Podcasts: Elementary students make book reviews

Written by David Green.


The day Jackie Schaffner heard about podcasting at a professional development seminar, she knew that was technology she would put to use.

Mrs. Schaffner, Morenci Elementary School library aide, said she was quick to raise her hand when the Lenawee Intermediate School District speaker asked if anyone was interested in giving it a try.

podcast “I’m a techie,” she says, explaining her interest in trying out something new, especially related to the internet.

She learned the basics by making her way through a tutorial, but it took a lot of stumbling through the software on her own to bring the project together.

Now, with a $29 microphone purchased through a Morenci Education Foundation grant and two pieces of free software, she’s building a collection of book reviews created by students.

A podcast is described as an audio file that can be accessed over the internet. Podcasts gained popularity in the last three years and today many radio programs offer podcasts of their programming for listening at a later time.

The name suggests that an iPod is needed for listening to a podcast, but other mp3 players and computers are capable of handling the file.

Last year, Mrs. Schaffner created dozens of video reviews of books that were shown in the library. This year she’s turning to podcasts to allow other students to listen to the reviews at home.

The idea, she says, is to convince other students to read a book. If the response is the same as with the videos, it will make a big difference.

“Whenever a child did a review,” she said, “everyone wanted to read that book.”

Others wanted to create a video of their own, also.

“Now, everyone wants to make a podcast,” Mrs. Schaffner said. “That’s how it went with the videos last year. I did over a hundred of them.”

Even some shy children whom she never expected to inquire have come in to schedule a time.

How it’s done

First Mrs. Schaffner has the students fill out a form that lists the title of the book and a short summary.

“They have to practice at home with their parents and I need a parent’s signature,” she said.

Mrs. Schaffner reviews the written summary, makes some suggestions if needed, and sets up a recording time.

She operates the software called Audacity that allows her to add some background music, amplify the voice if necessary and edit out any pauses or stray noises.

She plays it back to get the student’s approval, then another piece of free software turns the recording into an mp3 file.

The finished podcast is then transferred to the school’s website.

Other projects

Mrs. Schaffner is interested in using podcasts as a way of inserting audio into PowerPoint presentations.

She’s also thinking about creating e-books with the students. Children’s illustrations would be scanned and collected into an electronic book. The author would tell the story via a podcast.

Whether or not the children’s book reviews are listened to frequently isn’t Mrs. Schaffner’s greatest concern. It’s the constantly changing technological standards in a changing world that she thinks about.

This recalls another seminar she attended that focused on the challenge ahead for teachers.

Teachers today are preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, to use technology not yet invented to solve problems not yet imagined.

“That’s part of my motivation,” she said.

• To find the collection of podcasts, go the school district website (http://scnc.morenci.k12.mi.us/), choose the elementary school link and click on Edline Monthly Calendar. A link to the elementary library is listed on the right.
    – Jan. 24, 2007 


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