGarde, author of Fact vs. Fiction: Teaching Critical Thinking Skills in the Age of Fake News. When LaGarde quoted Gayle Hyatt, sharing that “People lose their way when they lose their why,” Beth began to think about her seniors and what was motivating them.

When she returned home, she asked her oldest students to write about what they were doing in high school, what their diploma meant to them. She soon began to think about her own why – why had she started in education? Why was she staying? While she originally got into education because her tenth grade drama teacher inspired her by believing in her when she didn’t believe in herself, she realized she was still in education for different reasons. She wanted her students to see how much voice and power they really do have in the world, and help them to believe in themselves.

Giving Voice to the Why

Not so long after, Beth attended another conference, this time focused on the need for students to be able to communicate beyond conventional writing projects. She knew she wanted her students to be able to speak well, research well, interact with others professionally. She realized that podcasting would be a wonderful way to cultivate these 21st century skills.

She decided to launch a project with her students in which they would interview teachers and staff at their school about their “whys.” The kids would select a teacher to interview, email a request, complete the interview, record and upload the interview, write a thank you, and complete a reflection.

In the spring of 2020, she launched her first version of the project.

Check out “Both Sides of the Desk” here, or hop directly to Beth’s “Teacher Why” episode here. She’d also recommend this episode with the school principal and this one with her county’s Teacher of the year.

The Structure Evolves

While Beth’s initial structure involved a lot of wonderful steps for her students, and they successfully launched their first podcast, she realized she really wanted to scaffold the project even more. Here’s what it looked like in 2021.

In the second week of the semester, Beth had the kids record a 5-10 minute personal podcast. Not only did this help them adjust to hearing their voice on a recording and get familiar with recording concepts, it helped Beth start to get to know them and build relationships. Some kids did a Q and A with a friend or family member, others shared memories, one student interviewed her whole family about what they thought would make a perfect day, then included her own perfect day as a complement to theirs.

After this project, in week three, Beth had the kids explore podcasts as a medium. While some of her students were already avid listeners, others had barely heard of podcasts. She shared some shows from the previous year, recorded by her former students, and some shows from a list of Top 50 podcasts for High School Students.

In week four, she began the main project. She met with each student to help them choose an interviewee, then guided them to send an email request with professional language and formatting. She gave them time to record and upload their interview, write a thank you note, and then reflect on the whole experience according to ten core principals (such as resilience and creativity). The final step was for her to gather feedback from the interviewee about the experience of working with the student.

The Next Iteration

At this point, most teachers and staff at the school have been interviewed for the “Teacher Why” collection of the podcast. So now the kids are branching out to do interviews about their reading lives. The great thing about a show called “Both Sides of the Desk” is that it can be conversations between students and teachers on many topics.

Check out the Book Talk episodes here. Beth especially recommends this episode with Chris Marshall, one of the school’s football coaches, and this episode with Cassandra Lackey, a history teacher.

Goals for the Future

Beth is looking forward to involving students more in the process of mixing, uploading, and publishing the podcast in the future. She’s like to bring more students in on roles like creating the music for the intro and bringing the show live online. She’d also like to guide students more carefully toward the realization that their work really is going out into the world where anyone could listen. Talk about an authentic audience!

Beth’s Curriculum

Beth has generously shared her curriculum write-ups for this project. You can make copies of either of the following by clicking them.

Remember your Why: Teacher Podcast Project Directions

Podcast Project Grading

Reach out to Beth Duncan

If you would like to reach out to Beth, she’s at bduncan@alexander.k12.nc.us. If you do the project, she’d love to hear how it goes for you!

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4 Comments

  • Love this. I felt like I did a very successful podcast unit last year but this just helps me build on it. Thanks so much.

    Reply
  • Hi, last year I had my students in creative writing interview a teacher. This year, thanks to this link, I will have them write it and /or make a podcast of it. I like the lesson plan scaffold and rubric.
    Thanks.
    Meg Mullin – year 24 in English Education 6-12.

    Reply

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