What is Podcasting?
Though storytelling is an age-old tradition, podcasting is a novel tool for many people. The term podcast is derived from Apple's iPod technology and the word broadcast. When these two words merged, the terms podcast, podcaster, and the art of podcasting were born. Unlike live broadcasts, podcasts offer inherent flexibility-- they are defined by the user's ability to download onto a portable device and listen whenever it's convenient.
Podcast types are many and its topics are vast: interviews, comedy, movie reviews, music, how-to, journalism, narrative nonfiction, fiction, personal essay, and conversations between friends (like NPR's StoryCorps podcast) are just some examples on offer. Every idea has a place on the podcasting table. One of the best ways to prepare to produce a podcast is to listen to a variety of existing podcasts. This listening exercise will help you get a sense of what resonates with you, and help you discover your unique podcast personality.
Podcasting in the Classroom
"...I firmly believe with every ounce of my soul that the way forward for our country, our common humanity, is to try to understand the experience of others." - Rachel Martin
WHY PODCASTING IN THE CLASSROOM
Producing podcasts in educational settings not only meets cross-disciplinary and core literacy standards, but also offers students a creative, hands-on, and focused project that expresses their passions in a guided learning environment. Podcasting projects deepen collaboration, research, writing, interviewing, voicing, technical, time management, organization, critical thinking, and project completion skills.
Teachers who take the plunge into this digital storytelling art-form will enable learners to build future-ready technical skills, foster media literacy (including students' ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create, and act using all forms of communication), and spark civic engagement in critical and relevant socio-emotional, environmental, educational, or political issues.
Read here about an English teacher's experience with her students' podcast projects after reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and how these projects helped students master content, solve problems, and feel confident in taking creative risks.
THE PODCASTING PRODUCTION PHASES
Creating a podcast is a multistage process. The following steps explain podcast construction from start to finish, including the preproduction, production, and postproduction processes. This exercise serves as an introduction to the key elements of audio storytelling, including choosing a topic, writing a script, interviewing guests, voiceover work, and editing. All of these critical digital storytelling elements are designed for teachers to build media literacy and digital storytelling skills that highlight media arts as a teaching strategy in the classroom.
LISTEN FOR INSPIRATION
One of the best scaffolding activities for podcasting is to listen to a diversity of podcast types covering a broad variety of content. Visit the media gallery and listen to selection of youth-produced podcasts and professional podcasts. The wide array of podcasting styles and voices presented in this selection can help the listener find his or her voice, or podcasting personality.
Here are a few things to pay attention to while listening:
- Does the podcast present an informal or formal tone?
- What is the style of the podcast? Some stylistic possibilities include conversational, personal, investigational, humorous, scientific, or essay-based presentations, as well as persuasive commentary. Most often, podcasts incorporate more than one style.
- Who is telling the story or hosting the podcast? Is there more than one host? How do they work together?
- What is the topic and message of the podcast?
- What audio storytelling elements are used to help tell the story? Interviews? Music? Sound effects?
To further guide your process, and after listening to a few different styles of podcasts, try to jot down answers to the following questions:
- What do I want to gain from listening to a podcast? Possible ideas include laughter, humor, or stress-relief; learning something new about people, places, topics; engaging deeply with specific themes like true crime, science education, or art history; self-help or mindful awareness; getting new ideas or trade tips; or being thrilled by the shock value of an event, conversation, or idea.
- What kind of structure do I like best? So many structural variations exist: think about what resonates most. Short podcasts that are less than ten minutes long? Serial podcasts that delve intimately into a topic or theme? Others are divided into parts (e.g., Part I, Part II, Part III). Some offer content based on current events; others are structured like a book, creating a longer narrative for listeners to enjoy; still others are divided into parts (e.g., Part I, Part II, Part III).
- Who do I want to target as my audience? Other teachers? Young people? People interested in a certain theme or topic?
- What kind of tone suits me? Consider personal preference for which tone or style fits best. Some style options include conversational, formal and scripted, science-based engagement, or a more intimate personal essay approach.
- What audio elements do I like? Interview? Music transitions? Sound effects? News clips?
