October 05, 2007

Making your podcast more pro

Making a radio show, a regular podcast, that kids and parents can find on iTunes and listen to in their own time, has huge advantages of class presentations or even just plopping audio onto the school website without its feed. Jane's workshop, summed up by the Dragon, gave a rundown of these pedagogical outcomes from podcasting with youngsters.

Over the past year I've worked with scores of educators in East Lothian, Scotland, to explore ways of turning the turgid "school news" podcast in to something more. We've used Apple's Garageband, Audacity, and Audacity Portable for use on a USB stick: whichever one we choose has little to do with the output provided the thought process into content has taken place. Educators there have put together some great step-by-steps on creating your own podcasts and publishing them on a Word Press MultiUser blog. You could just as easily (more easily?) publish your MP3 as a podcast on Gabcast or GCast (both of which also allow American educators to record a podcast and upload it directly from their mobile cell phone).

Finally, if you want to get into adding images or even movies to your podcasts, then check out JumpCut: just record your audio as normal in Audacity or Garageband, export as MP3, then add it as a backing to your accompanying photos or video.

Upping our skill levels, upping our language skills
Getting the quality of interaction higher on a podcast is not so hard when our good friends at the BBC Training Unit make their official training manuals completely open for you to use. Their advice on researching and carrying out interviews is a great resource for teaching questioning and research skills.

Vox pops, the voice of the man (or woman) on the street, are a great way to get into the simple skill of cutting blocks of spoken language (and not mixing, which is the slightly more complex skill of blending sounds into one). Listening to as many as you can helps show what questioning skills are all about, and how tricky it is not to end up with 'yes' and 'no' all the time.

We also saw how colour from YouTube video audio tracks, or adverts pulled off the web can help contextualise your students' audio. One group, running a vox pops on whether Macs were better than PCs, used Audio Hijack on a free trial to rip the sound track of the recent funny ads. They could also envisage doing the same thing to interview students and teachers in other countries through Skype, for example.

Slide002 Main top tips for pro podcasting


Record an exciting advert to open your show. Get the voice track laid down first, and then add some music from a podsafe music source. Finally, cut it all together and export the file for use in all your future podcasts.

Slide003 Vox pops
Ask open-ended questions and then cut, don't mix, the answers.

If the background noise is different for each person you interview then make sure you hold the mic in the air for a minute or so just to record some 'atmos', some atmospheric sound that will cover over all those cuts.

Slide004 Interviews
Students need to learn how to ask as many good open-ended questions as possible, so let them rip! However, when it comes to cutting the final interview together, try to get them to cut together only four questions and answers. This isn't just learning how to synthesise information in your own words, but learning how to synthesise information in others' words. Tricky... but kids like the challenge.

Slide005 Listen in!
The best way to learn how to make better podcasts is to listen, listen, listen to others' efforts. There are plenty of ideas of podcasts for teachers and students to listen to, but even a poor podcast can help show what you shouldn't maybe do in your own.

Slide006 Planning your attack
Knowing how much time to spend on each element of creating a podcast is not as easy as planning a lesson based around textbook, where the exercises don't change in timescale from year to year. So, beforehand, have a plan of action for how much time you wan to spend on:

  • Deciding subject matter
  • Planning a show
  • Recording voices
  • Finding music
  • Editing
  • In-class première
  • Online launch


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Hey Ewen
Thanks so much for your workshops and in fact thanks for your presence at the conference full stop.

Here is the link to our blog which has the podcast you wanted.

Thanks again. Slainte

Pete Flynn

thank you so much for this great post,
really helpfull.
I wish I had found it 4 weeks earlier, when I desperately searched for sound-pieces.

Agreed on all points.

The comments to this entry are closed.

About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

Recent Posts