- Associated Press - Sunday, December 22, 2019

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) - A class activity that includes a technical challenge is adding another dimension of creativity to a literature class at Abraham Lincoln High School.

In Carrie Booms-Ryan’s dual-credit American Literature class, students are producing podcasts about literary works. She got the idea after a group of students made a podcast for a one-time project last year.

“It worked so well in terms of the analysis, interest, engagement and collaboration,” she told The Daily Nonpareil.

Students tweet about their independent reading, and they can post their podcasts to that, Booms-Ryan said.

“We don’t have to share it with the world, if they don’t want to,” she said.



The project, “Podcasting American Lit,” was awarded a $650 classroom grant by the Council Bluffs Schools Foundation in November, which was used to purchase microphones. The new microphones are better quality than those on a smart phone or laptop, students said. In addition, they are spherical, so one microphone can pick up students sitting around a table.

Groups of two or three students - and some individual students - choose a selection from an approved list of literature, read it and map out its elements on a storyboard. Then they discuss it, brainstorm and write outlines and scripts for their podcasts.

Students like having technology as a part of the assignment, some said.

“In my English class, you didn’t use technology a lot,” said junior Andres Valdez.

Integrating technology into the project sparks more interest among the students, he said.

It’s an improvement over just doing a textbook analysis, said Rolando Martinez-Rico, another junior and member of Andres’ group.

“With the technology, we’re able to take that further,” Rolando said.

“I think this has been really useful for our generation, because podcasts have become a major way people get information,” said junior Molly Higgins, the third member of the trio. “One of the things I like about this project is we can take something from old literature and tie it in with something that’s relevant now.”

All three said they had never made a podcast before taking the class, but Molly and Rolando said they had listened to some.

Their previous assignment was to make a podcast focusing on literature from the Romantic Era, Andres said.

“We used a short story, ‘Rip Van Winkle’ by Washington Irving,” and also tied in some Romantic poetry, said Molly.

The group used a radio show format for its podcast, Molly said. Andres served as the host, and Molly and Rolando debated “Rip Van Winkle” - Molly from a feminist point of view, and Rolando from a Marxist viewpoint.

With the microphones plugged into a laptop computer, the students use the website Anchor, which allows them to record and edit their dialog.

“It also allows for creative expression,” Molly said. They can add music and sound effects, she said.

Devin Schoening, an instructional coach for technology for the district, told the class about some websites that have “free” music they can use without violating copyright laws, Booms-Ryan said.

“All of the music they’ve used is free,” she said.

Once the group was finished, they published the podcast online through Anchor. The finished product was 13 minutes and 31 seconds.

“The website allows us to (distribute) it globally,” Andres said.

Added Rolando, “It gives you a graph of how many are listening and where.”

The graph showed that most listeners were in the United States but some were in Australia and South Korea.

For their next assignment, students will be focusing on Transcendentalism and Dark Romanticism, Molly said.

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