One of my passions is to help students become better writers. Many teachers will tell you that students are not writing enough. Anecdotally we know that information consumption (coupled with information overload) compounds the problem. Research supports this. Forty percent of college students who took the ACT writing test, lacked college ready skills.
As a computer and tech teacher, I am pleasantly surprised when students ask for scratch paper before they login. It’s not ‘old school’ to jot down ideas; to organize information before it gets into a brochure or PowerPoint. One of my lessons for 5th grade at the end of the school year involves teaching them how to write a radio script, and record it! A script, of course, isn’t like an essay. It gives a student an opportunity to adopt tone of voice that comes naturally. To speak from the heart. To talk about odd, personal, funny things that connect with the listener. Like a letter, I suppose. “Who writes those?” You ask! You’d be surprised how many Thank You letters are queued up to print next week. That’s my evidence, and I’m sticking to it!
On that note, here’s some inspiring student writing. One of the college application essays featured in the New York Times last week. Eric Muthondu, who’s entering Harvard, talks about his Kenyan grandmother.
“When I return, the chapatis are neatly stacked on one another, golden-brown disks of sweet bread that are the completion of every Kenyan meal.”
Or this piece of writing by Jeffrey C. Yu, a second generation Chinese American.
“Not all sons of doctors raise baby ducks and chickens in their kitchen. But I do. My dad taught me.”
These essays are worth a read, if only to recognize that good student writing exists –in certain places one has to dig to find. Here’s another place: Write The World. A global community for student writers I have been in touch with, and have covered in a previous post. By some coincidence, this month, Write The World has a Food Writing contest for students. First prize for a 6,000-10,000-word essay is $100.
More chapatis and chicken, please!
In case you’ve not noticed the podcast landscape had changed. I’m so glad this genre – audio story-telling –has survived in a digital age that at one time seemed to gravitate toward video, slapstick entertainment, and uninformed opinions.
These are highly-researched, well-produced shows – not just opinionated rants.
Here are a few:
Code Switch – Fascinating takes on race and identity
Rough Translation – A great way to escape the echo-chamber!
The Hidden Brain – Shankar Vedantam’s insight into human behavior
The Tip-Off – Peeling back investigative journalism, by Maeve McClenaghan of London’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism
Some older podcasts still give the newbies a run for their money. Those such as:
- This American Life – Ira Glass’ extremely topical take on all things social, political, personal
- Invisiblia – Gripping tales and insights about the forces that shape us.
Interesting how the one place we associate with up-to-the-minute information is the least trusted. While what some would call ‘old school’ media –Radio! –consistently earns people’s trust.
Among several studies looking at media trustworthiness I was fascinated by this European study. (Trust in Media, 2017 by EBU)/ Some highlights:
- 64% of countries surveyed find radio the most trusted
- 59% of citizens in the EU trust radio
- Social networks are the least trusted (except in eastern Europe)
- In 12 out of 33 countries 64% of citizens mistrust the Internet
Check these snapshots. The Internet is seeing red!
It gets worse on networks we sign up to –if only to connect with those whom we assume are trustworthy.
Which begs the questions.
- How did we get here?
- Or better still, why have we – who often comprise the ‘sources’ of news on social networks –misused the resource?
There seems to be a growth spurt for podcasting.
I love the fact that the audio format has been on the upswing, even despite the explosion of screen-based communication options. Depending on who you ask, they will tell you video didn’t assassinate the radio star for various reasons. Such as
- Podcasts is immensely portable, and does is perfect for multi-tasking
- Podcasts capture the ‘authentic’ voice of the person or the moment being represented – no fake ‘DJ voice’ required
- Podcasts have in their DNA something akin to long-form journalism – deep dives into content, rather than skimming a topic
- Podcasts lend themselves to drama, even while being authentic. The nearest thing to the documentary.
My recent favorites are Snap Judgement, Serial, Invisibilia (former radio Lab producers), and Star Talk.
Apart from the usual line up of This American Life, For Immediate Release, and EdReach, an education podcast for Ed-tech matters I now dabble in.
Interestingly this year will be six years since I first got into podcasting. And this year may be the year we begin podcasts at my school. More on this in a later post!
Audio is a powerful medium. Overlooked, but extremely powerful.
While video gets all the attention, audio programs –basically podcasts — have been steadily growing recently. This week, I began the new semester by upping the ante for 5th and 6th grade students, showing them how to become producers of content. To start off, I got them to think of themselves as owning their own radio show. A news show, a sports show, or a show about events in the community.
How do they plan and create content? What are the elements of a good show? Good information? A nice pace? A strong personality? Music? Sound Effects?
