#260 – Student Podcasting in Elementary Grades, with Amanda Ipock

Unpacking Education February 7, 2024 38 mins.

In this episode, we are joined by Amanda Ipock, who is a librarian for an elementary school within the Renton School District in Washington state. Amanda worked with her elementary students to produce and broadcast a weekly schoolwide video podcast. Amanda shares her journey, what she learned along the way, and how this work has positively impacted the students and the school culture.

Read a transcript of this episode.

Paul Beckermann
PreK–12 Digital Learning Specialist
Rena Clark
STEM Facilitator and Digital Learning Specialist
Dr. Winston Benjamin
Social Studies and English Language Arts Facilitator

Podcasting is a medium that allows anyone to share their voice and their message with the world, and it’s changing the way we consume and create content.

Sarah Koenig, host of the Serial podcast

So Much More Than a Newscast

While Amanda’s video podcast project started out as a way to share news with the whole school, it evolved into something much more than that. Students became invested in the work and took pride in making it the best it could be. Segments evolved over time to showcase student talent and introduce staff to the student body. The podcast not only empowered students, but it helped to develop a cohesive school community.

Amanda shares how rewarding it was for the show to make students and staff “feel more a part of something and show what is beautiful when a lot is kind of messy.” She added that the news crew was “showcasing the best parts of people and the school and what we could be at our best. . . . That’s how people come together.” The following are a few highlights from this episode:

  • About Our Guest: Amanda Ipock is Librarian at Hilltop Heritage Elementary in Renton, Washington. She taught 4th and 5th grade for 8 years before moving to the library. She says that the library is “definitely my happy place” and adds, “Tech is a real passion of mine, so I’ve been trying to incorporate a lot of technology into the ways that students access information and share their learning.”
  • From Simple Beginnings: The project began with the student leadership team in grades 4 and 5. Amanda says that she was “trying to find a way for them [students] to share their voice and be leaders in their school. The podcast really started as a way for us to have the kids come together and share information, and kind of build a schoolwide communication platform. And what started as something pretty small turned into something that I felt like, by the end of the year, all the kids were just clamoring over—like, ‘When is the podcast coming out, and who’s going to be on it, and what’s this segment this week?’—so it’s been pretty special.”
  • An Evolution: While the podcast began as a 10-minute live broadcast over Zoom, it evolved. Amanda says, “And then it morphed into something that was recorded in segments over the course of the week and then compiled and edited by me and the students in WeVideo. And by the end of the year, we just had something that we were really proud of and segments that were sort of inspired by the kids’ interests.”
  • A Special Part of the Week: “What started as news really became getting to know the community,” explains Amanda. “And so I think that was just a goal that I really didn’t understand would be a part of it, but by the end, we really had this thing that felt like everyone had bought in, and teachers were sold, and kids were sold, and this was just a really special part of our week.”
  • Structure: At first, Amanda planned out the episodes for the students. This eventually evolved to a point where students were helping to design each show, often suggesting ideas for segments or guests. The transition to prerecorded stories rather than a live production really “opened up a world of possibilities” for the crew since not everything needed to happen in real time. Amanda adds that the student team became “real advocates for what they wanted to see more of, and that podcast team became super close-knit.”
  • Minimal Equipment: Starting a podcast doesn’t need to take a big budget or a lot of equipment. Amanda’s crew started with just a computer and Zoom, before adding in a wired microphone for better sound, a green screen for some nice extra effects, and WeVideo for the production of segments.
  • Developing Student Voice: Amanda says, “My students learned so much about their voice and the way they spoke to an audience.” They went from monotone to dynamic presentations, with “character” in their voices and “being their authentic selves.” Some students even started ad-libbing.
  • School Community: Amanda says, “We learned about . . . the power of something that everyone sees in a school community.” It provided “something that everyone could talk about.” She and her students discovered the “power of bringing people together and seeing something as an entire school community.” Amanda adds, “For me, it was a learning opportunity in how to build community.”
  • A Space to Shine: Amanda has been moved by the impact the show has had on individual students. She recalls, “It was pretty huge to see students feel like a valued member of the community when they showcased what they could do outside of academics.” She adds, “It’s super powerful to see like, in a different space or with the right supports, how we can empower kids. So that was huge, and I really did try to get some of our students who struggled to be able to come on the show because I feel it was just such a moment for them.”
  • Leadership Skills: Amanda saw the podcasting experience help students develop and demonstrate improved leadership skills. She says, “I think it really will translate into how they see themselves as leaders in the world.” She adds, “We really positioned kids as leaders.”
  • It’s Okay to Ask: Amanda says that teachers need to advocate for these types of programs. She explains, “A lot of times, we don’t ask because we assume there’s no money.” This is not always true, and if teachers don’t ask, they won’t have opportunities to build these types of programs.

Guiding Questions

If you are listening to the podcast with your instructional team or would like to explore this topic more deeply, here are guiding questions to prompt your reflection:

  • What do you know about podcasts and podcasting?
  • How might a podcast experience fit into your school or classroom?
  • What are the benefits to students who participate in a podcast production?
  • How can an entire school benefit from a podcast program?
  • What would it take to start a podcast with your students?

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