Our City Podcast: Before Preproduction

Student Listening to PodcastI am working with two schools in USVI that have Palm handhelds for student use. Seventh graders at Moravian School are working on a St. Thomas episode of Our City Podcast. Our City is a great way to introduce podcasting. There are plenty of example episodes, the host/segment format is effective, and creation resources are available.

Before beginning preproduction on their St. Thomas episode, students are listening to existing episodes. We started with Outstanding Omaha. Not only could the seventh graders learn about the place I call home, but they could follow along and refer back to the script in eReader on their handhelds (a printable PDF format is also available). The class discussed what they learned about Omaha and what they noticed about the episode's sound, organization, and content.

Students are now in the process of listening to two of the nearly 30 episodes on their handhelds. I have 25 Multimedia Cards (cheap versions of SD cards) to which I copied random episodes of Our City Podcast. Each card is only 32MB so I could only fit three episodes per card. Nowadays you can get 1GB SD cards for pretty cheap, and 1GB can store all episodes with lots of memory to spare. I required students to choose two of the three episodes on their cards to listen to.

RealPlayer for Palm (free) is loaded on each handheld. RealPlayer can play MP3 files in the background while students work in other programs. I had students listen for certain information and type responses into a word processing document on their handhelds. I gave them a choice of answering two of these questions:

  • List two things that the two cities have in common.
  • List three things that are very different about the cities.
  • Decide which city you would rather visit. Explain why.
  • Decide which city you would like to live in. Tell why.
  • Which podcaster would make a good friend for you? Tell why.

I bought 97¢ earbuds from WalMart for students to use with their handhelds. Headphones are necessary when students are listening to 30 different recordings at once. You can't beat the under $1 price tag.


The handhelds also have Plucker (free). Plucker enables you to put websites on handheld devices. I made a simple HTML document that links to the Wikipedia entries for each Our City episode. I used Plucker on my desktop to turn that into a file that can be read using Plucker (or FlingIt) on the handhelds. I do wish the school's handhelds had Wi-Fi. I could then just have students points their browsers to Wikipedia (or mobile-friendly versions like Wapedia.mobi). So, another part of the assignment for students was to find a fact about a city that was left out of that city's episode. Students also looked for any differently-reported facts between the podcast and Wikipedia. If there is a difference, it's an opportunity to explore which source is correct.

Although the students had responses to prepare as they listened, their main purpose for listening was to help them produce the very best episode possible. Analyzing other episodes is a great way to know what to do (and what now to do) in their own episode. The seventh graders are confident that they can do a great job. They are excited to educate their listeners about their island paradise. Subscribe to Our City Podcast so that you receive the St. Thomas episode when it debuts next month.