Description of the student demographic and learning context:
This project is designed to take place in a Grade 8 English class in a British Columbian Independent School. Each class would consist of approximately 18-20 students, all of whom would have access to their own device with a keyboard, and access to the internet. These students tend to be affluent, with strong parental support for their learning, and are typically very digitally literate- all these students would be taking digital media design courses or media arts courses at the same time as their English 8 course. Typically there are a number of students with IEPs who may require additional support in managing executive functioning, or accommodations to support their learning needs.
Students would be completing a unit that is designed around building a podcast, and the culminating assignment would be for students to publish a finished podcast in a public format that would be posted and visible to parents, and the greater community. The focus of this unit is on building student oral communication skills, and on using features and forms of oral texts to support purpose and connect to audience.
The learning outcomes under evaluation:
This unit would be focused around the following Big Ideas from the BC curriculum:
- Language and text can be a source of creativity and joy.
- Exploring stories and other texts helps us understand ourselves and make connections to others and to the world.
Guiding questions that would drive student learning in this unit would be:
- What makes a successful podcast?
- How do I design a podcast that is appropriate for my purpose and audience?
- What steps do I need to take to create and produce a successful podcast?
Specific Learning Outcomes to be evaluated:
- Students will be able to recognize and make use of the form and features of a podcasting text in order to support their purpose and message, while connecting with a particular audience.
- Students will be able to effectively collaborate in a small group to complete a task and to build a shared understanding of the podcast genre.
- Students will be able to use a variety of strategies to support the creation processes of planning, drafting, editing and publishing.
A brief overview of the unit of learning that would precede the assignment:
The creation of the podcast would be the final assignment in a podcasting unit, where students would be asked to build an understanding of the features and forms of podcasts by listening to a number of age appropriate ones, and collaborating with their peers to collate a list of effective features which are typical of this genre. Students would also receive direct instruction about different features of podcasts such as introductions, handoffs, signoffs, etc. and would discuss what makes them effective or ineffective. They would be asked to justify their thinking, and provide examples to support it, both in writing and in oral discussions.
Students would also be asked to explore purpose and audience, and would look at different ways that oral, written and graphic texts can be manipulated to serve different purposes or connect with a variety of audiences. Students would have the opportunity to create advertisements that speak to a particular purpose and audience, and as an extension could use one of their advertisements within their finished podcast.
Students will also receive direct instruction in how to use media recording devices and software effectively. Students will be given time to explore effective microphone usage, and recording software. Time will be spent building on student understanding of how to edit together different audio files using a program such as audacity or garageband, and again, students will be given the opportunity to explore and play with these programs prior to being asked to use them to create their own finished podcasts. It is important to note that many students in this cohort have strong audio and video editing skills already, and have received some instruction in these programs previously.
I wanted to choose an assignment that would have Grade 8 students developing a “real world” response to a stimulus, and a podcast assignment felt like a worthwhile task to use in order to have students practice skills like oral communication, collaboration and designing a text for a particular purpose and audience.
While I was interested in students using audio recording and editing software to build a podcast, I wasn’t particularly interested in assessing their competency with a particular piece of software. Rather my rubric focused on whether they were able to use digital media creation software to support effective oral communication; where they able to produce an audio file that effectively used volume changes or consistency, pauses, music and sound effects, or other “rhetorical” devices that helped them achieve their goal of connecting with an audience for a particular purpose? Most assessment of fluency with the digital media creation tools would be formative, with students given support in “workshopping” the recording and editing process in small groups, so that particular feedback relevant to the students’ particular software use, mics, etc. could be given and suggestions made for students to improve. The final summative assessment would only look at how well students were able to use their tools to achieve their ends, while assessment on the process of building the podcast would focus on student collaboration and problem solving rather than on their specific ability to say manipulate volume levels in Garageband.