Melissa Giddins

Exploring technology and literacy in education.

Podcasting Part Two

I created some podcasts on essay writing in 2008 and have made them available to students at two different schools now but had not really done anything more since then. I wrote a post about those podcasts last year: Recently, I find myself teaching essay writing again and realised that when a student is absent from the lesson where you explain the basics, it really impacts on their learning. As such, I once again started creating podcasts.

I use Audacity to create podcasts as it is easy to use and has options to add other layers such as background music. You can download Audacity for free:

I recently created podcasts on:

  • Planning an Essay Step 1: Part 1: Analysing the Rubric
  • Planning an Essay Step 1: Part 2: Analysing the Question
  • Planning an Essay Step 2: Creating a Thesis

I intend to complete the “Planning an Essay” series with Step 3: Points of argument. Hopefully I will have time to do this soon as I am currently in the midst of the essay writing teaching. I am also looking at a podcast on how to argue conceptually and how to come up with the concepts to argue in the first place, also perhaps one explaining the principles of supporting evidence for your argument. So many ideas, so little time!

Two important recommendations if you are thinking of podcasting: 

  1. Write a script first and read off the script. It makes for a much better flow and a smoother listening experience for your audience.
  2. If the podcast is for students – keep it short. Three to six minutes is about right for their attention span, up to about 10 – 12 minutes as the absolute maximum.

The advent of Moodle as a VLE (virtual learning environment) at my school has created a space where the podcasts can be made available to students, making the whole process considerably easier than in the past. (Had tried leaving them on a shared drive on the school server, providing them to students on a USB drive – all fairly clunky processes that were not overly successful.)

I have an Essay Writing Help topic now on my Year 11 Moodle page and have been able to upload examples, models, interactive writing websites and my podcasts. The feedback from this class of students has indicated that the Essay Writing Help topic and my podcasts have made a big difference in their understanding of essay writing. Particularly, because they can hear the information from me in class, then go home and listen to it again when they are needing the information revised, usually right before writing an essay. Also, those students who miss a lesson due to illness, sporting commitments, excursions, etc are then able to catch up on the information through the podcasts.

Once again, I am reminded of the benefit of podcasts and will continue to utilise them throughout this year, seeking feedback from the students, and will no doubt have learned much more from the process by the end of the year. I may even be able to create a podcast about something else other than essay writing if I can ever finish that series!


May 15, 2010 Posted by | podcasting | , | Leave a comment


Last year, I began experimenting with podcasting for students. I created a series of podcasts with basic information on them.  The kind of information that students forget, and need to be retold every year, and could do with a source for revision.  The podcast topics were:

  • Basic Essay Writing
  • Writing an Essay Introduction
  • Essay Writing in Stage 6 English
  • Poetry Techniques
  • Basic Poetry Analysis

These proved surprisingly popular with students as they could listen to them at home when they were trying to remember how to do something. It brought the teacher into their home and made information they needed more readily available. Not very useful for actual teaching in the classroom – because they are NO substitute for the teacher live, but very useful as a resource for students.  I will add these podcasting files to this blog so that anyone can access them, but no laughing! They were my first attempts.

Bottom line: I highly recommend creating podcasts for students about information they need to know, revise, embed in their learning. Also very useful to get students to create their own podcasts of information they are studying, they can then revise while on the move, listening to it on a MP3 player like iPod.

To create a podcast, you just need a microphone attached to your computer. I would suggest using an easy program like Audacity (which you can download for free on the internet) and writing the script up before you start recording.

Would love to hear other people’s ideas and experiences with podcasts, so please feel free to comment.

April 21, 2009 Posted by | podcasting | , , | 5 Comments

New Technologies, New Stories

I am currently involved in a project entitled ‘New Technologies, New Stories’ which essentially has gathered a group of teachers together from K-12, to each write a unit of work engaging students with technology in order to write narratives.  For me, the project can be summed up in one key question: How can we use technology to improve students’ ability to write narratives? With the imminent arrival of laptops into Year 9 classrooms, it became particularly relevant and lead to a further involvement in the Laptops 4 Learning project.  As such, I am now required to think very specifically about targetting these ideas at Year 9 students.

