How can educators use technology to enrich project-based learning, foster empathy, and cultivate a collaborative community that inspires others?
Community. Empathy. Authentic, meaningful learning. As educators, these are things that we are constantly looking to model, foster, and strengthen in our classrooms. Right now in remote learning, these are also components of our classrooms that we are missing the most and working to still provide for our students. As I reflect on ways that I can continue to strengthen community connections for my students both now in remote learning and eventually back in the classroom, I am also thinking about ways that community can be outstretched and expanded. My search for a digital tool that enhanced learning, supported the fostering of empathy and provided students’ with opportunities to make positive, socially responsible contributions, led me to research podcasting in the classroom. In exploring my inquiry question for module 4 of my EDTC 6103 course, I have focused my investigation on the first indicator from ISTE Educator Standard 3:
3a. Create experiences for learners to make positive, socially responsible contributions and exhibit empathetic behavior online that build relationships and community.
There are several different podcasting platforms for educators to explore, which all offer various advantages and challenges with using them. However, in my research I was drawn to the podcasting platform Anchor, which to me stood out from the rest with its user-friendliness and wide-ranging capabilities that allow users to collaborate with others, share content, and build community. While other podcasting platforms provide some of these opportunities, Anchor offers the opportunity for educators to get their students connected completely free. Through their interface, users can seamlessly record audio, add transition music, and publish to several different listening platforms.
Getting Started with Anchor
Figure 1. Anchor: The Easiest Way to Start a Podcast, Retrieved May 22, 2020, from, https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=46&v=f03qRIS5rh8
Getting connected to Anchor is as simple as connecting via a Google or Apple account, or creating an account with an existing email. While Anchor doesn’t offer the option for educators to facilitate student accounts under one virtual classroom, students with school Google or Apple will find this process very efficient. Once you’re logged in and an account is created, you need to set up a title and brief description for your podcast, and then you’re ready to start recording. By allowing users to record and insert segments to connect together to build an episode, Anchor minimizes the need to edit one long section of the recording. For me, this is one of it’s most beneficial features for using it as a podcasting tool in the classroom. This user-friendliness would allow users to simply drag and drop segments of their audio recordings, and then finally adding in a few music audio clips for transitions.
Additionally, Anchor requires minimal technology and recording equipment to produce high-quality podcasts. All of the necessary steps to the podcasting process can be done by one singular device, whether that be a laptop, phone, or tablet. After the episode is completed, the user is able to publish the episode to Anchor, as well as several other podcasting platforms, like Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, etc. These published episodes are also downloadable, so the user can share out their downloaded files on several different media platforms as well. For educators new to Anchor and/or podcasting, I encourage you to sign up for an Anchor account and experience using this digital tool prior to beginning podcasting in the classroom. For me, this experience quickly brushed away concerns and anxieties I was feeling about podcasting with this digital tool. Even further, I highly recommend immersing yourself into the user experience by recording a short podcast episode yourself. In doing so, I think you will also find that this is a digital tool that offers flexibility, creativity, and autonomy for the user.
Through the use of the podcasting platform Anchor, educators can work with students to cultivate their classroom community. Podcasting provides authentic opportunities for collaboration and community building. Working to produce a group podcast and collaborating with peers to develop a vision and deliver content to a larger audience, can work to help build community within the classroom. By having students select specific podcasting roles, students can have clarity around their role in the group’s podcast production and can organize their tasks and responsibilities. Another benefit of using Anchor is that this platform makes it efficient to integrate podcast listeners directly into your episodes. For example, listeners can leave messages directly from their devices, and then podcast producers get these recordings delivered to their podcast series’ inbox. This could provide a collaborative opportunity for educators to have students leave feedback and messages on each other’s podcast episodes, and then have the podcast creators add these audio messages into their episodes.
Collaborate Using “Record With Friends”
Figure 3. Remote podcasting just got easier: Introducing Record With Friends 2.0 from Anchor, Retrieved May 22, 2020, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=20&v=fX4KBl4R4GY&feature=emb_title
Anchor’s “Record with Friends” feature offers an incredible way for students to connect with their peers, collaborate over a podcasting project, and build community. This feature is one of Anchor’s most recent updates, having ben recently added since schools have been in remote learning. To connect via the Record with Friends feature, users first start a new episode and then select “Invite friends to join,” which will allow the user to collaborate with up to three additional people. Once connected, users all have the capability to record, edit audio files, and publish the podcast. This feature provides educators with incredible opportunities to get their students connected to collaborate from a distance, especially during this time of remote learning. With the ability for students to engage with each other through this feature, the have the capability to do so both within and outside of school. This feature also allows users to collaborate with others who are not directly linked to their device or who do not have an Anchor account. By simply typing in their name, guests can be connected in an instant. Educators could leverage this feature by using this as an opportunity for their students to perform interviews. If students are looking to do face-to-face virtual interviews, Anchor can also be partnered with video conference platforms (like Zoom or Google Meet). Students would simply need to mute the microphone of the video conference platform so that they can still record interviews via the Anchor application.
