Thursday, April 16, 2009
Fourth Grade Podcasting
This is the second year in a row that my fourth grade students have created podcasts in Garageband. This year, I'm going to tie it into an Internet safety lesson.
The Project Outline
We started the project back in January. I have an outline document created in Word. The students are paired in groups of two. Depending upon the number of students in the class, I may have one group of three students.
The students open the document from the file server. They take turns being the interviewer and interviewee. Whoever is interviewing asks the questions and types the answers. By this point, the students are very good at basic word processing skills. They use proper capitalization, grammar, and spelling. They use one space between words and after punctuation marks. They understand word wrap and do not press the return at the end of lines. If we have students new to our school, this project gives them a partner to review and practice word processing skills. They switch seats and roles and complete the next interview.
When they are finished, they print a copy of the script and I review the copy for school appropriate language. I sometimes request more details.
Next Comes the Fun Part - Musical Intro
We open Garageband and learn how to open the Loop Browser. They learn to drag loops onto the time line, delete tracks, stretch and shorten loops, and delete segments of music. The program becomes a favorite piece of software for downtime when they complete projects the remainder of the year.
Recording the Script
Once all the scripts are typed and approved and the intro is complete, we get out the headphone mics to record the podcast. In this example from last year, we used the built-in microphones. There was so much background noise. This year, I was able to purchase some USB headphone mics. The Mac seems to only recognize one headset at a time. The students took turns recording questions and answers. The results are much better. I think you can hear the difference in this example. There were the same number of students in the room all recording at the same time.
One of my biggest disappointments in Garageband, and iMovie for that matter, is that it automatically brings up the last file in progress. This has resulted in file changes on several occassions. They were not malicious changes, students just didn't realize they were editing someone else's work and saved the changes by mistake.
As a result, when the students are finished, I come to each machine and save twice: once in the Garageband folder and a second time in the Documents folder. I name the file with the year, class, and student's names: 0809-4a-Ann-Kathy. I use the Share option to Export the Song to Disk as an MP3.
Even Out the Sound Levels
The music clips can be louder than the voices, so I've been using The Levelator to even out the sound levels. The only problem is that the file has to be a WAV or AIFF file. Zamzar comes to the rescue. I upload the file, wait for an email to tell me it's been converted, and download the WAV version of the file.
Levelator is so easy. I just drag the WAV file to the program and it generates a new file with the word "output" in the file name.
Where to Place the Files
I have chosen Podomatic to host my files. I started out with a free account. It is great, but I have decided to spend $99 to upgrade the account. It removes ads from the podcast page, gives me more storage space, and gives me detailed statistics.
Even in the free mode it is great. I copied the RSS feed for the podcast page to iTunes and the students can download their podcasts onto their iPods at home.
Tie-in to Internet Safety
One of the topics that I review each year with students is the concept of public and private information. This year, I plan to teach the lesson and then have the students review each podcast and determine how well their classmates did in keeping private information off the Internet.