Thursday, February 28, 2008

Jefferson Middle School: Podcasting the Self

At Jefferson Middle School (JMS), podcasting has become not only an academic tool but a personal one. Most recently, students in a drama class taught by Mandy Williams created their own personal belief podcasts based on National Public Radio's "This I Believe" series. It gave students a chance to express what is important to them, what changes in the world they'd like to see, their hopes for the future and just what it's like to be a middle schooler today. One student based her podcast on her Muslim faith and being the only girl in school wearing a headscarf. In her podcast, she says, "I say all that really changed was my clothing...I believe that now it is who I am. And no one can change that."

Jodi Heckel reports in the News-Gazette (Champaign, IL) that this foray into podcasting was far from JMS's first experience with or use of the technology. The principal, Susan Zola, first used podcasts to update parents and the community on what was happening at the school. Then Williams' class branched out by documenting JMS's Cabaret Night drama production in November. A current group of students is documenting the spring musical for a podcast; they call themselves the "Pod Squad." A sixth-grade class just finished up a series of podcasts on the city of Champaign. One English teacher, Susan Huffman, had her students research a current issue that matters to them and, instead of writing the usual research paper, students are making news podcasts. Some are trying out vodcasts.

Students like the excitement and variety of making their own podcasts:

"You get to use more technology instead of just going to the computer lab and just typing," said Antonio Mapson. "You get to record on real microphones like you would do if you were singing, and you get to record videos."

"It's more active," added Jonathan Sherrick.

And it's not just fun. Principal Zola feels that podcasting helps teachers reach students with different learning styles. English teacher Huffman sees students who dislike writing papers or who tend to do poorly on written assignments thrive while podcasting: "It's so exciting to see what students are able to do, and watch the students that were more reticent, more quiet, be able to blossom...It's been a highly rewarding project."

You can find links to student podcasts at the Jefferson Middle School website. And other schools in Champaign are jumping into podcasting, too. Franklin Middle School and the band program at Central High School have just posted their own podcasts.

SOURCE: "Students use podcasts for class projects, self-expression" 02/25/08
photo courtesy of Irish Typepad, used under this Creative Commons license

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