Friday, November 21, 2008


Our first episode of the Communicast for the 2008 - 2009 school year was published yesterday, November 20, 2008. Although we were behind schedule, the efforts of the students clearly showed in the quality of the podcast.

This podcast is a group effort, and I want to thank the people involved in the project. First, thanks to Valerie Howard, the computer teacher at South Philadelphia High School, for being the co-sponsor of the podcast. Next, the student podcasters: Shaheed, Jasman, Yolonda, Maria, Joshua, Stacey, Michael, Kahlil, and Imene. Working behind the scenes are the Digital Service Fellows: Brandon and Tiani. I want to thank them for their help in working with the students as they wrote their scripts and practiced their speaking parts. They also worked with Imene, who produced the theme song.

I'm hoping that some of the students will add comments to this post, and describe how they feel, now that they are published podcasters.

I'm already looking forward to the next episode. I want the students to take more responsibility for the work, including some of the editing. I also hope that eventually, they'll work with some of the podcasters from last year (elementary school students) and collaborate on their podcast episodes.

But for now, we want to celebrate the successful posting of this episode, which is Communicast 7. To access the podcast, please go here:

or here:

As the students said, "The podcast is in, and we're out!!"

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Staying Focused

The original target date to publish our first podcast episode for this year was October 31. Unfortunately, we didn't meet our target. This was due to a lot of factors, but the most important thing is that we're still working on it, and we'll have a finished product soon. I'm at SPHS this morning, to record some new segments. We want to finish recording everything on Monday, November 10, and then put it all together and post it.

One of the major problems we ran into was that the various segments didn't fit together as well as we would have liked. That's why we're working to develop a focus for the episode. The other part of staying focused is to keep our eye on the task at hand. There have been so many activities going on, that it's been hard for all of us to devote the necessary time to get this project completed.

So, now that the World Series (Go Phillies!) and the elections (Congratulations, Barack Obama!) are behind us, maybe it'll be easier to stay focused on our podcast project.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Successes and Challenges

Yesterday, I facilitated a 3 hour session on podcasting with members of the Digital Service Fellows (DSF) Digital Media Team. This was a lot of fun, and the team members learned the basics of podcasting. For most of them, working in GarageBand was relatively new, but since these team members already have a lot of technology skills and knowledge, they understood the concepts quickly.

The culminating activity for them was to produce a short, enhanced podcast of their own. It was great to see the look of pride and accomplishment on their faces as they shared their work.

As a result of this training, plus additional time to practice their skills, they will be able to work with teachers and students in the district who are working on podcasts. This can be a real bonus to our podcast program, having additional support persons in the field. I want to thank their coordinator, Crista, for inviting me to work with them.

The challenge I faced this week was time, or the lack of it. I wasn't able to get to South Phila. HS today to record more segments for our first podcast episode for this year. My goal is to get there twice next week. We have a lot to do to get this first episode ready.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Different View - The Student Perspective

Several of the student podcasters have placed comments on this blog. I want to thank them for their positive messages about their experiences. It's great to be able to have them express and share their points of view, which is one of the reasons this blog exists.

I'll be back at the school on Friday, October 17, for another recording session. We need to accomplish a lot during the next two recording sessions to be able to meet our goal of publishing the first episode during the month of October. So, my message to the podcasters reading this is to be prepared, and practice, practice, practice!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Online Collaboration and Communication

On Wednesday, October 8, I set up a wiki, which I hope the student podcasters will use to keep a record of which podcast segments they've already recorded, as well as writing down their ideas for future podcast segments. In order to make sure that everything written on the wiki is on topic and appropriate, I've set it up so only Ms. Howard and I can sign in to edit the page. I asked Ms. Howard if she would supervise the students as they make entries on the page.

Here's a link to the wiki:

As the students demonstrate that they are able to make posts appropriately, we may decide to give them access to the site. But since this is a work in progress, we want to take one step at a time. I don't know the students well enough to know their level of maturity. I hope that they will demonstrate responsibility and earn the right to make edits directly onto the wiki page.

I also asked Ms. Howard to have her students add some comments to this blog. We want them to record their feelings about the process so far. This is also a way for them to provide input about the podcast.

I'd like to turn this into a project where the students collaborate online as they work on creating and producing the podcast.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Getting Started

Yesterday was our first recording session with the students from South Philadelphia High School. I met Ms. Howard and her students in the computer lab. We then went to the library, where Ms. Howard has a separate room already set up as a TV studio. Her students have a morning announcement program on closed-circuit TV, so we'll be able to use that room as a quiet place for recording the podcast segments.

Before we began, some ground rules were set, including no chewing gum while recording, and keeping quiet in the room as others are recording. We also discussed what to do if a mistake was made...just go back to the beginning of that sentence and begin again. I explained that we can edit out any mistakes.