CHOOSE A TOPIC
Brainstorming (Individual or Group)
Next, dive deeply into the ideas that surfaced during listening: tap into your experience, knowledge, and creativity to present an end product that others enjoy and that benefits listeners. Individually (or in a small group of three to four,) start spilling podcasting content ideas onto paper and write down anything that comes to mind. Remember that every idea has a place on the podcasting table. Or, apply a brainstorming tool like mind mapping: write one topic idea in the middle of the paper, drawing a line to each related detail around the topic (what, who, why, where, when and how). Another similar option is a target map. These maps help create a visual outline of thoughts and ideas that can be communicated to others.
Topic Ideas for the Classroom
Teachers: if the class is being assigned a prompt or idea for the podcast, the brainstorm sessions look a little different. Write the topic in the middle of a target map. Invite students to brainstorm story ideas for the assigned prompt by filling out the outer circles of the map. Another way to hone the podcast topic is for students to choose three brainstormed prompts, create a story idea for each prompt, and pick the best one. Following are possible topic ideas to build from:
- Tell the audience story about your school or community, about something that happened there -- recently or in the past -- that you want to communicate.
- Describe a critical moment in history that all students could benefit from understanding.
- Explain the changes you want to see happen in the world, now or in the future.
- Teach the audience something that kids understand and grownups don't.
Consider the following questions when honing the podcast topic:
- What obstacles might arise during the creation of the podcast?
- What is the value of this podcast? It's likely this topic or story is not unique or original to you. But your voice is unique: no one can tell this story the same way that you can. Consider what makes your voice, experience, story, or perspective on the chosen idea or topic relevant and singular. Try to define and magnify the "unique ingredient" that brings distinction to your ownership of this content. What freshness or authenticity are you bringing to this topic or idea?
- What elements will define the podcast's structure? Think about how the following sample of structural options can amplify your podcasting voice and emphasize your unique ingredient: a conversation as a group; an interview with one person; or, a host-narrated story that includes clips of interviews and supporting sound effects.
- What elements will create the podcast's soundscape? Think about what sounds will add depth and meaning to the story. Some ideas might be the ambient sounds of nature or a city street; a passing ambulance; a crackling fire; a crying baby; or, a ticking clock. Many other copyright-free sound effects can be found in the copyright section.
- Consider the most effective way of dividing the workload within a group. Delegating writing, hosting, producing, and editing duties is essential during group work. Depending on the size of the group and the overall podcast design, each of these work categories can include more than one person.
- Writer: Writer responsibilities include creating interview questions or writing the hostâs narrative script, often with help from the producer or host.
- Host: The host (or hosts) embodies the primary voice for the podcast, and narrates the script or conducts the interviews.
- Producer: Producers wear many hats. Often, the producer runs the schedule and helps the group execute the plan. Producers also manage recording as well as the compilation and editing of sound for the final product.
- Editor: Deciding what content to cut or keep requires group collaboration. Once content is established, the editor cuts and refines audio footage in editing software and mixes the audio, which includes layering the interviews, narration, music, and sound effects. For a great NPR tutorial on mixing, click here.
- How and where to share your podcast? Teachers and students can discuss pros and cons of publicizing or privatizing podcast content. A private YouTube channel might be ideal for some. Otherwise, (and with the right release forms in place), use the links below to access public podcast platforms that support sharing and can enable students to reach an authentic public audience.
- SoundCloud: Soundcloud is a popular (and free!) sound-sharing platform. Upload and discover all types of audio--from sound clips to podcasts to complete albums. The free version has a space limit.
- Spotify: Create a free account to access and post new content to a vast bank of podcasts all organized by topic, such as science, history, self-help, or true crime.
- Stitcher: A very popular site that connects millions of creators with engaged listeners. Keep tabs on how many people have tuned in with Stitcherâs no-cost data metrics.
- Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Buzzsprout are other options; take time to decide which platform is the best fit. Designing and implementing a sharing plan helps students see the intrinsic value of their efforts in the lives of others and creates an external motivation for students to upload their work.
Write down five possible topics you are interested in.
For each topic, write one sentence explaining why this topic would make a good podcast.
THE PODCAST PITCH
Once a fresh and solid podcast concept and plan is in place, the next step is to PITCH IT! A pitch is a written paragraph or a 30-45 second verbal description that magnifies the interesting singularity and unique nature of your podcast story or idea. Sometimes called an "elevator pitch," the pitch starts, finishes, and effects change in the listener in the time it takes for a normal elevator ride. Practicing podcast pitches is a real-world skill that hones communication aptitudes including writing, presenting, and persuading an audience to buy into an idea. Get familiar with podcast pitches by listening to some sample pitches from Youth Radio stories.
