Project Based Learning: My Podcast Station
“We all remember those tedious English classes in which the sound of the teacher's cassette fused with the background sound of the class as our mind traveled far away from there.
Luckily, or unfortunately for many others, the world is changing, and we must change with it.
We must consider the direction it is taking and focus our efforts towards preparing our students for this new future, returning the old cassette to the place to which it belongs: the English department storage room.
We have to teach looking at the future and stop teaching thinking about the past”
With this reflection, we kicked off our blog “Project Based Learning in a second language class: The approach” a couple months ago. Before moving on, we would like to point out that this approach can be used either in a second language class or in a first language (language arts) class.
Many are the trainings in which we go home thinking that we learned a lot about the theoretical context of the approach or strategy, but any practical examples were showed or explained. For this reason, today we are starting a blog series, which will complement the first blog that was focused on the theory behind this approach. In this series, we will explain, using practical examples, how to develop four projects in the classroom:
• Podcast Station
• Film Academy
• Newspaper Office
• Drama Academy
Before continuing reading this post, we recommend that you stop to check “PBL: The proposal” where you will find the theoretical basis and the benefits of applying this model in the classroom.
Are we ready to enter the world of the podcast as an educational tool?
Before jumping into how to create the podcast and its guidelines, it is important to mention the model we apply in the classroom when developing any of these four projects. We break our projects into three different stages: Pre-production, production and post-production.
• Pre-production: In this stage, we carry out all the activities that will help with the creation of the content. This stage includes all the actions we need to take before pressing the record button. From the creation of rundowns, scripts, configuration of the platforms to the composition of the music or scenarios.
• Production: This stage focuses on creating the content of our project. This content can be recordings for the podcast, videos for our film, images for our theater, or interviews for our newspaper.
• Post-production: This stage houses all editing and change activities before delivering the final product. During this time, we can see students working on editing the videos or dumping the information collected in their newspaper.
In each of these three stages, students have different roles within the group. The group roles are designed so that at the end of the project the students have worked on the four most important skills in the development of a language: oral expression, written expression, oral comprehension and written comprehension.
The power of podcasts
The popularity of podcasts has risen a lot in recent years. Many are the public figures who have started producing their own podcast. The rise of this popularity helped podcasts to become a powerful tool for many teachers around the world.
Podcast not only develop important skills for the future of our students, but it also stands out for its ability to deliver content.
When we produce a podcast with our students, we can focus on any of the content that we are teaching in class: The destructive capacity of volcanoes, the biography of Pythagoras and its importance in history, the differences between the British and American vocabulary.
There are many types of podcasts that can be used in class: interview podcasts, monographic podcasts, historical podcasts, discussion podcasts, rating podcasts (products, cities, cars, sports…).
And it is not only the different types of podcasts what makes them an exceptional tool, but also the grouping in which they are carried out gives us many possibilities. We can produce podcasts individually, in pairs or in groups.
We can produce podcasts with students in our class, connect with other classes in our school, around the world, or even have guests from our community or a different country.
Alberto, Mario, this is so cool, we get it but… Where do I start? We hope you are ready because we are going directly to the pre-production of our beautiful podcast!
Pre-production is the most important part of this activity. We are strong advocates of the importance of planning activities before starting them, a belief that we pass on to our students daily. What at first may seem like "a waste of time" in the long run, endows our project with dynamism and coherence. When we invest time in planning, we are minimizing potential problems that may arise in the future and avoiding a dozen pauses to resolve conflicts arising from a lack of synchronization or communication within the group.
The first step in pre-production is to choose the type of program we are going to produce: Informative, sports, musical, cultural or specialized in a different topic. After choosing the kind of podcast we are producing, we need to choose the genre of the program: Report, chronicle, criticism, editorial, interview, gathering, debate...
Once this and the specific topic we are going to cover are chosen, we need to assign roles in our group. For pre-production we will need the following roles:
• Director: This is the person in charge of checking that everyone is completing their job and see their commitment of the members of the group. The director is the direct link between the different roles and jobs in the group, he is the glue that brings the group together and helps it stays in the right direction.
• Scriptwriter: This role is taken by several members of the group; the scriptwriters are in charge of writing the podcast script. (Photo below)
• Producer: The producer is in charge of making the music for the podcast. Main intro, outro and the intro music of the different sections of our program. To produce this music, we use Incredibox.
Once the rundown of the program has been presented to the group and the music approved, it is time to get down to work!
As mentioned above, in each phase of the development of our podcast (pre-production, production and post-production) the roles of the participants change. For the podcast production stage, there is only one fixed role, and the rest will be changing depending on the nature of our program.
• Sound technician: The sound technician will be the person who will work with the mixing table and the program or app that we use to record our podcast. This person will not participate directly in the recording of the podcast but will be in charge of making the sound work, balancing the volume of the microphones and giving guidelines on how to improve the quality of the audio.
• Participants in the podcast: These students will be the ones who will record their voice for the podcast. These students can be assigned into different roles depending on the sections we are doing or the kind of podcast we decided to produce: Podcast host, reporter, head of section 1, head of section 2...
In this stage of the project, we change the roles of the students again:
• The director: He will check the audios and see that there aren’t any sound problems. If this is the case, these parts will be recorded again.
• The sound engineer: This student will edit the audios and shape them in such a way that the podcast makes sense. This person will also be in charge of including the music and sound effects previously discussed.
• The marketing team: The marketing team will create the marketing campaign that will be released with the episode: posters, post on “social networks” or other strategies that they consider appropriate.
Our podcast studio
Thanks to a community’s donation, we were able to set up our podcast studio. Having podcast studio greatly improves the process, not only because of the improvement of the audio but also because of the atmosphere of realism that it gives to the project. The students are very involved and love to use the studio.
These are the materials we used to build our studio. Materials that after four years and many hours of recording still work perfectly.
Obviously, you don't need a studio to carry out this project. You can start with just a microphone with omnidirectional mode to capture students’ audio. You can also use the built-in microphone of a computer or tablet from your school.
Apps and platforms
For the podcast recording we have used Anchor, Soundtrap and Audacity.
• Audacity is a program that requires some prior knowledge on audio recording. This app is only for audio recording, it is not specific for podcast recording. It is a good option for fast recording without the need to create usernames or passwords.
• Anchor is a free podcast platform for beginners that has some tools that allow users to record and edit audio, organize it into episodes, and even add advertising.
• Sountrap is our favorite platform for podcast recording since it was created to be used by students. It is a platform where you can create classes and students can collaborate on different projects. It also has a great library of tutorials that helps students to get the most out of the platform.
There are many benefits of using podcasts in the classroom, but many times we do not know where to start or how to carry out such a big project. We hope these guidelines have helped you to have a starting point.
If you liked this blog, do not forget to follow us on social media to not miss upcoming publications. We will be talking about how to carry out a film academy, a newspaper office and a theater academy in your class following the same guidelines that we have explained in this post
You don’t want to miss it!