(by Guest Blogger Maria Burnham, from Sauk Rapids-Rice High School; read about our visit to her library!)
I’ve been a big fan of podcasts for a long time, and I love that podcasts are, once again, on the radar and a popular topic of conversation. Several times over the last few months I’ve heard people say, “Have you listened to [insert podcast name]? It’s so great!” Podcasts sometimes feel like short little audio books; perfect snippets for those of us with limited spare time or those of us with commitment issues. I listen to popular podcasts like Serial and Hidden Brain, literary podcasts like The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor, music podcasts like Tiny Desk, and book podcasts like Book Riot.
Recently, I decided that it was time to take podcasting into my own hands. I’m an avid reader, and because of my role as the school’s “librarian” (even though that’s not my official title), I’m often asked to help others find a book. In conjunction, I’m also in a high school setting which can sometimes be a finicky place to get reading traffic in to the library. High schools aren’t like elementary and middle schools where classes of kids come down once a week to check books in and out. Instead, I often rely on the roaming traveler in the book stacks or the rare, “My friend said I just HAVE to read this book!” for foot traffic. Podcasting seemed like the logical blending of these two situations. I could push out my book recommendations and at the same time try to create a bit more excitement about reading and the new books we have available.
At the ITEM conference in October, I attended a break-out session about creating a podcast by Laura Given, a media specialist. Her school’s book podcast, PCS Reads started out as a summer reading challenge that could happen virtually. Students could still be encouraged to read and learn about great books from the comfort of their own home in the months of June, July, and August. So I took Laura’s wisdom about software, microphones, and editing, and got to work. Pretty much everything I use for my podcast is available to me for free or in just owning a Mac computer. I use a Blue Snowball microphone in conjunction with QuickTime and GarageBand to record and edit my audio tracks. Since my podcast is for educational use, I was able to use www.freeplaymusic.com to get a background track. When I’m all done recording, I send the audio file to iTunes to create the .mp3 file. Podbean is my podcast host—I love that I can create a free educator account, saving me some money and still allowing the ease of getting my podcast to iTunes. Podbean is the service that creates my RSS feed that is directed to iTunes; I can upload my .mp3 file and Podbean helps me take care of the rest. All around, podcasting for me is free and a different way to promote books in my school.
Check out our first episode of the Storm Reading Podcast and subscribe to future episodes!
Editing together my first episode was an adventure, and I did learn a few things along the way. I’m still trying to understand editing the master volume control with overlapping tracks, and I’ve also learned it’s best to leave yourself some wiggle room between takes and tracks as well. Eventually, I’m hoping a few things will happen as a result of the Storm Reading Podcast: 1) there’s a renewed energy around books and reading in our school, 2) students (and authors) will be willing to contribute to the podcast, and 3) teachers will see that podcasting is a great assessment/project option for students.