- Must be Succinct (30-45 seconds)
- Easy to Understand
- Needs to Inspire
Students can pitch their idea to other peers, to the teacher, as a presentation to the class, or to a panel of judges. Or, students can write their pitch and voice it into a recording device (a smartphone with a voice recording app, another handheld recording device, or straight into a computer using an external mic). Using a tool like Adobe Spark Video creates a video pitch with visuals that can be shared for critique and feedback.
OTHER THINGS TO ADD WHEN WRITING YOUR PITCH
You can write your pitch similarly to the sample pitches you just saw, and you can add any of the elements below. Your pitch does not need to have ALL of these elements.
- What is your podcast/episode about? Who will be in the story?
- Pose a question you want the podcast to address
- Why will people want to listen?
- Emphasize the D.O.P.E. of your story, or why people should be excited about it.
- Keep it conversational! Write your pitch as if you were talking to a friend.
- Sound Elements you will include (music, interview, etc.)
Take a look at a few sample pitches from Youth Radio stories.
Teachers, as the Executive Producer and in order to green light the podcast concept and plan, here are some guidelines for what to look for and why you might send them back to the drawing board:
- the topic is focused, relevant and entertaining.
- students have a unique angle and grasp on the subject matter.
- the idea is realistic; students have access to the interviewees, etc.
The following list is courtesy of Youth Radio/NPR:
Example: "I heard this new band called U2"
Why Not? This may be news to you but your discovery has already been discovered.
Instead: Is there anything new that you could bring to this story? How about finding a local story with a fresh focus.
"The Long-Distance Pitch"
Example: "I think we should really be covering the conflict in the middle east."
Why Not? What could you bring to this story from halfway around the world?
Instead: Try finding a local angle on global politics, like covering a nearby protest or talking to people who have moved from the area you're interested in.
"The Aspirational Pitch"
Example: "I wanna do an in depth profile of Beyonce."
Why Not? You probably don't have access. (If you do, can you hook us up with tickets?)
Instead: Maybe there's some impact her music and celebrity power has had on your community?
Example: "I want to report on poverty in America."
Why Not? This is a better topic for a book than a radio story
Instead: Try to break off a piece of this issue that could be addressed in 4.5 minutes. How are people accessing a new distribution system for welfare benefits?
Example: "I want to do a story about why all boys love sports."
Why Not? That's based on assumption and not necessarily fact. Also is there something new or surprising that we could learn from the story?
Instead: Look for evidence rather than anecdotes. Maybe the story is about how and why that stereotype persists and whether or not it's changing. Or you could use their idea and do a story about a common assumption that all boys love sports.
"The Fake Trend"
Example: "I've been playing a new video game so I figure everyone else is too."
Why Not? Personal interests can be a good start for a story but it's more interesting to others if it's part of a larger issue.
Instead: Research to verify if the trend is real or reframe the story as a first-person commentary.
- Cross out any topics you now think won't work and narrow it down to two.
- Are your topics too broad? If so, make them more focused-- use the checklist below to check that your topic meets the requirements for of what makes a good podcast.
- Write a pitch for each of your two topics (use the samples as guidelines)
- Now pitch your ideas. (We encourage students to voice their pitch using one of the many online or face-to-face options listed above in the "pitch criteria" section.)
- Peers vote on which of the two pitches were stronger and discuss why.
What Makes a Good Podcast Checklist
- Is my topic focused? or too broad?
- Is my focus on the topic new and unique?
- Is my topic realistic? (I have access to the people I will use in my podcast)
- In what way is my topic entertaining? And to whom?
Digital data management can be overwhelming: teachers often lack the time for ample preparation or underestimate how critical digital storage preparation time is in supporting the success of student projects; keeping up with ever-changing technology can be intimidating; and firewalls and other limitations can limit access to some data-sharing sites. Collaboration with a workplace or district IT specialist and/or Library Media person during project preparation can ameliorate these limitations and make file management easier.
Flow protocol for media arts sessions involves charging and checking out equipment, logging into computers, downloading editing and mixing software, setting up accounts on file-sharing platforms or creating a classroom sharing network on a hard drive, accessing files, and sharing, saving, copying, and storing files. With practice, these elements become easier. Ask questions and network with fellow teachers who have already implemented flow protocols.