A young lady named April agreed to be the first to record. We started by having her test the microphone, so we could check the sound levels. She did a great job projecting her voice. I showed her the differences in the audio wavelengths in the GarageBand window as she raised and lowered her voice. These visual cues can help the students as they become more adept at using the equipment.

By the end of the hour, we had 5 segments recorded. That's quite an accomplishment! I want to congratulate April, Joshua, Shaheed, Stacey, and Jasmon for their efforts. All of them had their material prepared, and did their best recordings. I'm looking forward to working with them again, as well as the other students who will be participating. I'll be back on Wednesday, October 15. We have a tight deadline to try and get the first episode published by the end of October. Will we make it? Only time will tell!

Monday, October 6, 2008

First Steps

On Thursday, October 2, I had my second meeting with the students who will be working on the podcast. This time, Ms. Howard and I met with them individually. We discussed specific topics of interest to them, and talked about how they could work on a script about that topic. We also asked some of the students to work on other segments, such as an overview of the CFF program in PA. All students were given a deadline to prepare their first draft by Tuesday, October 7, when I'll return. We hope to be able to start recording segments on that date.

I had a meeting on Friday, October 3, with Crista Collins, a program coordinator who works with the Digital Media Team members, who are part of the DSF program in the district. The Digital Service Fellows provide technology services to the district as part of the Urban Technology Project, established and managed by Edison Freire. Crista had contacted me to schedule some podcasting training for the members of her team. The plan is for them to work directly with school staff to develop podcasts. As we talked, we found that both of us had made plans to work with Valerie Howard at SPHS, without realizing the connection. This should enable the students at SPHS to work on several podcasts, involving more students. I'll work with a class on the Communicast, and a DSF will work with one or more classes to help develop podcasts specifically for South Philadelphia High School.

Tomorrow, I'll be back with the class, and I hope we'll get several tracks recorded. I'll probably do the editing for the first episode myself, but as time goes on, that responsibility will be taken by the students. I want them to take ownership of the program, and develop their skills in editing and producing, as well as writing their segments. I'll keep you posted!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Laying the Foundation

Of course, for this podcasting project to be successful, the cooperation of many different people is required. During the month of September, I visited the school several times, making the connections which will be necessary for success.

My first visit to South Philadelphia High School was on Thursday, September 18. It almost seemed like a mini-homecoming, because many of the staff members where I used to teach (W.S. Peirce Middle School) are now at Southern. It was a joy to see so many familiar faces!

On September 18, I met with the principal, Alice Heller, and two technology teachers, Valerie Howard and Audrey Nock. We discussed our goals and objectives for the program, so everyone had a voice in what we should expect. I'm happy to say that there's a real spirit of cooperation, which is really essential for making this work. We also discussed other staff members who might be interested in working with us as the program expands.

One focus of this podcast will be on the transformations that occur at SPHS as they become part of the Classrooms for the Future (CFF) grant, which is a state-wide initiative to bring technology into all high schools in Pennsylvania. I'll be talking more about this aspect in future posts.

On September 23, I met the class of students who will work on the podcast. We started by listening to some podcasts, and I showed them a little about how to use GarageBand. The students were asked to think about possible topics for their podcast segments. In addition, they were informed that parental permission is required for their participation, so we gave them the forms for their parents to sign.

So now, we have to build upon this foundation. We'll soon be ready to actually start writing scripts and recording segments. It was apparent to me that these students are interested and motivated. It'll be interesting to see how our first episode comes out!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Some Background Information

This blog is about the production of a podcast called The Communicast. I want to keep a record of this project, as a way to reflect on the accomplishments and challenges encountered by the people involved in the podcast.

I've been involved in podcasting for a few years now. My personal podcast is about Olde City Philadelphia. Those podcasts are posted on this site:

For the past year, I've also worked on a podcast called The Communicast. I do this as part of my job as a Technology Program Specialist with the School District of Philadelphia. I work behind the scenes, as the producer. It's a collaborative effort, involving students and other teachers in the district.

Last year, we published 6 episodes of The Communicast. The students were from the G.W. Childs Elementary School, and I think they did an excellent job. I hope the experience was both educational and enjoyable for the students. Special thanks go to Ms. Maria DiFlorio, the Technology Teacher Leader at Childs. I couldn't have done it without her!

Here's a link to The Communicast:

This year, we're switching to high school students, from South Philadelphia High School. After we get them started with the actual work involved in making a podcast, we hope that they will work as mentors with the students who participated last year from Childs.

Right now, we're making plans for the first episode, which we hope to have posted by the end of October. I'll be making posts to this blog on a regular basis, documenting the entire process. I'm looking forward to a very successful program with the students at South Philadelphia High School, working along with their computer teacher, Ms. Valerie Howard.