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Sound bytes for beginners

Podcasting can be invaluable in honing young children's writing and communication skills, reports Stephen Manning

Interviewing a group of Japanese visitors for a podcast was an ideal way for pupils from Lickhill Lodge First School in Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire, to start learning about new technology.

For these digital natives, aged four to nine, a "multi-sensory learning"

approach - combining the auditory, visual, kinaesthetic and tactile - works best. The school has heavily integrated technology into the curriculum and is now concentrating on extending its podcasting activity.

Pupils work in mixed age groups, with the older children getting to grips with editing. For the six and seven-year-olds, this may well be their first encounter with podcasting.

The podcasts feature children's interviews with visitors, teachers or each other - which is how the youngsters came to be interviewing a delegation of Japanese teachers and lecturers.

The visitors were subjected to an interrogation by a group of children, who plied their guests with inquiries such as what sort of computer games did Japanese children play? And, since their guests were so smartly dressed, did their pupils have school uniforms?

But there was more to it than mere diplomatic pleasantries, according to Calne Edgington-White, the school's headteacher, who helped the pupils prepare scripts in advance. "I got them to think beforehand about structuring questions to get a better answer, not just 'did you' but 'how did you feel whenI' That's a very important thinking skill," she says.

"They had to take turns with questioning and also think about a specific audience - in this case, parents and anyone else who hears the podcast. And listening back to it will sharpen their sense of how to improve."

In a school where the children will just as readily pick up a digital camera as a pencil, is there a danger of all play and no work?

Calne believes not. "Getting boys to write is always a bit harder, for example, but when they are working with scripts or storyboards it helps them a lot because they have a model to work towards - a movie or a broadcast, something they can really get a feel for."

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