I plan to use some of my prior radio experience to get students to create their ‘shows.’
The software we will be using is Audacity, which is really powerful software. All computers in the Computer and Technology Lab are now loaded with Audacity, and we just got started understanding how tracks and buttons work, and how to export an editable audio file, to work on it as we move along.
I’m sure you’re wondering: how could digital natives get so excited about ‘old media’? You would be surprised!
‘Salt River Radio’ is the tip of the spear of something bigger I have in mind. I am also looking for input from anyone with radio experience, who would like to be a part of this project, either as a guest instructor, or otherwise.
Stay tuned, if you’ll pardon the pun.
I had a great conversation with Brown Russell, former Chairman of Gum Tech (GUMM:NASDAQ), last evening on our radio show.
Brown was behind (and by this I mean he led) the launch of Zicam –the cold remedy, medicine. I didn’t know this but Zicam was one of the fastest growing new cold treatments in recent history.
The reason I thought he would be a great guest was because of a book I noticed on his desk one day. It was one of those thick books on communication that communicators who have just graduated may have not even heard about: The Diffusion of Innovations by Everett Rogers, first published in 1962. (By the way Rogers published 30 books in 15 languages.)
To put this in perspective this was before the Internet was ‘discovered.’ And some of the concepts Rogers analyzed presaged viral marketing by what, 40 years, maybe?
How do ideas spread and products take off, I asked? Is the diffusion of innovations across networks (the unwired kind) dependent on a marketing and PR push? Derrick brought us a good point –that demand, could possibly be influenced by planned scarcity (as in Apple’s play); by game mechanics (as in earning rewards), and filling the need that nobody has quite recognized (as in Facebook).
Here’s the podcast, if you’re interested. http://bit.ly/your3bl11
By the way, if you occasionally use terms such as ‘early adopters,’ ‘late majority’ or ‘laggards’ you’ve been borrowing from Roger’s theory!
I’ve said it before: radio, which seems a lot like ‘old media’ has one leg up over new media because it’s where people come to expect to hear stories. Not sound bytes, not pitches, not bullet points, not all those forms of condensed communication snacks we have come to expect in every other form of media.
Don’t blame it on TV entirely. There are TV programs that refuse to do the truncated story, shun the fast cuts, and slick camera work so as to let the story unfold. We have ingested this packet switching mentality that the Internet brought with it, and forced our stories into the tiniest bits of content. It’s become the default format, and we go along with it.
But guess what? It is not the only format that works.
Exhibit A: I listened to a long segment today on a new trend Daryl Hall started, called Live From Daryl’s House. It’s an internet phenomenon. But if it hadn’t been thoughtfully told as a story by NPR reporter Robert Smith, I would have skipped it.
Exhibit B: Radio again. This time I have to bring in the show I co-host with Derrick Mains as an example of how we make ‘talk show’ (in most people’s minds it’s where the hosts yak all the time) into a storytelling space. We bring people around the topics of business entrepreneurship, innovation and corporate sustainability, and let their stories unfold.
Everyone’s tired of hearing pitches. Too many people tell you what they do in that distilled, dehumanized format. Stories have a different pace, and in fact, different goals. Yet they break through the clutter in a more powerful way.
What’s your pitch? Could you turn it into a story? Try it. Record it and listen to it. You’ll never want to talk in bullet points again!
I was interviewed at the IABC conference by BlogTalkRadio. It was a great privilege to be on the show with Meryl David of Zurich Insurance.
What’s BlogTalkRadio? The name is probably the best explanation of what it stands for. It also says that it’s where “freedom of speech meets social networking.” From a production point of view, it’s easy to use. No microphone, no software. Just a phone and a computer. For listeners, there’s a wealth of programs such as art, religion, comedy, marketing, to technology and writing. Business has more than 4,000 programs, health more than 2,000.
The segment I was interviewed on could be found here.
I am working on an article on citizen journalism, and came across this experiment being conducted on the Brian Lehrer show on WNYC.
They’re doing a story on price gouging, and put out a call to people to “report” back on the price of three simple items at the grocery store: milk, beer and lettuce. The request went out on Sept 24th, and they have until tomorrow, Oct 4th, to file their reports in, via the web site.
They have to give the following details:
-The prices of these goods
-The neighborhood where you bought them (please give exact address, or at least the block and cross street)
-The name of the supermarket
-Any distinguishing characteristic (e.g. local bodega, high-end retailer, etc.)
-Whether or not you were surprised (yes or no)?
In a previous crowdsourced story in August, they asked listeners to report back on the number of SUVs they saw on their block. See results here. They mapped the data with pin-cushions on a Google map.
A great way to take radio into the web 2.0 era!