Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Baby's First Podcast Studio: Google Slides

I know that podcasts are totally exploding right now. Everyone has a podcast! And it's awesome! I think it's wonderful that anyone that has a story to tell or an idea to share can put it out so easily for the world to see. And the amazing thing about podcasts is that they are super easy to create. They require just a microphone and a basic way to present media. No cameras, no fancy-schmancy editing, just good old fashioned recording.

Since it's so easy to create and share a podcast, what better medium to have our students share their own ideas and stories? Over the past few months I have been working with students on creating their own podcasts. First I looked into some popular tools like Soundcloud, Anchor, or even iTunes. Because of technology and privacy concerns, none of this worked. So then I thought -- we have Chromebooks and Google -- how can I have students create their own audio stories with these tools? The answer was simple! Google Slides!

You might remember I did a post a while back covering how you can "edit" videos with Google Slides. I decided to use the same premise here, only augmenting the process with a few other tools.

Read on to see out how we make student podcasting simple with Google Slides and Screencastify.

First, we need to plan out our podcast. For this project, students were discussing books, so we created this Book Podcast Organizer. Once you had it planned out, then we would proceed to record. For this, I had students use Screencastify -- for a few reasons. One, every student already has it on their Chromebook, and the videos you record drop automatically into your drive. No moving files around makes us all very happy.

Now you might be wondering why I use Screencastify, a screen recorder, to record a podcast. Well, it's simple really -- Google Slides allows us to embed video, not audio. And we can record a video of ourselves talking and pop that into a Google Slide to simulate an audio track.

You can just have students turn their webcam off. Really, they just need to have their microphone on. Screencastify can either record their screen or their camera, doesn't matter -- the key is the microphone audio.

At this point, with visuals being inconsequential, you are essentially recording an audio track. This is great for those kids that get hung up on people seeing their pictures, or don't want video of themselves out on the internet (and these are completely valid concerns for my students).

Next, you record your audio. For our book project I had students work in pairs and have a structured conversation about their books using the aforementioned organizer. All the while, they are recording the entire thing. Some kids can do it in one take. Others goof up all the time. Either way, I tell the students to never stop recording -- we can use the slides to clip the pieces together later if we need to, like I discuss in my video editing blog post here.

Another thing I have students do is enable "Tab Audio" while they are recording, this way, they can use YouTube Audio Library sounds and music as transition bumpers. This adds a level of professionalism and personality and goes above and beyond simple dialogue. And since I stress with students to complete work that is artfully done with high quality, this is a simple way to help make that happen with our podcasts.

Once the audio is recorded, we just need to embed it into the slide. That process is very simple. Since Screencastify backs up your videos to Google Drive, all you need to do is go into your slide, and insert the video file directly.

With the audio in the slide, all you need to do now is create your "player". The nice thing about a lot of podcasts on the web is that you can embed a clickable version of the podcast or individual episodes right into most websites. And we can simulate this quite easily with Google Slides. A happy coincidence of inserting videos into slides is that it adds a play button to the inserted video. This looks a lot like the play buttons on most embedded video and audio players. We use that to our advantage. We'll just design a little scaffold so folks know where they need to click....

With our podcast now complete inside of Google Slides, we can embed it! When we made our class versions, we created a class Google Site to share them all, but they all end up looking like the embedded example I made for students below:

And here's a student example with a bit of a different design:

And here's a link to the whole class's podcast series: Class Book Recommendations.

These came out AMAZING! The students loved them and it was a simple and safe way to simulate podcasting with younger students. The best part is that they were able to take content they were going to be working with in class and make a digital project that covered the same information. This really hit the sweet spot for digital integration. If you are looking for a safe and fun way to have your students or class start their own podcast, definitely consider using Google Slides and Screencastify to do the job.

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