Renaissance Academy students received some professional tips on making podcasts Thursday, thanks to a little long-distance learning.
They were working on podcasts as part of a history project designed by their teacher, Emma Cudahy.
“Not only does it integrate technology but it requires writing, it requires creativity, it requires organization,” Cudahy said. “In a history class they have to look into certain events, people, evidence, perspectives. They really have to be able to do that research to be able to organize it, to be able to write about it, to be able to think about it creatively. It’s really a multi-faceted project in that it requires a lot of skills from the learners.”
Students from various history classes were organized into groups of four, with groups choosing an area of study related to the class in which they were enrolled.
Before students record their podcasts for the project, due next week, Cudahy arranged for them to video chat with a New York media professional, Bari Finkel, a producer for Pineapple Street Media. Pineapple Street productions has worked with the New York Times, Hillary Clinton and Lena Dunham, the company website states.
Finkel spoke with students remotely from her NYC studio and answered their questions about how to best approach and edit their podcasts.
“How do you transition effectively … what types of transitions keep things entertaining for the audience?” one student asked.
“The biggest thing is to prep,” Finkel responded. “Conversational radio – it sounds like these people are talking about it for the very first time, but realistically there is a lot of prepping involved. And you already know, we are going to talk about this, we are probably going to transition here, you know what topics you are going to cover. There will be surprises along the way, that’s great, but I think a lot of prep work makes all those transitions smoother.”
Another asked if it’s possible to use their personal life in the podcast.
“What makes it more entertaining is when you have those personal anecdotes,” Finkel told students. “When you have a conversation with somebody that’s not being recorded, most likely you’re not just talking about the topics, you’re bringing up how you feel about it, how it affects your life. Maybe there’s a weird funny metaphor about ice cream that you had last week. That stuff makes it more engaging for the listener because it doesn’t sound like an academic textbook, it sounds like a real conversation that’s about a subject you want to hear.”
Finkel steered the kids away from using music with vocals in the background of their podcasts. Her most important advice, though, was to keep their podcasts conversational and fun.
“People are tuning in for the host a lot, not the subject matter,” she said.
Ninth-grader Elliot Helwig’s group is working on the time between WWI and WWII for their World Perspectives Class. Helwig says he learned a lot both in doing the research for his podcast and from the conversation with Finkel.
“We learned doing the actual podcast outline and script that it all seemed black and white, but it wasn’t,” he said. Helwig characterized World War II as a big topic, for which there are “a whole lot of hidden stories inside that led to it happening and we are incorporating that into our podcast. We are looking for smaller pieces that led to the bigger stuff.”
The finalized podcasts will be uploaded to the New Tech Network Community Library, so learners across the country will be able to listen to what the students created and learn from them. To check out the podcasts when they’re done, head to newtechnetwork.org and look under the “podcasts” tab in a few weeks.