Storing, Transferring, and Organizing Media Files
Learning to upload, organize, share, and store digital files is a critical step towards achieving flow. Answer the following questions to develop a functional and easy-to-use digital infrastructure for your podcast project:
- What storage options are available?
- What option is easy for students to access?
- Do I want to store projects in the cloud (think OneDrive, Google Drive, or Drop Box)? Or, do I want to store projects on portable hard drives, computers, or iPads for the duration of the project? Hardware storage requires backup: what will that look like?
- Does the file storage capability and/or project workflow software need to be compatible with my Learning Management System (LMS) such as Canvas, Schoology, Blackboard or Google Classroom?
Organizing Media Files
Creating an organizational file hierarchy on your computer or within your video or audio editing software (Premiere Pro and Audition have a bin system) is essential for project success and for reducing technological frustration. Available audio editing software options are described in the next section. Teaching groups of students how to organize media assets will enable students to easily resume work in the next class session; direct instruction is paramount for teaching these fundamental lifelong skills. A sample media file organizational structure follows:
Build a habit of organizing media content by following these guidelines:
- Designate a permanent place for all media files. Moving files often means losing files. Once editing has begun, moving a file breaks the link and creates more work.
- Create and name folders in a logical hierarchy.
- Nest subfolders within folders.
- File content as soon as it is created.
- Should I delegate one student per production group to be in charge of data transfer as part of his/her assigned responsibilities?
- Identify the troubleshooters in the class. Do I have an adult who can help troubleshoot during this project?
- Can my IT person or library media specialist work with these students to set up the best flow?
- What recording devices are available? Some include smartphones, iPads, or Zoomâs audio recorder. How do I transfer files and data from this device to an editing platform? *See the Editing and Mixing Audio section for tips.
- Handheld recorders such as a Zoom H4n (reference the Equipment section) have SD memory cards which need to be transferred to a computer in order to edit: do we need an SD card reader or do our computers have SD card ports?
- If students are working with Apple products -- recording on iPhones and editing on Macs -- is Airdrop the best transfer method? Can we test this option to make sure the internet bandwidth supports this transfer method?
- Transferring smaller files is always easier. Can we establish a recording time limit to ensure files remain smaller than 5MB?
- How can we make our recording devices and our editing computers compatible?
- How do I prevent files from getting deleted, corrupted, or lost? Can I regularly make copies of the files / folders onto a master external drive?
Podcasts can be created with equipment already on hand, like a built-in audio recording app that comes with your phoneâyou donât need much else. Watch this video for some tips on how to record good-quality sound on a smartphone: How to Record High Quality Sound with Your Phone. Purchasing a compatible external mic will boost the sound quality of your recordings. See a list of podcasting equipment by clicking here.
Helpful Equipment Tips
- Check and charge all equipment before using; always carry chargers and extra batteries.
- Get familiar with your equipment by watching online video tutorials
- If possible, bring back-up equipment and record the session with two different recorders (for example, a phone with a lavalier as well as a handheld recorder with a shotgun mic.)
- If the recording device uses an SD card, procure an SD card reader or a computer with an SD card port to transfer the data.
Sound Scavenger Hunt For Ambient Sounds
It's your turn to record, organize, and store! This activity is threefold and includes practicing with recording equipment; deepening the experience of collecting, transferring, saving, and organizing media files; and, accessing online, copyright-free music and sound effects resources.
Record the following:
- 3 different sounds of water
- 2 different sounds of transportation
- 2 annoying sounds
- 2 pleasant sounds
- 2 different voices
Collect the following from a copyright-free site:
- 2 animal sounds
- 1 weather sound
- 2 tool sounds
- 1 piece of music (this can be a recording of music you make, or an online download of copyright-free music from a royalty-free site
Create the following folders and subfolders on your computer or hard drive:
- Project Folder
- Narration:Later, your pitch recording belongs in this folder.
- Interview: Your classmate interview belongs in this folder.
- Ambient Sounds
- Sound effects: saveall recorded and gathered sound effects from the Sound Scavenger Hunt.
- Music: the music you created or collected from the internet).
Good job! Doesn't it feel good to have all your files organized and easy to access? Habituating to this process allows you to spend more energy focusing on your podcast storyline and content, facilitates more effective group work, and improves the quality of your podcast product.
