iPads in Education

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Give Your Students a Voice with Micro-Podcasts

Most of us grew up with a clear educational directive - learn to read and write if you expect to get a career and succeed in the world. Text has been the primary medium used for communication and instruction ever since the invention of Gutenberg's printing press eventually led to the mass distribution of printed books and papers. Not only have students been expected to read text - and usually in black and white for economic reasons - but schools have traditionally demanded that students express their knowledge using text as well. 


Success in the world "outside" however demands a variety of communication skills. Students will be expected to be fluent in multiple mediums that include text but also encompass video, audio and photography. Then there's the skill that is probably used most but often is the most neglected in schools - speech.  Truth be told, if you walk around campus during lessons you'll usually hear ample talking but it's usually coming from a teacher at the front of the classroom. The old adage, "children should be seen and not heard" has truly been taken to heart in education. We haven't traditionally encouraged students to speak. The reason is unfortunately the same that has dictated far too many educational practices over the years ... organizational convenience. Teachers can deliver information (their traditional role) more effectively when students are silent. Management of large groups of students is more easily handled when students are quiet and follow directions. Tests can be administered simultaneously to large groups of students if they sit silently and complete the tests in writing. It makes life easier for us but it's not in the best educational interests of our students.


Today it's essential for students to develop a broad range of communication skills and technology affords us the ability to utilize multiple methods of expression. One such method is micro-podcasting. The use of micro-podcasting develops students' abilities to speak fluently and confidently. It has widespread application throughout the curriculum. Any discipline that currently requires students to write can effectively exploit the use of micro-podcasting. Let's detail how it can be done.



There are several great apps and web resources for podcasting. My personal favorite is a free service called Cinch. Cinch can be accessed over the web at the www.cinch.fm website. They also have a free app that you can download (see screen shot below - make sure to get the iPhone Cinch app from BlogTalkRadio). You'll need to open an account and then you can start creating your micro-podcasts (called "cinches") from the website, the iOS app or by phone. It's this ability to create and organize your recordings from multiple sources that makes Cinch an attractive choice (AudioBoo is another similar and very good alternative). Students can create their micro-podcasts using a laptop, iPhone, iPod or iPad in class. They can create them at home on any computer with a web browser. They can even call in their cinch by phone if needed (although it does require a regular toll call). 


Cinch broadcasts can be arranged into "Albums" which are essentially folders in which you store your podcasts. Whenever you record a Cinch podcast you can select which folder to use for storage. One strategy that works well is to create a class Cinch account and then have an album for every student. Each time the student records a podcast they store it in their album. It's important to note that albums can be made public or private. The default state is public - you press Record, speak and your recording can be heard on the web within seconds of you clicking the "Publish" button. Make sure to check school policy when considering whether to make recordings public over the web. If you set the album to be private (by clicking the little lock icon next to the folder name) then only approved users can hear the podcast.

Recording yourself speaking isn't the simple process it seems. Have you ever spontaneously stood in front of a microphone and spoken for several minutes? Effective speaking requires preparation, planning and skill. Talk to your students about the factors that make one person a more effective speaker than another. Discuss the importance of tone and timing. Stress the value of collecting one's thoughts before expressing them.


There are so many ways you can replace that tired old "read the chapter and answer the questions" routine with micro-podcasting in the classroom:

  • Learn about explorers like Columbus by creating a regular podcast from a crew member on his ship that chronicles his voyages across the world. Create an accompanying Google map that traces the voyage along with the podcast.
  • Create a President's Day podcast directed at an ex-President explaining how he enriched the lives of American citizens.
  • Script and act out the interview a famous person (for two people).
  • Practice reading skills. You can keep the podcasts in the student folder and monitor reading progress over the year.
  • Create an audio biography of an elderly person or family member. Include an interview of the person if possible.
  • Use the Reply function to provide students with personalized responses - in text and/or audio.
  • Practice the use of a foreign language. Record a podcast for students and have them listen and respond by creating their own podcasts.


I'm sure you'll also have a wealth of ideas. Include yours in the Comments section below.

Some final things to consider:

  • Cinch podcasts are public by default. Make your albums private if that's a concern.
  • Students have to select which album to use. For example, if you have set up an album for each student then they'll select the one with their name. If they don't select a folder then the default is to leave their recording in the default Main folder - which will always be public.
  • There's no moderation capability. The podcast is available from the moment a student clicks Publish. While you can always delete a cinch, you do not have the opportunity to approve it before it becomes available. That's actually a great opportunity to stress the importance of preparation and planning.
  • Turn off geo-tagging. Cinches, like photos, can contain information that displays exactly where the recording took place. There's not many instances where you'd want your student's exact location revealed to the world. Explain the concept of geo-tagging files and be careful to have them turn off location services when publishing their podcasts.


We all probably spend a far greater percentage of our days talking than writing. If we want our students to be effective, confident oral communicators then we need to help them develop that skill. Micro-podcasting is a great place to start. 


Sam Gliksman


Twitter: @samgliksman

Views: 2271


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Comment by Kamala Schuster on October 27, 2011 at 2:52pm
Thank you.  Worked perfectly!  :)
Comment by Sam Gliksman on October 27, 2011 at 1:01pm



I'd open up an account and give it a generic class name (MySchool-History6). Once you verify your email your account will be ready. Log in and in the top right corner you'll see the link for Albums. Click on it and you can add more Albums. For class use, I would name an album for each student - click the little disk icon next to the name to save it. Click the lock icon next to the name if you decide to keep the Album private.


Once you've set up the Albums you can have each student save their podcast to their own folder.

... and thank you for your nice comment about the webinar. 

Comment by Kamala Schuster on October 27, 2011 at 12:23pm

I need some help setting up a class account.  I haven't been able to do that, and I am not getting prompted to add a folder.  I have set up myself individually.  Do I have to do something else? 


By the way, I attended your podcast on Digital Storytelling in the Classroom.  I really enjoyed it!  Thank you!


Kamala Schuster

Comment by Sam Gliksman on October 27, 2011 at 8:33am
Thanks Charlene. Tony has some excellent resources on his site.
Comment by Charlene Chausis on October 26, 2011 at 9:27pm

Thanks Sam. I am a fan of Audio Boo too. Very much like Cinch, and no accounts are needed if the posts remain anonymous. Accounts ARE required to record from a web browser instead of the app. I like the ability to aggregate the content using the tag words and also to download into iTunes.  I have posted a tutorial for AudioBoo: http://itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/language-arts-apple-summer/id45...

Also, Posterous makes it easy to post a soundbyte online. Tony Vincent has an excellent tutorial here: 



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