My aspirational brain vomit

Podcasting and The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

Will we break free from our chrysalis as a strange but sturdy night-embracing moth defying expectations of the expected butterfly? Or will we be forced by education as we largely know it to present ourselves as the expected thing of beauty- a traditional factory model teacher – to those unwilling to evolve and change to fit the needs of the 21st century? Which shall we choose? In my podcast here (MP3) or here (Ogg Vorbis), I make connections between the novel The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly and the use of Web 2.0 tools.

Reflections on the process of learning about the tool

I have to admit I was a little intimidated by the idea of setting up a podcast: guides in the past seemed rather complicated. But, I knew I would have to forge ahead with the experiment, as, much like a Jedi Knight looking to become a Jedi Master, I would have to be able to show my young apprentices in the classroom, or Padawans, the ropes.

So, I did find some clear instructions from Richardson (2010) as well as materials I searched for online suited to my MacBook, and I found that it was an easier process than I’d expected. I decided to try out GarageBand to begin with, but knew that if this proved to be too challenging, there were some easy online solutions suggested by Richardson (2010) such as It turns out though that I didn’t have to use them as GarageBand sufficed for my purposes, although it did require a bit of a learning curve. Thank goodness for being able to Google my difficulties – someone on a forum somewhere was bound to have addressed my questions and concerns regarding GarageBand for podcasting (and yes, they had). And, through this process, I increased my critical thinking and problem solving skills, as would students working their way through a new technology, just as a young Padawan would if they had been handed a light saber and told to turn it on without knocking off a limb in the process (of course they are eased into the process with less powerful light sabers, but still).

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (2009) includes in it Skills Framework the idea that students should “View failure as an opportunity to learn; understand that creativity and innovation is a long-term, cyclical process of small successes and frequent mistakes”. Yoda might say, as per this Yoda translator “To learn view failure as an opportunity.  Long-term, you must understand that creativity and innovation is, of small successes and frequent mistakes cyclical process.  Yes, hmmm.” Yes, learning a new technology and developing the skills necessary to create a podcast fits this description, as it is a rather complicated process if you consider not only the technical component of creating a podcast (which isn’t all that tough with some basic guidance), but also look to develop skills in topic choice, writing, presentation, etc.

Anyway, rather than type out how I used GarageBand for this purpose, I’ll provide you a screencast here of it instead, as this should be far more useful for you. Note that my focus for this post is on podcasting, not vodcasting, as I did cover video sharing in my last post, and I believe vodcasting and video sharing are similar tools.

As an aside, I amused myself recognizing some of the “jingles” provided in GarageBand on other podcasts I have heard, as well as viral education videos. Some of them are quite impressive, but probably overused so I thought I’d better avoid them. And, while there aren’t any actual pieces from the Star Wars soundtrack in GarageBand, there are a number of intense, cinematic “jingles” that might have similar qualities.

Discussion of the tool in terms of my own personal life and learning

Podcasts, as far as I am concerned, are the best thing since sliced bread for a time-starved working, schooling mama of two young boys, such as myself. Podcasts allow me to continue learning for both personal and professional purposes even while I do the dishes, clean the bathroom, commute, stand in lineups, etc., as I can play them on my iPhone. Tuck my iPhone into my waistband or pocket, put my earphones into my ear (only one if I’m driving!) and I’m good to go.

I might use podcasting in my personal life as I might use photo or video sharing: so that I may share elements of my life with friends and family.

Also, if I am, as an educator, to share with others as per this Shareski video, then podcasting would certainly be useful for sharing my thoughts and examples of lessons and teaching methodology. Educators David Wees and Joe Bower, for instance, have started an educational podcast under the name “Cooperative Catalyst” regarding educational reform. More podcasts geared toward librarians, teachers, and students can be found here.

Further discussion of podcasting in relation to my own learning process is found on the podcast I created for this blog, as previously mentioned, here (MP3) or here (Ogg Vorbis).

Discussion of the tool in terms of teaching and learning

Chances are, podcasting could cover most of the listed skills within the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (2009) framework document, a selection of which is highlighted below, because as Riddle (2010) notes, “the process is a nexus for traditional and 21st-century literacies, requiring discipline-based research, reading, and writing. Podcasting also calls for editing, oral reading, and presentation skills. This bonanza of traditional skills further interfaces with technology, problem solving, creativity, and collaboration.” (p. 23):

  • “Evaluate information critically and competently”: it is important that, like any other medium, students are taught to critically assess the validity and relevance of podcasts they use.
  • “Apply a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of information”: ethical and legal issues around listening to and creating podcasts would also certainly need to be covered with students. For instance, is what is being podcasted appropriate, and did everyone involved agree to their involvement? Is the music or other media being used in the podcast in the public domain, or was permission sought and obtained to use the material if it was not?
  • “Manage the flow of information from a wide variety of sources”: fortunately, podcasts are available via RSS subscription.
  • “Develop, implement and communicate new ideas to others effectively”: podcasting does this!
  • “Understand and utilize the most appropriate media creation tools, characteristics and conventions”: there are numerous resources to assist students with podcasting. Here are more.
  • “Understand and effectively utilize the most appropriate expressions and interpretations in diverse, multi-cultural environments”: podcasting provides a real-life opportunity for actually learning and implementing these “appropriate expressions and interpretations” when, for instance, students create podcasts for classrooms they are connected with on the other side of the planet. This is a powerful way for students to learn about other cultures.