I believe that one of the most beneficial outcomes of podcasting with students, is how podcasts (and the act of podcasting) can help students foster empathy. It is equally important for educators to present their students with the opportunities to produce podcasts and share their stories and perspectives, and also listen to those produced by others. With this partnership of both creating and listening to podcast content, students are able to foster empathy for others. According to Matt Johnson (n.d) a psychology and neuroscience professor at Hult International Business School in San Francisco, “Audio is a much more covert sense than vision, so it may lend itself more easily to perspective-taking, which forms the basis of empathy. When you’re listening to something, your imagination can go further” (n.p.). Through the practice of listening to others share their thoughts, ideas, and stories on a podcast, students can experience practicing listening honestly and intentionally. The art of active listening, quietly and passively while others share, is where the foundation of empathy lies. Listening to podcasts and hearing several stories and perspectives can also help students to be inspired in their own podcast creation.
Podcast Series’ & Episodes that Promote Empathy
- Kind World – This podcast series focuses on stories involving smalls acts of kindness, and discusses how these acts work to change lives and improve our world.
- The Science of Happiness – This podcast series focuses on what we can do to live happier, more purposeful lives, and discusses useful, research-based strategies for people to apply immediately to their own lives.
- Approaching with Kindness – This short podcast series focuses on appreciation and gratitude, and the impact that the words, “thank you’ can have on you and others around you.
- Edspiration: Getting Kids to Care: Teach Empathy & Kindness with Service – This podcast episode from Edspiration focuses on how small changes to your decisions and practice in empathy towards others, can result in positive, long-lasting effects on those around you.
Podcasting can be an empowering space for students to find their voice and express themselves creatively. They provide educators with the ability to enhance their instruction and offer authentic, meaningful learning experiences. Podcasting requires students to think critically, problem-solve, and develop their communication skills. It also offers students a way for students to demonstrate their learning in an engaging, authentic way. Through the process of podcasting, students are given the opportunity to take ownership of the work and have autonomy. To produce a successful podcast, students need to grow in their skills of researching a topic, developing an outline of the structure, practice audio recording skills, produce episode scripts, and work on their public speaking. I believe that it is essential to provide students with enriched learning opportunities, like the experience of developing these skills through podcasting,
Ideas for Using Podcasting in the Classroom
- Book Recommendations for Peers – Educators could have their student’s record podcast episodes that highlight book recommendations for their peers. This is an engaging way to provide a preview or summary of a book and allow students the opportunity to access them in the future.
- Make a “This Classroom Life” podcast, inspired by the award-winning podcast “This American Life.” – In exploring podcasting in the classroom, this was an idea I had developed. ‘This American Life” focuses on a different theme each episode and collects stories connected to that theme. Educators could collaborate with their students to select themes connected to experiences students go through (i.e. transitioning to middle school, friendships, balancing schoolwork, etc.), and have the episodes be a space for students to engage with their peers around connected experiences.
- Weekly Classroom/School Update – Educators could use podcasting to create a weekly news update of events and happenings from the week to share with families. This is an engaging way to have students be a part of this communication process and provide them with leadership opportunities within the school community.
- Podcasting on Field Trips – Educators could have students do audio recordings on field trips and then put together a podcast to document their learning experience. By providing students with some open-ended guiding questions to think about and respond to, students are given an opportunity to have autonomy in how they want to record their experiences and enrich their learning.
Addressing the Drawbacks
While Anchor offers user-friendly capabilities, it does have a few drawbacks to consider. Some users may be looking for a podcasting platform that offers more autonomy and creativity in audio editing. For those users, some podcasting platforms that offer these options and that I would recommend exploring more in-depth would be SoundSnap, Audacity, or Garageband. Another drawback is that since Anchor is a third-party platform, all of your content is saved there. It’s important to know where your content is being saved, especially the content produced by your students. My recommendation is to always type content transcripts in a safe, savable space (i.e. Google Docs, Microsoft Word, etc.), and to always check with your school’s policy’s on student privacy before publishing podcasts to any podcast platforms.
What are some creative ways you’re using podcasting to cultivate community, fostering empathy, and enrich learning? Please share them, as well as any feedback or questions you have, in the comment section below.
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