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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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What Has Podcasting Done for You?: Great Things Often Begin in Small Ways

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant

A few weeks ago, I spent the day in residency in a small school doing purposeful podcasting with seventh-grade teachers and kids. We were using a model I call professional development for kids, where we cut out the middleman (or -woman) and deliver the tools right to the kids and teachers at the same time.

It was a great day, built around recording news articles about the school community, and the ability of podcasting to support literacy achievement was made crystal clear to all involved. Kids were reading scripts over a dozen times to get it right before the cry of "Quiet on the set! Recording in three . . . two . . ." would ring out once again.

Then, last Friday, I happened to be facilitating a meeting where the principal and the technology coordinator/integrator were participants. As the group was sharing how technology was being used effectively in their schools, these folks described how they were leveraging student enthusiasm for podcasting to revolutionize morning announcements, increase student engagement, and improve literacy at a deep level.

For the last year or more, the principal had been reading a presentation he calls "Words of Wisdom" at the end of the morning announcements each day. They were powerful words, but, in all candor, the sad truth is that because it was the same voice reading them five days a week, the kids had sort of learned to tune it out. The good news is that it turns out that high-quality text, fresh voices, fluency, the ability to read with voice, and the requisite skills and tools to podcast were the pieces that provided a solution.

Now, every day, a "Words of Wisdom" podcast, independently created by one of the seventh graders, is featured at the end of the morning announcements -- and, yes, every student is participating! Think about it: Kids who just a couple weeks ago were tuning them out are now spending significant amounts of time reading, understanding, rereading, reflecting on, and ultimately recording the words of Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill, Eleanor Roosevelt, and others, along with a pithy moral. They are thinking about how to modulate and pace their voices, how to read in tune with the words so as to make their recording engaging and meaningful, entertaining and instructive, popular and purposeful. Wow!

Sure, it's a small beginning, but it is so powerful. The visibility both as part of the announcements and on the school's Web site make it clear that from here on out, digital tools are part of how this school does business. Who knows what will come next?

Oh, and if you hear, in about twelve years or so, of a young reporter on CNN, a fellow named Dylan who hails from Allenstown, New Hampshire, you'll know where he got some of his first broadcast experience!

So, how has podcasting made a mark in your classroom, or in your school? I look forward to hearing from you and picking up some more simply great ideas. Thanks in advance for sharing.

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant
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