Podcasting can be used in variety of ways in the classroom:

  • First off, Will Richardson has loads of ideas in Chapter 8 of this book.
  • Use iTunes University as supplemental material for IB Diploma or Advanced Placement courses: for instance, there are a variety of psychology lectures available, which my Psych 12 students can use on their commute home to increase their background knowledge and subject retention, and to hear differing perspective on issues they are studying.
  • There are a variety of other podcasted resources that can help students learn about the world around them, such as CBC’s podcasts or Archives Canada.
  • Podcasts can provide audio feedback to individual students or groups. This might be more useful than written feedback particularly amongst largely pre-literate children, or students with learning disabilities. As a matter of fact, not only audio feedback, but also the reading out loud of written class materials on a podcast may also help these same categories of students.
  • Language teachers might create e.g. pronunciation lessons using podcasts such. Students, in return, could create podcasts in the language they are learning to be listened to by students who are native speakers of this language, in order to be assessed by both teachers and the native speakers of the second language.
  • Teachers in any subject might record their class lectures and class discussions for later review.
  • Create podcasts in the mother tongues of students and their parents to pass on pertinent school and classroom information.
  • Have teachers, students or their relatives who travel create podcasts as they travel to share with a class. Actually, podcasts “from the field’ could happen for any number of subject areas, and the travel involved could be to the forest behind one’s home.
  • Students could create podcasts for other students in the world and vice versa in order to share and learn about each other’s perspectives on various topics.
  • Teachers could use podcasting to improve second language learning.
  • These podcasts made me think of teaching children to read aloud effectively and fluently. Students can hear themselves read aloud. Furthermore, parents can hear, and note progress (e.g. with online portfolio, students and teachers could post earlier podcasts with which to compare progression).
  • Librarians could read books excerpts to promote a book, or create announcements about new book arrivals or other library events.
  • Have students listen to authors podcast various tips. Katie Davis, for instance, describes how to tell a scary story here, and has a guest librarian provide a book review as well. By the way, Katie’s blog technique consists of written summaries of what to expect in the podcast. She also includes the relevant links mentioned in the podcast on the blog post. Very handy.
  • I consider the audiobook a fantabulous supersized podcast. I may be technically incorrect here but I’m going for it…
  • As is pointed out by Kerstetter (2009), music teachers can provide tutorials and supplemental music (found within the public domain) for listening to, and student music can be recorded for sharing (and I think assessing).
  • Teach students to create podumentaries (yes, I actually came up with that name myself, but then googled “podumentaries” only to find that I am not really very original) using Radio Diaries.

A final idea I had came to me as I remembered back to when I was a teenager. At that time, one of the local rock radio stations would play old radio plays (also known as radio theatre and radio drama) from when radio was king because T.V. didn’t exist. And I loved them – especially the ones with great dialogue. Therefore, imagine having students both listen to and create radio plays. In terms of the latter, they would need to create scripts and perform them, with a focus on making the writing and performance appealing enough because there would be no visuals to cover for poor writing or performance. I found several resources including vintage radio plays originally broadcast on CBC, old time mystery radio dramas and a couple of sites with modern radio plays here and here. And, while I don’t know how legal these are, perhaps students inclined to Star Wars Geekdom could use these sound effects in a Star Wars themed radio play.

Podcasting, Web 2.0, and The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate podcast

Creating a Podcast in GarageBand Screencast


Kerstetter, K. (2009). Educational applications of podcasting in the music classroom. Music Educators Journal, 95(4), 23. Retrieved from MasterFILE Premier database.

Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2009, December). Framework for 21st
century learning. Retrieved April 2, 2010, from

Richardson, Will (2010). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms.     Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Riddle, J. (2010). Podcasting in the classroom: A sound success. MultiMedia & Internet@Schools, 17(1), 23. Retrieved from MasterFILE Premier database.

5 Responses to “Podcasting and The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate”

  1. Debbie Trees

    Kirsten – loved your analogies to the literature. Does this mean I’ll one day be a beautiful butterfly?, that is once I’ve learned all these tools? 😉 I like how you compared the main character’s evolution to our own educational evolution and how we all need and benefit from mentors. Really, isn’t that what education is about… mentorship? coming alongside of students and working with them as they develop and mature…sounds like mentorship to me. And yes, we all need it to, as grad students, but also just as professionals hopefully continually seeking growth and development in our fields. and who doesn’t need support? or someone to bounce ideas off of. I love that you’ve mentioned this. Also love your last question: why are we doing technology/ or involved with technology?… for appearance or for effectiveness? Great question. I’d like to think the latter, but you are right marketing certainly does play into all of this.

    Your post and podcast has great ideas. well done!

  2. shelljob

    “Yoda might say, as per this Yoda translator “To learn view failure as an opportunity. Long-term, you must understand that creativity and innovation is, of small successes and frequent mistakes cyclical process. Yes, hmmm.”

    Well, after many failures in the last week, I have had small successes and certainly learned. This Yoda is a wise one, he is!

    • tlkirsten

      It all can be a tad frustrating, can’t it? I guess the bonus is that now we know how to do something new…and hopefully we won’t forget. I have a colleague who blogs things as he learns how to do them, specifically so he won’t forget.

  3. Jeff Yasinchuk

    Hi Kirsten:

    Thanks for sharing you thoughts. My favourite of all of your ideas was using it for students in ESL. What a great way to self-assess! Create a podcast and critique (with teacher-led criteria of course). Have you tried this method?


    • tlkirsten

      I haven’t done podcasting in the classroom (now I’ll have to won’t I?), but I’ve done some of these things with analog tape recorders in the past – but I see so much more flexibility and opportunities with the podcasting….


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