Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Use podcasts to make student assignments superfast!

I think I have blogged about this before, but I think this one's worth a repeat because it is such a huge time saver, not to mention a great way to differentiate instruction for your students. It's...podcasting! Contrary to popular belief, podcasts are not the domain of super-fancy special projects - they're everyday stuff. Making them is so so easy - easier than you can imagine, and believe it or not - faster than the way you are making your assignments right now!

First I'll tell you how I use it as a time-saver, and to differentiate, then I'll tell you how to do it.

Using podcasts as a time-saver:
A big way I use podcasts is instead of worksheets, plain and simple. If I want my students to answer questions about something, respond in a certain way, do a simple activity with a partner within the assignment, etc. a podcast is a quick and easy way to do this. I simply create a quick podcast then load it onto an iPod or 2 or 3. Making assignments this way is almost the equivalent of me sitting one-on-one with a student, and talking them through a series of activities. Sure you could do the same thing on a work sheet but that's soooo much typing, and for students that's soooo much reading - a major barrier for some.

Sure there are ways to make fabulous, glamorous podcasts - but what I'm talking about is simple, music-less, down and dirty, one-take kind of stuff. Students can easily make up a missed assignment without you having to repeat or recopy. Very easily adaptable for younger and older students, and a great way to introduce very young students to working independently. You can also easily read a children's book into a podcast and ta-da! You've created a listening center podcast for students to read with. Students can create them too!

Using podcasts to differentiate instruction:
I can make different podcasts for students quite easily - after all, I'm not typing up worksheets, I'm just talking for about 3 minutes per assignment. Students can respond to the activities on my podcast any way I direct them to - through writing, completing some kind of project, doing an activity or discussion with a partner, anything! Best of all, they can pause me and replay me as many times as they need. I can even lecture a little bit!

Quick! Create a podcast in 8 simple steps:
1. Open GarageBand, click "Create New Podcast Episode",

2. Name your project/assignment with an identifier you'll remember or recognize.

3. Once in your podcast screen don't be confused by all the bells and whistles - you won't need them. Just click on the head of "male voice" or "female voice" whichever applies to you.

4. Then click the round red button and start talking.

You don't have to be perfect, but have some idea of what order you are going to do things in. Make sure you state things clearly and pause a little. Make sure you say item numbers so students know when you are moving on to a new activity or problem. Pause for a second or two so they have a chance to pause the iPod.

5. Click the red button again when you're done.

6. Go up to the Share menu and click "send song to iTunes."

7. Name your playlist appropriately so you can save more than one thing to it in the future.

8. Once you've done this your podcast is on your iTunes. Simply go there and the next step is to just sync your "playlist" with your iPod like you normally would. That's it - done! Wasn't that easy?

Where to get iPods? I have saved a couple of my older ones - I use an old iPod Mini,
my last Nano I had before I got my iPhone,

and a 4G Nano I bought on ebay last year for $40.

Any old working iPod will do. How do I let more than one kid listen? I use Belkin splitters I picked up at Fred's for $20 each. They split to five inputs - so 3 iPods become 15!

Once you do this you will see how easy it is . It is so much faster than making worksheets or typing up assignments, and so much more versatile.

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