The art of interviewing requires practice, preparation, and flexibility--fundamentally, a successful interview is built on discovering connection with another person by weaving together the common threads of humanity and experience. A successful interview signals thorough preparation: creating a variety of penetrating, relevant questions; showing thoughtful listening skills by cueing into the details of the other person's story; and carving out space and time for another person to share something important.
Conducting interviews is important on so many levels. The preparation includes researching, writing questions, corresponding, and scheduling. The process of directing an interview enables the interviewer to move through initial nervous feelings and develop interpersonal and communication skills by making genuine connections with another person. Using a recording device and microphone develops technical literacy skills.
Explore different interview techniques by listening to sample interviews that employ different styles. Decide which style best fits your podcast. Read through the Interview Strategies and Tips and the Interview Recording Checklist sheets below. Consider printing these and taking them, along with prepared questions, equipment, and notepad, to the interview.
It's your turn to conduct an interview. Reread the Interview Strategies and Tips handout and follow the parameters below.
- Two classmates interview each other.
- Keep each interview under 5 minutes.
- Record using either your phone with a voice memo app or a recording device with a microphone (see the equipment section)
- By the end of the interview, make sure you have learned something new about your peer. Suggested interview prompt: Tell me something about yourself that most people don't know. Start with broad questions and narrow the focus as the interview progresses: ask about hobbies or interests and narrow the field to a specific sport they practice; ask about vivid memories and narrow the field to a scary or unnerving experience; ask about favorite music and narrow the field to a precise song and its meaning.
- Exchange interviews with another group, listen, and provide feedback: was the interview a success? What did you learn? What did the other group do well? What could they improve?
WRITING YOUR SCRIPT
Some podcasts are scripted: a scripted podcast means planning out and writing down everything the host(s) or narrator(s) will say beforehand. When it's time to record, the narrator reads from the script in a conversational tone. A script serves as a visual outline for each podcast element, including clear indications of when the narrator(s) will speak, when sounds or interview clips will be played, and the duration of each pre-recorded sound or clip.
Writing a script happens after getting tape--interview recordings, or audio from other recordings such as a news clip, or a movie soundbite. When editing tape, aim to select the most informative, valuable, and entertaining parts of the interview or other relevant audio clips. Write the podcast story around these soundbites, scripting the narration to be voiced by the host(s) and including the other interview segments and sounds.
Appropriate script formatting creates a roadmap for the editing process. The hostâs narration segments are called tracks; the words spoken by other people are termed acts or actualities. Formatting options are many and varied: review this sample script from SQ Media. In this sample script, notice that tracks are formatted in all caps; acts are in boldface type.
Write and narrate a short script that tells the story of what you learned about your peer during your interview. Follow the parameters below and refer to the sample script for guidelines.
- Narration: In two to three paragraphs, describe what you learned from your peer during the interview.
- Sound bites: As you relisten to the interview, choose two or three informative and/or entertaining soundbites. Tell the story by transcribing those soundbites into your script as acts (words spoken by other people), and write your narration tracks around these bites.
- Sound effect: Include at least one sound effect. Indicate what the sound effect is and note where it belongs in the script.
- Music or theme song (optional).
NARRATING/VOICING YOUR SCRIPT
The next step is narrating the script. Be gentle on yourself. Adjusting to the recorded sound of your voice takes time. Making mistakes while recording is normal, even for professionals! Keep in mind that professionally-produced podcasts sound perfect because they are heavily treated with audio photoshop: all the trip-ups, stammers, "ummm," and "uh-huh" fillers are removed to create a smooth and seamless delivery. Keep trying, be persistent: delivery improves with practice. Follow these pointers for a better outcome:
- Roadmap the script using the tools below:
- Narrate with a partner so they can read along, listen, and catch mistakes.
- Test and set microphone levels. For a clear capture, speak into your mic as if you are recording. Adjust the gain (the mic input) until the meter displays audio peaks in the -10dB range.
- Slow down! Talk more slowly than you think you need to. (Most podcast newbies race through the script. Adopt a conversational tone.)
- Eliminate noise distractions during narration (refer to the Interview Strategies and Tips sheet for ideal recording conditions).
- When you stumble, go back. Take a breath. Reread the whole paragraph or at least the whole sentence. Having more options to choose from makes editing easier and provides greater flexibility in determining the final style and sound of the podcast.
