By: Dr Sanja Vicevic and Abigail Power
The aim of this article is to share best practices for generating student-led podcasts. The article specifically focuses on integrating podcasts into Greenfield International School’s curriculum and presents the most efficient strategies for determining a topic, organising the content, capturing and editing audio recordings, and assessing the impact of podcasts on student agency. Both the research and our practice indicate that including podcasts in the curriculum enhances students’ critical and creative thinking, communication proficiencies, and student agency. In this article, we hope to inspire and encourage educators to explore this impactful and immersive medium to improve student learning journeys and stimulate a sense of student agency in and beyond the classroom.
Defining Student-led Podcasts as educational tools
Podcasts are a relatively new and exciting medium that has gained immense popularity in recent years. They are audio recordings that can be accessed online, and their content can range from news and entertainment to educational and informative topics.
Podcasts as an educational tool in schools involve incorporating audio recordings into the learning process to enhance learning outcomes, student engagement and student agency. A student-led podcast is developed and presented by students in our primary school, often with guidance and support from their teachers. Students conduct research, create interviews, and record their voices to create podcasts. This process provides students with a unique opportunity to enhance their digital literacy, research and collaboration skills while also fostering creativity, critical thinking and sharing ideas with a broader audience which promotes student agency.
Researching Student-led podcasts
Podcasts in education have been the subject of a variety of studies, which have revealed numerous benefits for students and teachers. For instance, some research studies highlight that creating podcasts improves students’ writing, speaking, and digital literacy skills. According to some researchers, podcasts can enhance students’ research skills by requiring them to investigate specific topics. Research results also suggest that podcasts promote collaboration and teamwork, as students typically work in groups to produce their podcasts.
Action research on student-led podcasts conducted at Greenfield International School indicates that through creating podcasts, students learn by exploring, researching and creatively expressing their ideas and opinions. Furthermore, by planning, monitoring and evaluating their learning process, students take control of their learning. Last but not least, the use of podcasts allows students to showcase their learning to a broader audience, increasing their sense of accomplishment and inspiring others.
Integrating Student-led Podcasts in the Curriculum
As an International Baccalaureate school, we use transdisciplinary themes to guide our teaching and learning. These transdisciplinary themes, along with the Central Ideas and Lines of Inquiry, shape our programme of inquiry and ensure that our students receive an integrated learning experience.
At Greenfield International School, we successfully used podcasts to promote student agency and have embedded this tool into our curriculum. To incorporate podcasts into our Primary Years Programme, we carefully examined the primary school curriculum maps and identified the most appropriate units of inquiry for each grade level to include podcasts as part of students’ celebration of learning. This ensured that students across all grade levels had opportunities to create podcasts throughout the academic year.
At the end of each Unit of Inquiry, typically every half term, students participate in a celebration of learning. By including podcasts as a focus of their celebration of learning, we allow our students to take action creatively. This allows the students to take ownership of their learning and inspire the wider community to engage with their actions.
Recording Student-led Podcasts
Recording a podcast requires more than just hitting the record button. It requires careful attention to detail to capture high-quality sound, and choosing the right equipment is one of the most important factors. For example, at Greenfield International School, we use a portable recording device. When monitoring and controlling the sound quality, we always use headphones that are connected to the recording device during the recording. An important aspect worth noting is the location. We recommend selecting a quiet location without any background noise or echoes, preferably an acoustically treated room. These steps are vital when recording to ensure fewer challenges when editing. Another top tip which is a rule of thumb when recording, is to ensure that the distance between the speaker and the microphone is no further than 30cm. In the final stage, we edit the recording using digital audio workstation (DAW) software. It is important to remember that the quality of the final product is directly tied to the care taken during the recording process.
Measuring Impact on Student Agency
At Greenfield International School, podcasts are primarily utilised as a tool to support student agency, which aligns with the International Baccalaureate curriculum framework supporting an inquiry-based and student-centred approach with responsible action. We believe that student-led podcasts can foster student agency in three crucial aspects of their learning: planning, monitoring and evaluating.
During the planning stage, students use podcasts to provide them with a framework to plan their learning related to a specific topic. When students are in the monitoring and evaluating stage of their learning, podcasts can provide a structured format and a clear picture of how their desired outcome may look when completed, which enables students to monitor their progress and evaluate the published podcasts. These aspects are pivotal when developing student agency and can be used to measure the impact of student-led podcasts on student agency.
To measure the impact of student-led podcasts on student agency, the teachers can conduct a structured interview before the students have begun their work on podcasts and after the student-led podcasts have been published. The interviews can include a variety of questions such as; “How did you link the work in your unit to your podcast?”, “How did you monitor your work while creating your podcast?” and “Did you find anything challenging when making the podcast?” Finally, qualitative analysis of the interview should allow the researcher-theorists and teacher-practitioners to explore how student agency has been developed.
To summarise, we have collated some key takeaways for developing successful student-led podcasts. The podcasts should be integrated into the curriculum with a designated timeframe for them to be created. In line with that, developing podcasts should be part of the teaching and learning routine; otherwise, it will be seen as extra work. It is important to take into consideration the age of students. While older students can independently develop their podcasts, younger students may need more guidance and input from their teachers. In conclusion, the student-led podcasts represent a learning journey with its challenges. However, with careful planning, integration into the curriculum, and support from teachers, student-led podcasts can be a valuable and rewarding learning experience for individuals and the whole school community.
Link to GIS Podcast on Anchor
Abigail Power is an enthusiastic and dedicated educator driven by a passion for integrating technology into the classroom to enhance students’ autonomy and agency. With a Bachelor of Arts in Education, she currently serves as a homeroom teacher in the Primary school while leading digital literacy and International Baccalaureate (IB) projects across the primary level. Her expertise and leadership in these areas have significantly contributed to the overall success and growth of Greenfield International School (UAE).
Dr Sanja Vicevic Ivanovic is a language teaching expert and a co-author of the renowned book “Young Learners Online: Guide for Foreign Language Teachers.” With a PhD in Language Teaching and an MA in Italian and German as Foreign Languages, she brings a deep understanding of diverse cultural practices and strong international mindedness to the role of the PYP Coordinator at Greenfield International School (UAE). Her research interests centre around early language learning, learner autonomy, learning strategies as well as peer and self-assessment.