By: Claudia Belmonte
A little over a year ago, I began working as a Graduate Assistant for Fordham University’s Professional Development Resource Center for Religious and Independent Schools, or the PDRC. I was tasked with creating and recording a monthly podcast, covering the content presented and discussed in our center’s monthly Chat and Network events. These events are defined as “Different Voices Together” because they offer an opportunity to share ideas, problem-solve and foster the intercultural dialogue among educational leaders of independent and religious schools.
Although I am an avid podcast listener and have created a number of podcasts for college projects, it was different to envision what to create for something that I knew would be a recurring podcast. My goal for the podcast was to capture the most valuable information shared through conversation. That is short, focused and interesting narrative audio recordings for school leaders who, having attended the Chat and Network, wanted to listen back and share it with colleagues who may not have attended. I also wanted to make sure that new listeners, and those who may not have had the opportunity to attend the Chat and Network events, could gain something of value from listening to a shorter synopsis of our discussions.
The first step of the process for me was attending the Chat and Network events. With my pen and paper ready, I wrote down everything that I possibly could. I wanted to make sure I captured everything that was said. But, this proved to be ineffective, as it was difficult to narrow down the information and fit it into a ten minute podcast. As time went on, I had a better grasp on what to focus on for my note taking, and narrowed my focus a bit. If there were slides or visuals, I would pay attention to the information presented, but would really focus on what points the invited guest emphasized the most. But most importantly, I would be attentive to the discussion among participants. This is because the purpose of these Chat and Network events is for educators to learn from one another, have meaningful conversations, and offer valuable information about ways to better their schools for their students, educators, and school communities as a whole. As an outsider and a graduate student, it was very valuable to be a part of these conversations. I was able to see genuine conversations unfold in real time, and saw educators from all different backgrounds come together to share struggles and share potential solutions.
Whether suggestions and ideas were shared through conversations, or through the chat feature on Zoom, I would write down every interaction. Shortly after, I would sit down and start to look for commonalities in ideas that were shared or questions that were asked. I also would specifically highlight significant topics and questions that engaged a lot of the participants and sparked conversation. These became the main things I would want to discuss and recap in my podcasts, so to ensure that as I mentioned above, they would become valuable learning tools for educators.
As a college student, I have the unique opportunity to get a glimpse of the current needs and concerns of teachers through these Chat and Network events. In combination with my familiarity and success of using podcasting, I have come up with some recommendations for how school teachers, educators, and students can use podcasting to enhance learning. Podcasts are a great way to engage and build upon students' auditory learning skills and supplement student learning. One application for podcasting can be using pre-recorded lectures, which can be extremely applicable and useful for virtual or hybrid structures. In addition, if a student misses class, or maybe if some students have trouble understanding a specific topic, a supplemental lecture could be recorded by the teacher and distributed through email or Google classroom. Students will be able to replay this podcast, and refer back to it as much as they want to better their understanding or to study for an upcoming test on the material.
In addition, teachers and educators can incorporate podcasting as a form of expression for students. If teachers wanted to assign a project, rather than having students write an essay or create a Powerpoint, they could also give an option to record a podcast. This would allow students to practice speaking aloud using more formal language and express creativity through using soundbites or music in their podcasting. Lastly, podcasts could also be used by both teachers and administrators to maintain communication with each other, parents, students, and school communities as a whole. Administrators can create a weekly/monthly podcast for teachers, in lieu of a meeting or an email, to inform them of updates and important dates. Teachers and administrators can create a podcast to send to parents about concerns, upcoming events, and to keep them in the loop about their children’s learning.
Overall, podcasting has been valuable for Fordham’s Professional Development Resource Center, for myself, and can be for school communities too.