Vail Christian students go digital with podcasts
EDWARDS The presentations in Chris Gambles geography class begin like the NBC nightly news with lots of dramatic music.The students at Vail Christian High School take turns manning a computer at the front of the room, plugging their files into a projection screen for the whole class to see. They start a program called Garage Band, cue their music, then you hear their voice through a set of speakers. The subject is global warming, and theyre the newscasters.As their pre-recorded newscasts play, warning the class about the dangers of greenhouse gases and climate change, photos of polar bears and a illustration of the earth melting like an ice cream cone flash on the screen. One student displays a picture of The Simpsons character Ralph Wiggum with a finger up his nose, a comedic way of illustrating our slowness in fixing the problem.All of these reports are podcasts created by the students. The podcasts have all the elements youd see in typical stand-up-in-front-of-the-class-while-I-read-my-report kind of project, but here, theyre streamlined onto a computer file.When Gamble asks his class if they liked giving presentations this way better than standing at a lectern, he heard an overwhelming yes!It gives them ownership, Gamble said. They dont mind doing it they enjoy it.
Teaching students how to podcast is one of the ways Vail Christian is integrating technology into curriculum.If you look at where our society is headed, its going to give them a jump-start, Gamble said.With the podcasts, it was just a matter of researching the subject as usual with sources like maps and news articles. Instead of creating a posterboard project and reading from a sheet of paper, they recorded themselves reading their reports on their computer, mixed it with sound effects and added photos found on the Internet for a slide show.Here is where we make school relevant, taking that paper document and putting onto the screen, said Dave Sharpe, director of technology.While teachers say this is a good way to prepare kids for the future, for now, its just a good way to motivate them, a way to get them excited about school work. Sharpe said other teachers are asking for lessons in podcasting, mainly because students are asking for it. Students have already started using the very same program used for the podcasts projects to compile music for the schools homecoming celebration.Technology is what theyve grown up with, and to see it in the classroom helps out, Gamble said.Gamble said teaching new computer programs isnt difficult with this generation. After introducing a program, the students explore the programs themselves and discover things the teacher didnt know about.Theyre showing me how to do things, Gamble said.
The next step at Vail Christian is podcasting entire lessons.Sharpe would like to see teachers record their lessons and make them available on the Internet. They could also include files, handouts and Power Point presentations.The goal of this would be to give kids an opportunity to review a days lesson at home or give them a chance to make up a lesson they missed.Sharpe said that many college classes that podcast their lessons have actually seen an increase in attendance because the students arent as worried about taking rapid notes. They can instead concentrate on the lesson instead of writing and review the details at home.Students felt more engaged in the classroom material, they could participate more, Sharpe said.Also, for difficult classes like AP calculus, Vail Christian would be able to offer podcasts to home-schooled students.
Teaching podcasting in class is helped by the schools Apple 1 to 1 program, which is their initiative to make sure every student in the school has a computer. More computers, though, means teachers have to learn to deal with new kinds of behavior problems.With a computer screen in front of every student, its easy for them to find distractions. It only takes half a second to minimize a screen they shouldnt be looking at during a lesson, Sharpe said.In the blink of an eye, they can toggle from Word to something they shouldnt be using, Sharpe said.Thats why the school is using a program called Apple Remote Desktop, which allows teachers to monitor what programs kids are using during their class.If a teacher is giving a literature lecture, the teacher could lock or disable an entire class of computers and enable them when the lecture is over. Teachers can monitor what programs students are using, making sure they arent playing a rousing game of Pinball while they should be doing algebra problems.Staff writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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