- Have fun! Practicing a consistent tone and vocal cadence helps refine your voice and lets your personality shine.
6 ELEMENTS OF VOICING
How loud are you speaking?
Not too fast or too slow
Adhering to punctuation, stress and intonation
What feeling are you conveying?
Does your voice reflect the subject of your script?
Postproduction is a journey of imagination--music sets the mood, and sound effects like footsteps, wind, a creaking door, fire, thunder, sirens, or a coin dropping help add depth and realism to the story. Postproduction work involves choosing and implementing editing software, converting file types, audio editing and mixing, exhibition, and branding. In group work, one to two students are designated editors (though all group participants can provide input). Since editing requires time and persistence, assigning shorter-length podcasts (3-5 minutes) is a must in most classrooms.
If possible, train editors in small groups on the available editing software. Prior editing experience, however minimal, streamlines final editing and mixing. The following content provides recommendations to guide the highly creative postproduction processes of making a podcast, including choosing appropriate audio editing software, a step-by-step editing and mixing guide, and how-to exhibition directions for publicizing finalized projects.
All of the software listed below is perfectly suited to create podcasts. Adobe Audition is an industry standard, but requires access to the Adobe Creative Cloud. Work in tandem with an IT person to clarify whether a downloaded software or web-based software option is the best fit. This site carries recommendations for web-based (online) editing software.
The following is a list of recommended software that can be downloaded to school computers or tablets:
- Adobe Audition: $20/mo for educators and compatible with Mac or Windows; comes with creative cloud package.
- Audacity Download: Includes a free computer download for any computer; not compatible with tablets.
- Audacity For Chromebook Audacity Audacity might be the most popular audio editing software for school use.
- Garage Band: A free editing software tool built into Mac devices.
- Reaper: More intuitive and easier to use than Audacity, Reaper is a professional-quality software that is also superior to GarageBand. Compatible with Mac or Windows, the one-time purchase cost for a school license is $60; however, Reaper offers an evaluation period that allows the user to run the program at no cost for an extended length of time.
- Hindenburg Journalist (Pro): $90-$375 and compatible with Mac and Windows. A user-friendly and uniquely cross-platform software, Hindenburg offers easy-to-follow online tutorials. Cross-platform means Hindenburg software can easily interface with other media software. For example, an interview can take place on Skype and be directly recorded on a Hindenburg track to facilitate rapid editing.
File converters enable smooth transitions between software types. Podcast production involves synthesizing multiple file formats: pulling the audio out of a video file, saving a sound effect download from a copyright-free site, and using emailed interview clips may result in different file types that are unrecognized by or incompatible with available editing software. Using one of the following file converters enables disparate file types to be synthesized into a unified final product:
- Switch: Mac only. Free and super easy and dependable.
- Wondershare: Windows file converter
- Handbrake: Windows or Mac compatible. Open Source, so free, converter that is easy to use and dependable.
AUDIO EDITING AND MIXING
Most podcasts are a synthesis of audio clips from different sources. A podcast news story might include audio elements of the reporter's voice, a few interviews, music, and some ambient, scene-setting sounds. Editing involves cutting the tape of these individual elements to reflect the essential pieces of the podcast storyline. Mixing is the cohesive process of creating balance, consistency, and clarity by arranging and layering different edited elements. Although audio mixing is a professional art form, anyone with a good idea, basic equipment, and practice can create a decent-sounding story. During mixing, consider yourself the composer of a symphony: the tracks of tape, music, and sounds are the strings, horns, and percussion. Put figurative pencil to paper and create an arrangement by synthesizing these disparate elements. For a comprehensive mixing tutorial from National Public Radio (NPR) read this: How to Mix: 8 steps to master the art of mixing audio stories.
STEP 1: Import and Organize Media
Open the editing software. Import media files from the computer into the editing software. Organize media files into separate tracks. Group similar audio files on individual tracks. Label the tracks. Watch online tutorials to get more familiar with specific editing software.
Following is a common layout for any audio story; arrange tracks in this order:
Actualities (interviews and other people) audio.
Ambience (sound effects; noises relevant to the story fabric).
Music (keeping music on its own track is easier).
STEP 2: Edit Tape
Listen to your interviews and other recordings. Cut out unnecessary tape. While editing each track, mute all the other tracks. Organize the tape to tell the story (if you have a script, place the tracks according to the order on the script).
