Monday, March 3, 2008

tt4t_027 Another day of podcasting with 3rd Graders

It’s Monday, March 3, 2008 and welcome to Episode 27 of Tech Talk for Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. Project WOW was here again at the ITC this past Friday and we are on to a new crop of podcasters. This semester Project WOW is working on an Abraham Lincoln unit. We had a very limited amount of time in the lab with approximately fifty 3rd graders so we needed to be very streamlined in what we did. Here are a few tips that we have found helpful from past projects.

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First, there is a lot of preplanning that goes on before anyone comes to the lab. This is a collaborative project between the instructor at EIU with her preservice students and two third grade teachers with their classes. For the project we have EIU preservice teachers assigned to work with small groups of third graders. Three to four students per group seemed to work very well last semester but this increases the number of groups that you have for the project. This time we had five to six 3rd graders per group and while this cut down on the total number of groups it did present other challenges in recording the podcasts. With more students per group it took a little bit longer to record each of the group podcasts because more children were speaking. If you have the time available this is not a problem but if you are limiting the time to a half-hour to one hour for the recording sessions then your script needs to match the available time slot. The students also wanted to do practice runs before the recording actually began.

Secondly, we had four to five groups in the lab at the same time so forget about the pristine environment of a recording studio. We used inexpensive microphones that cost about $15 each and they were of the directional type. This is an important point because a directional microphone records what you point it at. If we had used omnidirectional microphones they would have picked up every sound in the room and the recording would have been of much lower quality. While not an ideal recoding environment the directional microphones did a pretty good job of recording the student voices and limiting the background noise in the lab. Ideally it would have been best to record one group at a time so that background noise would be limited but due to time constraints we recorded four groups at a time. We had two recording sessions of four groups each giving a total of 8 podcasts created for the morning session.

Thirdly, always start small and run through a practice run or two to make sure you are familiar with the process and to make sure the equipment is working properly. Before the 3rd graders arrived in the lab we gave a very quick 45 minute tutorial on how to use the Audacity program to record the podcast. Ideally we would have liked to had a couple of hours so the preservice students would have been a little more comfortable with the software. Luckily we had a couple of preservice students that had previously taken a class and were already familiar with creating a podcast. The preservice teachers were great and the recording session went smoothly.

Forth, save often! Just like any other project you need to save the project as you go along. In Audacity you save as an audacity project file for future editing so create a new folder on the computer to save things to as you go along. I recommend saving as an audacity project file after each student records, that way if you are on student number 4 and you have computer problems you can open the audacity project and record from your last save point. If you do not save and something happens to the computer you will have to start from the beginning and re-record everything.

Lastly, the biggest problem we had was the different volume levels of voices that students use while recording. Some students speak very loudly while others are more soft spoken. Adjusting the distance of the microphone from the speakers lips helps with this but it was still a problem. Again, this could be perfected with multiple takes but due to time constraints we only had one-shot at the recordings. We can fix some of the volume changes in post production using the amplify effect of Audacity but without having a mixer and real-time monitoring of the volume levels this has remained a problem.

There were several activities that the 3rd graders participated in Friday including the making of a concept map using Inspiration and a guest speaker. We rotated the groups throughout the morning to the different activities. We did not have any time for the post production so over the upcoming weeks the EIU preservice teachers will be putting the podcasts together and adding intro and outro music. I believe our preservice teachers have learned many valuable skills including being the leader of their own projects and managing all the aspects that learning requires. The 3rd graders also are learning a lot about Abraham Lincoln and how to use technology for their project. This is an authentic activity that readily engages all of the learners.

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week

My Technology pick of the week this week is a new service that was just announced from Google. If you have a gmail account you can use the service right away, others will have to wait until Google finishes the beta testing of this new service. The new service is called Google Page Creator and allows users to create their own web page using only a google account and a web browser. A link is provided in the show notes to a CNN article about this new service. Here is a quote from the article:

“With only a few clicks, just about anyone will be able to quickly set up and update a Web site featuring wide an array of material, including pictures, calendars and video from Google Inc.'s YouTube subsidiary, said Dave Girouard, general manager of the division overseeing the new application.
"We are literally adding an edit button to the Web," Girouard said.”

About Google Page Creator

Show notes for Episode 27 of TechTalk4Teachers are available on the web at that’s techtalk the number 4
If you have questions or comments about using technology in the classroom please send an email to Well that wraps it up for this episode of TechTalk4Teachers so until next time this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Tom -- I really appreciate your summary of the podcast lab day for Project WOW with all the variables and constraints as well as the accomplishments of the day. Will forward techtalk 27 to all the pre-service teachers involved. Your summary will help w. analysis and reflection on all that was learned. We'll be back for the post-production polishing on March 21. Also, thanks for the google web editor pick of the week. JB