ICT for the non-specialist is a new series from Teachers TV which features some great examples of schools around the country integrating technologies such as podcasting, blogs, wikis, mobile devices and virtual worlds across the curriculum.
The programme on podcasting showcases the wonderful work of West Point Primary School in Runcorn Cheshire and demonstrates the practicalities of preparing and recording a podcast in a primary school class as well as the benefits of doing so in literacy and French lessons.
In the clip, headteacher Noreen Curphey explains
"One of the concerns of the school was to develop speaking and listening skills and also to give the children a reason for writing. Podcasting has fulfilled both of those requirements. From 11% Level 5 at Keystage 2 two years ago, last year it was actually 50% of the children. I'm not saying it's all down to podcasting, but certainly podcasting has had a huge effect on that."
ICT co-ordinator Chris Bayne got the ball rolling when he showed staff how easy it was to record audio with a minidisk, edit it in Audacity and upload it on to a free podcasting portal like PodBean. His enthusiasm and drip-feed approach gave them the belief that they could do it for themselves and at a pace which suited.
In the footage we see Year 6 pupils confidently collaborating with each other and creating the 24th episode of their podcast on their recent residential visit to the Isle of Wight (lovely place, I'll have you know). One pupil illustrates perfectly the motivational nature of writing for a real audience when he says
"When you're writing out a full script, it's quite boring, like if you are like writing out a page of work, but when you are writing a script for a podcast, it's good because in the end you know that you'll get something worth writing it for."
Their teacher Pat Murphy says emphasises how podcasting can be adapted to all abilities and how it gives everyone the opportunity to express themselves as an example of pupil voice:
"It is a normal class in a normal school with differing abilities so some children require a bit more time to produce, but everybody has a voice on the podcast and everybody's voice is heard."
As well as producing audio podcasts, the school has started creating video podcasts too. Year 5 teacher Tom Paul has been recording short scripted clips using puppets and a digital video camera to motivate pupils and involve them in engaging group work. You can see what they've published so far by watching the clips at the top of this post or on the school's website or blog. As with the audio podcasts, the pupils protect their identity by using DJ names instead of their own.
As we see, once recorded, the footage is edited in Movie Maker and uploaded on to their PodBean site. Tom explains how important it is to carefully plan this type of creative activity to achieve positive outcomes:
"You have to ensure that the vocabulary is spot on before the children put anything on a podcast so working more closely with smaller groups is more beneficial so we do the input as a whole class and then we rotated small groups to take it in turns to produce something for a podcast ... It's bad enough for some children with confidence doing it in English, when you come to do it in a different tongue it can be really daunting, daunting for myself and daunting for the children, but with time and it does take time, they love it."
In 2008, the school won an award from UniServity for their work in podcasting and you can find out more background information on the project, by looking at these links from the Open Source Schools site and TeacherNet.
If you'd like have a go yourself, check out Paul Carney's useful guide for teachers on how to create an mp3 file using Audacity and watch these two YouTube clips on how to create an account with PodBean and upload some audio or video. The results could prove to be amazing.