STEP 3: Rough-in Levels
Adjust the levels of each track so every voice is roughly the same volume. Audio gain is a feature available on some editing software that automatically adjusts volume levels. When using this feature, double-check the volume on each track after applying audio gain.
More advanced podcasters might utilize EQ (equalization) or compression adjustments: check if tracks have tonal issues that can be fixed with equalization; determine if compression adds clarity to the dynamic range of your recordings. When listening to recorded audio tracks, consider the following:
- Does the person speak evenly and consistently?
- Does the speaker sound strong and present?
- If the listening level is turned down halfway, can you still understand every word?
STEP 4. Music and Ambience
Arrange the music and other ambient sounds around the voices telling the story. Add fades: fade-in; fade-under; and/or crossfades. Refer to the script for correct placement of music tracks.
STEP 5. Refine
Fine-tune the levels. Create aural balance by smoothing out the volume of each track: often, music transitions can be jarring because the music is too soft or too loud during transitions around spoken voices.
STEP 6. Listen
Listen to the whole piece and make any last adjustments. Walk away.
STEP 7. Listen Again
After some time has passed, listen again to the whole project with fresh ears. When you are satisfied, render, share, or export the podcast (the terms are all synonymous and different software programs use different terminology, but each process results in the same thing). Rendering or exporting a project blends all the separate tracks into one file. Save the file as a WAV file and as an MP3 in your "export" folder. (WAV files are bigger but better quality. It is nice to have both.)
Edit and mix the interview from the production section. Watch online sample tutorials for your editing and mixing software. Reference the script example from the script section as a roadmap and follow the parameters below:
- Narration: Import the recorded script narration into the first track and edit by cutting out unwanted parts.
- Interview: Import the selected interview bites into the second track and place accordingly. Implement necessary edits by cutting out unwanted parts.
- Sound effects: Record or download the sound effect(s) for this podcast. Import the sound effect(s) into the third track and place accordingly. Fading the sound effect in and out smooths out the sound.
- Music: Add music by importing it into the fourth track. Choose and cut the part of the song(s) you want to use, and place it accordingly. Theme music often begins and ends a podcast, but music can be used as a transition as well.
Mix Your Podcast
- Adjust audio levels until each track sounds balanced.
- Add a fade-in at the beginning of the piece and fade-out at the end.
- Render, or combine all the tracks into one, and export the podcast.
Branding Your Podcast
Billboards, Intros, and Outros/End Tags
Regular listeners of podcasts will notice audio branding. Much like the theme song on TV shows, the consistent sound collage or theme music that begins podcasts is a form of branding. Following the music, the host or hosts introduce themselves and explain the podcast's overall subject or theme in a brief segment called a billboard. An intro follows the billboard, explaining the day's topic. Podcasts usually end with an end tag or outro that includes thanking sponsors, encouraging listeners to subscribe, promoting other podcasts or upcoming shows, or announcing relevant events.
Following are billboard, intro, and outro/end tag script samples from a youth podcast, produced in partnership with the University of Utah biology department that brings science programming to youth-in-care. Listen to them here. Find the Wake-Up Call! podcast series on Soundcloud.
BILLBOARD (NARRATED BY HOSTS)
HOST 1: Welcome to Wake Up Call! I'm Suzi Montgomery,
HOST 2: This is Sheri Quinn,
HOST 3: And I'm Jiovani Medina.
HOST 1: This project is part of mission StemCap, an effort led by Nalini Nadkarni to bring science education and communication to the incarcerated and other science-disenfranchised populations.
HOST 2: Wake Up Call! is produced by teenagers from five different youth-in-custody facilities in Utah.
HOST 2: Each center tackles one of the five major issues threatening life on this earth identified by Stanford scientists.
Film Clip (Racing Extinction) - Biggest Story on the Planet...
HOST 3: In our first series, Extinction, eight teenage girls housed at Genesis in Salt Lake City were inspired by the film Racing Extinction and visiting scientists - Allison Anholt and Nalini Nadkarni, and artist Bonnie Shaw.
HOST 3: The girls worked with the three of us to bring this message to our listeners.
INTRODUCTION (narrated by youth)
STUDENT 1: You are listening to Wake Up Call!, a podcast about the challenges we face dealing with extinction, climate disruption, pollution, and over-consumption. Through our stories, we aim to inspire you to do something that will literally help save the world.
