#270 – Student Podcasting in Secondary Grades, with Joe Bento

Unpacking Education March 13, 2024 32 min

In this episode, we are joined by Joe Bento, an International Baccalaureate (IB) Career Program Coordinator and Career and Technical Education (CTE) teacher at Renton High School in Washington state. Joe shares his experiences with student podcasting in the classroom. He breaks down his planning process and how the experience unfolds for his high school students.

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 offers an empowering way for students—even young ones—to express their ideas and connect with the world.

Paula Díaz, from her Edutopia article, A Way to Promote Student Voice—Literally


The following resources are available from AVID and on AVID Open Access to explore related topics in more depth:

Something Different

Joe says, “I was looking for more things for students to do that wasn’t just your traditional ‘read the assignment, do the questions, do the lecture, and move on.’”

Acknowledging that this traditional approach to teaching and learning can be boring for students, he decided to look for something that was “more entertaining” yet still met his curricular objectives. After running into an article in The New York Times about podcasting and their related student podcasting contest, he found that “something” he was looking for. It was podcasting. The following are a few highlights from our conversation:

  • About Our Guest: Joe Bento is an IB Career Program Coordinator and CTE teacher at Renton High School in Washington state. He has taught CTE for 22 years, including AP Psychology, which is part of the IB program at Renton.
  • The Career and Technical Education Approach: Joe describes the overarching focus of CTE courses. He says, “We’re always about making sure that students have content that’s relevant to them and that we use technology to support the things that we do.”
  • Using What’s Available: Joe shares, “[While] it would be nice to have the fancy podcasting mics, etc., it’s not necessary in the classroom to do the things you need. Personally, with my students, we’ve been able to use the basic technology [we have] with us in the classroom to create content.”
  • Integrating Curriculum: Podcasting has allowed Joe to meet his content standards while also allowing students opportunities to develop critical life skills.
  • It’s Work: Joe recalls, “When I mentioned podcasting, one of the things that my students seemed to think is that you could just talk into a microphone, record it, and then submit something, and I didn’t want that to happen. I wanted to guide them through the process.” In the end, students realized that it takes hard work to produce a quality final product.
  • Skill Building: To build the skills necessary for producing a quality podcast, Joe scaffolded a series of learning activities. Students began by listening to podcasts and analyzing them for storytelling elements. They then wrote, practiced reading, and recorded their own stories. Joe says, “I didn’t want them to wing it because a lot of times, they think they can just wing an assignment without practice.”
  • Student Voice: “I always want student voice,” says Joe, and his students got opportunities throughout the podcasting project to express their voices. They chose their topics, drafted questions, conducted interviews, wrote the scripts, and ultimately recorded their own voices for the final production of the podcast.
  • Tools: The only purchase Joe made for the project was some clip-on microphones to enhance the audio quality. While this was nice to have, it wasn’t essential. In fact, other than those mics, everything they used can be accessed for free with classroom devices. His students used a variety of tools, including free versions of WeVideo and GarageBand. Joe says, “I think the students recognize that you don’t need all this fancy equipment.” He adds, “The products were pretty good based on the technology they had available.”
  • Quality Work: “Some of the quality was almost like professional-level podcasts that I’ve heard, or even better,” says Joe.
  • 21st Century Skills: In addition to learning curricular content and discovering how to create a podcast, students learned interview skills, ethics, working in teams, and analysis skills. These are all valuable, transferable life skills.
  • Classroom Management: This type of project-based learning requires a different type of classroom management. Students are not lined neatly into traditional rows for the entire class period. Joe points out, “Students are doing different things, different times, different places, and different levels.” For teachers who are unsure about trying this out, Joe says, “Go to that place of discomfort and have your students try something new. I think you’ll be surprised at the content that students create.”
  • Productive Struggle: Joe’s podcasting unit is very student-centered and student-driven, and it’s important to allow students the space to work through their struggles as they go. Joe approaches this by “letting students know that you’re there for them, and you’ll support them.” At the same time, he adds, “They kind of have to figure it out.” He also says that with this approach, the teacher doesn’t need to be an expert at podcasting.
  • Final Thoughts: Joe leaves listeners with a couple of final thoughts. He says, “As educators, I think we just need to give ourselves grace sometimes. We think that we need to be perfect at everything.” He also adds that teaching should embrace “being vulnerable, and trying something new, and giving [ourselves] grace for not being perfect.”

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?
  • What aspects of podcasting with students sound rewarding to you?
  • What aspects of podcasting with students make you nervous?
  • What content from your classroom might align well with a podcasting project?
  • If you were to integrate podcasting into your classroom, what would your next steps be?

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