First steps into podcasting

podcastI don’t remember who, but someone told me a couple of years ago that the best approach to integrate technology into a library-media center is always trying to start small and see how things go. That as media specialists/librarians/technology integrators we should be trying to get into the difficult dynamic of going over about the culture of perfect. I’ve just realized that this is being a really hard one for me, as I believe it is in general for libraries and media centers.

When analyzing my professional career as an information specialist, I think I often used to suffer from analysis paralysis when I tried to create not just a blog…but the perfect blog….with the right software…and the right extension…and just the right theme… and have just the right post …but I didn’t even think about the fact that maybe nobody even wanted a blog. I simply could not move forward as I used to spend too much time working behind scenes trying to create the perfect product or service.

 After 4 years of professional career as an International educator I have started wondering whether it would be easier to kind of start simple and see where things go. It’s easier and more efficient in the long term to build on a simple, achievable idea, than it is to create an out of the chart tech monstrosity. With all our technologies we can’t expect to put something out there and just have it untouchable where we’ll never have to fix it again. I am still learning this lesson…as I said before, this is a constant process.

Podcasting in Foreign Languages

There is not a single week that I don’t find something that is really exciting. A new technology or a new application of technology that I could be using in my library/media center or in my teaching practice as a Spanish B teacher. I have been lately doing some research on podcasting for education. I didn’t have any previous experience with podcasts with academic purposes and at Cebu International School none of the teachers or students really had any previous experience podcasting (oops!).

However after some reading about the topic I got more and more excited about the perspective of embedding podcasts into my Foreign Languages experience, and, from there, sharing my experiences with other faculty members taking advantage of my double position as Head of Foreign Languages and Head of the Media Center.

I found out that there are lots of reasons why I should be podcasting:

  • First, you are publishing to a potentially vast audience and using technology that gives you feedback. Podcasting is not necessarily a one-off – it can become a series of episodes and there is a great incentive to carry on.
  • Second, it’s a great way of distributing learning materials, which can include sound, images and video. It’s publishing with a purpose and while with a VLE [virtual learning environment] like Moodle, you have to encourage people to visit it, with podcasting, once people have subscribed, they get the clips sent to them through RSS feed.

  • Third, it’s a great communication tool. I was thinking this morning in the number of our school “News Flash” that never get read. Podcasting can be a great way to communicate with parents!

First steps

The first podcast I tried out was for my 11th graders. We were studying a unit on persuasive language and they were getting ready to put in practice their capacities as advisers. I recorded some podcasts where different characters where exposing their particular love issues. I used audacity as the audio recording tool and Aurora, my partner, performing the feminine roles. Students had to download the audio files and be prepared to give advise for the following class. I used our VLE set up in Moodle as means of distribution of the clips. I wanted to take advantage of the popularity of MP3 players among my students, so I created different episodes for each one of them to be downloaded and listened to.


 That was a good beginning and the activity was really engaging my students, so I wanted to go one step beyond. A few days ago, we were working on a unit on Personal Writing and I decided then to involve my students more into the creation process of the podcast by making them responsible for writing and recording a script of their personal diary. I posted a first chapter called “A teacher’s diary” and students had to comment on my podcast with their own “student’s diary”. The criteria that I gave them was, that their podcast needed to include the following:

  • Minimum duration of 1 minute and a maximum of 1 minute and 30 seconds.

  • You must speak spontaneously.

  • The podcast must reflect a page in your diary about a day in school and about a relevant event that has happened to you during that day. The event can be fictional.

  • Remember that this VoiceThread is an extension of your Spanish class, and as such, any School rule applies.

  • Don’t post any personal information like phone numbers, personal email address, or last name. Use your nick name and your avatar instead.

I used for this project VoiceThread. VoiceThread is a web-based communications network that allow users to create and collaborate on digital stories, or participate in audio forums. With this VoiceThread I aimed to create an accountable environment where students connected to the network are known users, responsible for their content and behavior. Through the activity, students could show their speaking skills without feeling “on-the-spot” as they might sometimes in the class or group setting. VoiceThread is also easily embedded in any website or blog. Have a look to the activity!

I am glad to say that this activity proved to be very helpful to better engage some of my students who are not very inclined to participate in class. Furthermore, VoiceThread gave students more opportunity for more practice with speaking and writing than class time do often allow. Actually, I believe that through this activity, students gained a deeper and more engaging learning experience which hopefully will result in an increase in students’ oral fluency.

 What’s next?

interrogAfter this smooth entry into podcasting, I have been thinking in other exciting ways podcasting could enrich the learning experience at CIS. How about working on a book review podcasting project where students could write book reviews scripts, record them and then post them on our Website?… This would be a first step into the creation of a book review database that kids can go to when they are looking for a good book to read. Or how about a weekly radio show with music and interviews to which visitors can subscribe to using an RSS feed?….or may be an audio edition of our weekly Newsflash for parents and students to download and listen to while driving, cooking, or jogging!

Although I have really just got started, I can already see how powerful this processes might be for our students. Since I’m a newbie at podcasting, any recommendation on what else should I be doing?

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