TWO STUDENTS TOGETHER: Listen and be a part of the solution!
STUDENT 2: And, we want to be sure to thank our supporters, the Utah State Board of Education, and JJS, the Juvenile Justice Service.
STUDENT 1: Here is our first series, Fighting Extinction One Person at a Time.
END TAG/OUTRO: (narrated by youth)
STUDENT 1: The stories in this series Wake Up Call! are about the defining issues of our time. We are speaking out with many other young people across the world to change the future and help make the planet a better place for all of us. This podcast was made possible by the Utah State Board of Education, and the Juvenile Justice Service. You can find all of our episodes at StemCap.org or look for us on SoundCloud.
STUDENTS 1& 2 TOGETHER: Better light one candle than curse the darkness. Thanks for listening!
The final step in this creative process is to name and brand your podcast. Naming and branding take considerable planning. Collaboration helps: try creating a podcast show with your peers on the topic of "learn something new" based on your completed interviews. Or, working independently, treat your podcast as the first episode of a new show. What is the title of the podcast? What elements set it apart to make it unique and recognizable?
Tips for Implementing Podcasting in the Classroom
- Reserve equipment, including microphones, audio recording devices, and computers with audio or video editing software.
- Plan out access to interview participants' quiet rooms, and possible recording and/or shooting locations.
- Create official podcast crew badges that students can wear as they move to recording locations or when they record ambient sounds inside the school or on school grounds.
- Designate a cabinet/bin where props or supplies are easily accessible.
- Develop an equipment checkout/in system.
- Decide where students will keep collateral materials associated with their projects including completed handouts or media files.
- E.g., Will materials be stored on Google Drive, in student folders on the school server, or on paper files kept in the classroom?
- Assign each student or group to a specific set of equipment (e.g., a computer, recording device, and microphone) that he/she will use throughout the project.
- Decide on an exhibition format (online or in-school) and date.
- Create or access an online list of links to youth-produced media that students can access, listen to, and watch.
EXPECTATIONS AND CLASS ROUTINES
- Establish and post classroom guidelines for technology use in visible places in the classroom and online. A classroom technology guideline example is, "Do not open or use the device until instructed."
- Arrange the classroom to monitor progress and minimize distractions. Create seating charts based on the types of activities that students will do. For group work, allow students to sit with other group members. For individual work, arrange desks so that students face the screen rather than each other.
- Display instructions for the day on the board and on the class website. Include the types of technologies that the students will use such as the URLs (links) to any online resources, apps, or online educational resources. Specify a time frame for each activity to help them pace themselves appropriately.
- Use a timer with a bell or buzzer. Display the timer in full view of the class so that students can pace themselves.
- In the few minutes before students put away their devices, establish end-of-class routines that remind students to share or submit and save or backup their work. Consider developing an end-of-class routine that gives students ownership of recharging equipment.
- Conduct a mini-lesson on the issue of digital distractions in the classroom and the myth of multitasking. Have students take the horizontal line test and/or watch and discuss The Monkey Business Illusion.
Create a system to manage student progress throughout the project, like a tracking board that hangs on a classroom wall or a project progress tracker handout that includes:
- The details and due dates for each required task associated with distinct parts of the media-making process:
- Preproduction: choosing a topic, conducting research, writing and delivering the pitch, and script writing.
- Production: recording interviews and ambient sounds as well as gathering or recording music.
- Postproduction: editing, rough-cut review, and final cut.
- Space for students to sign/initial and date when a specific task is completed.
- Space for a teacher or peer to sign/initial and date that they have reviewed the student's completed task.
- Give students instructions on how to complete several tasks. Allow students to work through the tasks at their own pace.
- Students who finish first can provide peer feedback to other students who are still working and/or work on an alternative activity.
- An alternative activity is watching listening to youth-produced media to get ideas and inspiration or work on building something for the final exhibition.
STUDENT MEDIA ASSISTANTS
Assign students specific leadership roles in the classroom. This will empower students, create more student buy-in to the project, and decrease teacher responsibility.
- Manage the equipment checkout/in system.
- Report on the condition of equipment.
- Review other students' work.
The following list isn't comprehensive, but does include affordable, tried-and-true equipment that facilitates podcasting in the classroom. Prices are in US dollars.
RELATED MEDIA ARTS PAGES