ARTICLE

Student Podcasts Help Inform a Community

A group of technology-loving eighth-graders at Georgetown Day School combined their digital skills with a passion for helping others. It was community service in a computer lab. As part of the school’s service learning program, we asked the Northern Virginia AIDS Ministry (NOVAM), a local health organization, if students might interview staff, record the interviews and produce podcasts about its work and mission. NOVAM educates the public about HIV and AIDS and provides support to people and families coping with the disease. The eighth graders hoped their mini-radio programs might be posted on the organization’s website for clients to download.

A group of technology-loving eighth-graders at Georgetown Day School combined their digital skills with a passion for helping others. It was community service in a computer lab.

As part of the school’s service learning program, we asked the Northern Virginia AIDS Ministry (NOVAM), a local health organization, if students might interview staff, record the interviews and produce podcasts about its work and mission. NOVAM educates the public about HIV and AIDS and provides support to people and families coping with the disease. The eighth graders hoped their mini-radio programs might be posted on the organization’s website for clients to download.

First we had to educate ourselves. My students conducted research. We read about the organization and identified the client services. More importantly, using resources from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the eighth-graders learned more about AIDS and identified myths and stereotypes surrounding the disease.

Armed with their new information, students examined the NOVAM website and formulated questions for their staff interviews. My students tried to put themselves in the client’s shoes and imagine potential questions. They also tried to anticipate issues that might come up in their staff interviews and come up with follow-up questions. After two hard-working sessions, the group was ready to record.

The podcasting team spent about an hour interviewing various NOVAM staff members. Arriving with digital voice recorders and clipboards in hand, my students asked their questions and listened to descriptions about the organization. They learned how staff members educate the public and support people when a family member is diagnosed with AIDS. My students found it especially engaging to hear NOVAM staff members discuss their focus on AIDS prevention and teens.

Back at school, we downloaded the raw interviews and went to work using GarageBand for editing. For several sessions the podcasters listened to their interviews, identified significant portions and edited out portions that they thought were less important. Students wrote and recorded short introductions, figuring out where they might need to add explanations to make the podcast more informative. As each student finished, the podcast was given to two other group members who listened to it and made suggestions. Finally, each student added a musical loop and the project as an easy-to-use digital media file.

We sent the podcasts to NOVAM, where the webmaster uploaded them to their website right on the first page. “Wow,” one of my students exclaimed when we checked out the site. “These might really help someone learn more about NOVAM and a lot more about AIDS prevention.”

Weston is a middle school technology teacher in Washington, D.C.

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