Podcast Update

First Small Steps

I recently wrote about my desire to experiment with student generated podcasts.  I have begun this process, but because I am not particularly savvy with technologically, my steps in this journey have been small.

In my Grade 10 IB Class and Grade 12 English class I have been experimenting with student generated audio recordings.  Those these are not podcasts, per se, they are an attempt to emphasise oral communication skills and experiment with different ways students can demonstrate their learning (both during and after) a study.

Below I have outlined two attempts (feel free to read and listen).

**What I really need to think about next is how to share these audio files between students–any suggestions?

In my Grade 10 class, the assignment was summative and formal in nature.  After reading and discussing Macbeth, I asked students to prepare a 5-7 minute audio recording of an oral commentary on a passage from  the play.  This was a final assignment; students had time to review the passage and prepare an outline prior to recording.  The recording had to be continuous and  demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the passage, appreciation of writer’s choices, appropriate register, and organisation.
10 IB Student Commentary on Macbeth


In Grade 12, my focus was on discovery rather than a demonstration of solid understanding. After reading Act 3 of King Lear, we considered what aspects of the Act that deserved fuller exploration.  Each group chose one of these aspects and were given 30 minutes to record a 15 minute impromptu discussion where they attempted to explore this aspect.

12 Lit. Discovery Discussion Act 3 King Lear

The purpose of these assignments


Seeing Anew

eye-of-horusThere seem to be parallels between what George does at our ITLL sessions and what we try to do in our high school classes.  Watching a great teacher reminds one of what is at the heart of great teaching.

A great teacher stands among his listeners and embodies his passion (his subject).  This embodiment is inspiring and activates a genuine desire to learn.  Once interest is ignited, students are willingly lead out of their echo chambers and are gently encouraged to try on different ideas and ways of thinking.  Given time, opportunities to experiment, and the space to question, the new ideas and ways of thinking become internalized. This process is transformative, and a great teacher makes it happen!

Great teachers do not teach what to think; rather, great teachers teach how to think.  As a result, we (students and teachers alike) see anew. T.S. Elliot’s words are appropriate here:

We shall not cease from exploration,
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time. (“Little Gidding”)


This is good teaching; this is meaningful learning: To be lead out in order to see anew!


Thanks to George and all my fellow ITLLs for reminding me of this.

Moving Forward: Podcasts

I have been invited to write a reflection in response to one of three prompts.  I have chosen to respond to the third prompt, “What are you doing moving forward”?

podcastOne of my favourite pastimes is to listen to brilliant minds speak; a fun Friday night includes a great lecture or a stimulating podcast. I’m serious! The Partially Examined Life is a particular favourite.

Because of this genuine interest, I am excited to learn about creating and using “podcasts” in my practice, both as a teaching tool and as a means for students to share their knowledge and understanding.

However, before leaping to use podcasting in my classroom, it’s important for me to consider the ‘big picture’, so I appreciate today’s opportunity to think and “play”.

First Steps:

First, I need to question my desire to use podcasts on a philosophical level.  For me, this type of thinking takes time and sustained silence!  (Perhaps this weekend)

Second, I need to see what other teachers are doing; I want to learn from them (both what to do and what not to do).

This article from The Atlantic seems like a good place to start.

Update to come!


My Two Selves

books-vs-technology-1I’m battling with my “selves” right now; the Literature-loving English teacher and Innovative Teaching and Learning Leader are fighting for mind space.  I’m going to sound like a confused wingnut in this post, but before I move forward into the world where technology is a daily part of my classroom practice, I need to give space to my concerns, my questions, and give voice to what I believe to be at the heart of English teaching.

I unashamedly believe that literature and the discussion of it should be at the core of every English classroom;  all people need what stories can give.  And, I believe that a significant part of my job as an English teacher is to open up young people’s minds through the exploration of it.  In short, I believe in books.  Paper.  Face-to-face conversations.  Time every day to unplug, silence and ignore the fast-paced cyber-world.

So, here is the battle: though I want to and will embrace technology and hopefully come to recognise when, how and why to incorporate it into my daily practice so as to enhance the learning that happens there, I simultaneously want to  make sure that what I believe remains central to this journey.   Right now I am questioning and questioning is not a synonym for being negative or dismissive—I need to live the questions in order to answer them.   In writing that sentence I am reminded of Rainer Maria Rilke:

I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

― Rainer Maria RilkeLetters to a Young Poet

Ok—Rilke, I hear you.  I won’t search for the answers with a spot light.  How about I just explore why I believe Art and Literature are important in a world of 42 character communication.  And, how about I try to keep an open mind to the possibilities that new technologies afford.   Let the journey begin.