Podcasts are everywhere. From sports and true crime to history and science, there’s a podcast for everything. As of December 2019, there were more than 800,000 podcasts with more than 30 million episodes. One reason for the rise of podcasts, aside from the growth of cell phones and cellular data, is the relative ease with which many people can start their own podcast, share their passions, or express their thoughts.
You and your students might be interested in podcasting, whether as a tool to help cement lessons, a long-term project, or even a school newscast. For those looking to build their podcasting game plan, here are a few suggestions and resources.
Find Your Podcast Voice
Today, podcasts come in an ever-changing variety of formats. Some are lightly edited or unedited conversations with important or interesting subjects. Some are free-form chats between friends. Others are structured and highly edited, like news radio or an audio documentary. The voice of a podcast — its tone, structure, segments, and even hosts — is up to you.
Whatever format you choose should be based on your strengths, interests, and learning goals. If you choose to use podcasts to assess learning, you may want to have students produce an audio documentary or mock interview with a historical figure, for example. A journalism class may create a show that serves as a news report, practicing their reporting and interview skills. Tech or CTE classes may focus on the process of producing and distributing a program, and allow the format to change over time.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with the length, tone, or topics, as long as the process reinforces your learning goals. And be sure to integrate student voice into selecting the style of podcast you want to produce. If students have ownership over the product, they are more likely to stick with it. Maybe your class wants a show structured like a morning radio show. How can you work with them to make the formats they’re interested in fit your lessons and desired outcomes? Determining those answers is a great first step.
Identify Your Needs
Like any project, it’s wise to put together a materials list. Podcasts must be recorded, edited, and distributed. Luckily, doing these things can be easy, and often free.
Ask many audio engineers which mic you should use to start podcasting, and you’re likely to hear a common refrain: The best microphone is the one you have. Today, most computers have a built-in microphone, as do many models of headphones and earbuds. If that’s what you have, it’s a great place to start. A good mic stand, or shock mount, can help improve audio quality, and baffling can reduce noise — but a folded towel does both jobs fairly well, too.
If you’re purchasing a mic, there are a few things to note. Most mics connect in one of two ways. A USB mic connects directly to the computer, allowing you to record to a free app or program, like GarageBand for Mac or Audacity for Mac, Windows, and Linux. These mics are easy to use and affordable. The Blue Yeti is a practical and effective entry-level microphone and will do most things you need to record your podcast. XLR mics, on the other hand, use a round, three-pronged connector and have to be plugged into an audio recorder or interface. Zoom makes a wide range of audio interfaces if you’re looking to bring pro-level tech to your podcast.
You’ll also need a plan to host and distribute your podcast, that is, a place to store it online and a way to send it to podcast apps like Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, or Google Podcasts. While free host services usually have limited upload space and fewer features, many are powerful enough to host your show. Podbean and Spreaker are two examples of hosts with free hosting plans.
Go back to the beginning of the feed in any of your favorite podcasts and you’re likely to notice that the early episodes may sound very different from the later ones. That’s because the process of finding a voice doesn’t always come quickly. Often, you need to try a few different things to see what works. So don’t be afraid to experiment! We’re there to teach and learn, after all.
And don’t forget to go back and look for new tips and ideas. Keep your ears open and check out some great educational podcasts for inspiration. You can rev up your podcast plan with free resources, too. Check out NPR’s teaching guide for podcasts or this lesson guide from the New York Times. Whatever you do, make sure that you and your students are looking for ideas to keep your program fun, fresh, and full of new learning at every possible step.
Join the Podcast Club
Of course, I’d be remiss if I did not point out that anyone interested in ed tech and podcasts should take a listen to TCEA’s own in-house podcast.
The Ed Tech Club is all about the tech tools you love, the resources you need, and the insights you value. Each week, we sit down with educators and experts to discuss everything from big ideas to useful tips for your most-used ed tech resources. Along the way, we introduce you to new tools and ideas and expand on some of the most exciting trends today. Plus, we pack each episode with articles, plans, and extras to help take the stress out to educational innovation. So pencil us in. The Ed Tech Club meets every Thursday.