After letting it all roll around in my brain for a while it has fnally consolidated into a series of ideas, so I thought I would share my current thoughts – comments welcome please!

I came up with seven ideas in my first brain storm and here they are in a highly skeletal form:

1. Multiauthored narrative using a wiki. This was the idea that received initial approval for the New Technologies, New Stories project. The idea is that the class works in groups. Each group creates a wiki.  The wiki is for shaping the world of the narrative, as well as the narrative itself. Prior to beginning to write narratives, the group divides itself into sections and they each set about working and researching different areas of the world of the narrative. It would begin with a big discussion to nail down a few facts (time period, etc) and then students can research for their chosen area: history of the setting, geography, local statistics, local characters – kind of like putting together a tourist brochure for the town their narrative will be set in.  They can make it all up, or choose an existing town.  This will obviously work on their descriptive language skills as well as teaching the art of researching background and giving characters some depth. Once they have a wiki loaded with information about the setting for their narrative, they begin to write a narrative – either collaboratively on the wiki or individually.

2. Reading a class novel then students choosing a character and blogging as that character. Students create a blog as a character of their choice and create an About Me page, then write in response to teacher-provided stimulus questions with the voice of the character they have chosen.

3. ‘Story in instalments’: students blog 3 paragraphs or so in each post. After each post, students are to read other students’ posts and make comments: predictive comments about what they think might come next, feedback regarding the writing, or even write something that could be added to that students’ story – such as the event again from a different character’s perspective, etc. Ideally, the teacher should model this by starting the whole process with the first story instalments, and students would start by commenting on the teacher’s blog story and then go on and begin their own. Students would need at least one lesson per week to post and comment, more likely two, one for posting, one for commenting.

4. Genre study in a wiki. Class wiki is created and students, either individually or in pairs, research different genres and create a class resource (the wiki) that has information about the characteristics of a large number of genres. Genre switch exercises could then be done, either on the wiki or on a teacher blog, where a piece of writing in one genre is rewritten in different genres. 

5. Podcasting radio interview with ‘author’ or characters from a class novel.  Students use a tool such as Audacity (free to download from the web) to create a radio show, complete with music, etc, where they interview the author or various characters from a class novel that has been studied.

6. Vodcast a news item re an event in the narrative. Students record a tv-style news report, with anchors etc, reporting on an event that happened in the novel.  If the new laptops do not come with webcams, students could record on their mobile phones and upload to laptops (shock, horror, did I just suggest actually using the mobile phones they are not supposed to have at school??!!)

7. Creating a trailer for a movie version using MovieMaker. This could be done for either a class novel that has been studied, or for a narrative that the students have written themselves.

Obviously, that is only the skeletal version of each idea.

Step Two in the brainstorming process was the idea of using more than one of those ideas in the same unit of work. For example, what if we did the Genre Study wiki FIRST and then students had all this knowledge and a great resource at their fingertips to enable them to write within a specific genre? Then, the story in instalments would allow students to practice their writing, get immediate feedback from teacher and peers, while laying great groundwork for the big collaborative story writing wiki. Ideas 2, 5, 6 and 7 could all be used in one novel study unit of work rather than a narrative writing unit of work, though I think that Idea 2, blogging as a character, could also be Step 3 in the process towards the collaborative story writing wiki. So putting it all together:

  1. Students could start with the Genre Study Wiki, learning the art of using a wiki and focussed research, and increase their knowledge and understanding of various genres. (Almost like jigsaw cooperative learning with technology!)
  2. Students then (or at the same time) begin understanding blogging through the Story in Instalments Blogging activity.
  3. Students then create a character and begin to blog as that character, answering stimulus questions provided by the teacher.
  4. Students work in groups to create a wiki that is the imaginary world of their narrative, and then work to write a narrative that incorporates the setting they have created, their understanding of genre and the characters they have made (and have been blogging with).

Now I am off to investigate these ideas in more depth – work out what will and won’t be included in the final proposal, and the overall value or worth of these activities in relation to meeting syllabus outcomes, etc. There will no doubt be further posts about this project, as it starts to take shape.

P.S. If you saw an idea on here that you like, take it and run with it, but be sure to let me know how it went! I would be most interested.

April 21, 2009 Posted by | New Technologies New Stories | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments