How to Plan iPad Podcast Assignments for Students

With classroom iPads, students can create both audio and video podcasts. How should teachers plan iPad podcast assignments and lessons that test students' communication and collaboration skills? How can teachers best integrate podcasts into their curriculums? Finally, how should such podcast assignments be structured and graded?

Any educational project or activity benefits from careful forethought and planning; that’s most certainly the case with the creation of a podcast. Start by defining what you’re preparing. You want students to research, plan, and script a broadcast that can be published in a location where it becomes available for others to hear at any time.

You may allow others to subscribe to future podcasts in the series as appropriate. The teacher will define the private or public extent of the audience.

Although this article focuses on audio-based podcasting, there’s also the option to incorporate images and video in a podcast.

Look for opportunities to create iPad educational podcasts

Start by looking for opportunities to augment familiar old written projects with podcasting. Consider broadcasting activities either within or outside your standard curriculum. The following list offers some ideas:

  • Archives: Many colleges and schools are using video podcasts as a way of archiving lessons or snippets of lessons for future reference. You can use archived podcasts to allow absent students to review lectures, activities, and assignments they missed, or to prepare substitute teachers to give particular lessons.

  • Oral histories: Podcasting can be used for interviewing family members and creating oral histories.

  • Special projects: Use podcasts for special projects such as “This Week in History.” Incorporate research and mock interviews.

  • Collaboration: Any assignment that requires collaboration can be turned into a podcast

  • Create a modern version of the old broadcast radio dramas. Find some episodes of old dramas on the Internet and play them for students. Websites such as The Internet Archive and RadioLovers have libraries of old radio shows you can listen to for free. Discuss how they were produced. Afterward, your students can write, produce, and publish their own episodes.

  • Professional development: Podcasting and its close cousin, screencasting, can be used for professional development. Have teachers record tutorials and examples of technology use and then share them.

  • Communication: Use podcasts to communicate within the community and with parents. Students can manage and produce their own podcasts such as “What We Learned This Week,” “Upcoming Events,” “News around School,” and so on.

Allow students license in creating iPad educational podcasts

Technology empowers students to be creative. Don’t make the mistake of giving them the technology and then mandating how it’s to be used (“Submit a three-minute recording of the main achievements of Abraham Lincoln”). Children can do amazing things with technology when you give them the trust and autonomy to be creative.

California schools have a unit on the missions in California every year. They have a field trip to a mission, and then they research the missions and submit a written assignment. In 2012, the teachers allowed students to take their iPads. Students recorded the bells, conducted interviews, snapped pictures, shot video, and more.

They were given the opportunity and incentive to actually listen when they visited the mission and really look at structures they would normally ignore. Now they were searching for fine details that would make interesting photo opportunities. They were talking and asking questions of people at the mission. Giving students the freedom to use media creatively allowed them to experience the mission on a deeper level.

Clarify the iPad podcast planning process

Podcasting isn’t just about the actual recording. The most effective learning may come in the preparatory stages, during which students research, collaborate, script, interview, and contact outside experts. Podcasting encompasses valuable skills above and beyond the simple act of recording, and students will be enthusiastic and immersed in planning a production.

Make sure that you clarify what you expect of them in these planning stages. If you are evaluating their work, the most important part of the evaluation may occur before the actual podcast. Create and share a rubric and any required deliverables.

Collaboration and educational iPad podcasts

Podcasts are generally done in groups, and you might think that all you need to do is throw students together and the ingredients will magically cook themselves into a great collaborative assignment. You know that isn’t the case.

There are always the students who dominate the discussions and others who remain quiet. Some will do the tasks they enjoy but avoid more mundane duties. And of course, there are those who leave the work to others, members of that latter group who get angry and resentful at having to complete most of the project themselves.

Plan collaboration carefully. Some teachers have been successful defining roles for team members and then drawing numbers to decide which roles are assigned to each member. Others create groups that combine students with different skills.

Consider the technical issues of creating educational iPad podcasts

Where and how will students record? How do you minimize background noise? What apps will be used for recording, editing, and publishing? Do you need external props such as microphones or stands?

The Internet is a wonderful resource, and many educators have gone down this road. Reach out to other teachers in online educational communities or sites such as Twitter. There’s a wealth of knowledge and experienced teachers willing to help you get started.

Publish student educational iPad podcasts

The practice of podcasting has traditionally meant uploading a series of recordings to iTunes, where listeners can subscribe and listen to them at any time.

There are now a variety of sites and services to create and store recordings. Some even enable live online broadcasts in both audio and video format.

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