The podcasting bug bit me 12 years ago when I worked in Marcom, in the heady days of blogging and podcasting. More recently, after I got back into it, my podcasts have been about the intersection of education and tech. Topics I teach in class. It’s a fun work/hobby if only because I learn so much on the job. And the ROI is not what I expected.
Consider how one interviews people. It’s different from how you might grill someone, or conduct a focus group. You’re not a ‘reporter’ although you are acting like a conduit for an audience whom the guest/interviewee does not see. Your questions are your software. Hardware could vary. [A Zoom H4N podcasting recorder I carried made people nervous; some said it looked like a Taser.]
In the past year I have learned so much. Like how to use a lavalier mic plugged into a laptop so it records directly to Hindenburg, or, if I’m in a rush, to Audacity or Anchor. I’ve discovered the value of an XLR cable, as opposed to USB in microphones. My ‘studio’ is always an empty classroom, even if means dodging the announcements on the PA system since there’s no soundproofed room — yet. This learning curve has also helped me add audio-recording into the curriculum for my Writing & Publishing class at Benjamin Franklin High School.
But in the past few months I began producing another podcast for the school. The podcast, ‘Fully Charged,’ has two hosts who between them have plenty of terrific topics: student achievement, counseling, history, and classical education. The first podcast (below) is about mental health, and stress.
Positive Charge – Episode 4 – Fully Charged
I SOON LEARNED THAT producing a show for someone else comes with its own challenges. Hardware and software notwithstanding (one mic or two?) getting two hosts into a room is more complicated than it might seem. Planning a show topic ahead of time is another. Teacher’s, after all have plenty on their plate with lesson plans et al. We now need an ‘editorial calendar’ so the topics are fresh, even though we record them ahead of time. Like milk, any topic does come with an expiration date which creeps up on you.
I need to help the hosts loosen up and feel like they are having a conversation. A classroom setting puts a cramp on this; after all, it’s where students come for ‘lessons’ — and a podcast should be an experience not a lesson. As Evo Terra reminds us, it is a one-to-one experience between one’s ears. A podcast may seem like a show but it is really not a performance. There can’t be cue cards or scripts, or memorized lines, or perfect monologues. On the other hand, winging it, won’t work. The hosts make mistakes; many times, the ums and aahs have to be left in.
AS FOR PRODUCTION, AND EDITING, yes there’s lots of this. But I found most of my production time involves keeping the podcast tight and focused, rather than perfect. As a podcast listener I like the pace to be quick, the content jam packed; the takeaways memorable. So as a podcast producer I’m conscious of this. Our listener — a student — has to juggle a podcast between homework, chores, a football game, dance rehearsals, siblings, and social media. He or she gives us the benefit of their time, so we need to respect that.
INTERESTINGLY, THESE LESSONS spill over into how I handle a classroom. Sure, the students are a captive audience in class, here from ‘bell to bell.’ But like a podcast I have to make sure the pace is clipped, jam-packed with useful takeaways. We don’t have music segues in a class lesson; (some use ‘anticipatory sets.’) But we could use smooth transitions that connect the dots. We don’t need to TED Talk our way through 50 minutes of a class period, but we could use cuts and transitions to keep students on the edge of their seats.
Podcasting and teaching have more in common than I once thought. I don’t need a ‘Taser’ for the latter — just give me a dry-erase marker.
Fun fact: A podcast I had produced in 2009 (when I worked at Decision Theater, at Arizona State University) was about pandemic planning. It’s over here, if you’re curious.