Now for the news where you are

3rd February 2012 at 00:00
It's lights, camera, action as pupils put out a weekly school podcast

"All pupils in class, are you ready to watch?" We wait for confirmation from each of the classes. Once the sound tests are complete, we're ready to roll and the broadcast can begin.

The P7 pupils at Laurieston Primary in Falkirk are broadcasting their weekly podcast to the school. Only 20 minutes ago we were told the internet was down and they might have to cancel. Calm and professional, they take the news in their stride, and when it does go back on, just in time, they immediately get down to work.

For the past year, P7 has been podcasting to the rest of the school every Friday morning via Glow. Fellow pupils find out about school news and events, as well as hearing whose birthday it is this week.

Today's presenter is 11-year-old Morven Fullerton, who speaks loudly and clearly into the microphone while reading from a script which is carefully positioned just under the microphone. It's the next best thing to autocue.

She introduces today's guests - two P1 children who have birthdays this week - and they come forward to speak briefly to the school. Following this, she makes this week's announcements before thanking the pupils for listening, and ending the broadcast.

Principal teacher Morag Carson came up with the idea following a conversation about podcasting with a colleague.

"I thought it sounded brilliant," she remembers. "I was keen to get all the pupils involved in Glow but found the thought a bit daunting. Podcasting seemed the ideal way to get them to use it regularly."

The children were allowed to choose their own roles - presenter, researcher, runner, ICT support, assistant director and director - and Mrs Carson admits there were some surprises.

"I wouldn't have chosen Morven for presenter, but she wanted to do it and she has got on really well - quite a surprise," she says.

"I deliberately didn't veto any of the choices as I think there should be an element of choice. It is good for the pupils to think about what they are good at and what they like to do.

"The runners tended to be the less confident children who didn't want roles with responsibility, such as presenting or ICT support. But they wanted to play their part and nobody has come back and said they made the wrong choice."

Preparations begin a week in advance with the children giving up playtimes and part of their lunchtime to gather information and do research. The responsibility is shared between two teams to allow each one a bit of a break.

Lewis Forsyth, 11, is this week's researcher. "My job is to gather all the information for that week, and bring it to the scriptwriter who will write it up and then print it out for the presenter. It involves going to the office and finding out about birthdays. It does take quite a while," he admits.

Scott Mackenzie, 11, is assistant director and sees his role as troubleshooter. "I help the scriptwriters in the ICT suite at lunchtimes and I sometimes go into different classrooms, making sure that all pupils are logged on," he says.

This group took over from last year's P7s and began podcasting in August. After only a few months they have some memorable broadcasts which stick in their mind. When their class teacher Mrs Morrison retired, they did a live interview asking her about her teaching career. And at Christmas time they had the P1s performing "When Santa got stuck up the chimney".

But they have also had their fair share of drama and the pupils seem to get a buzz from talking about the hurdles they got over.

"There was the time we lost the script," recalls Samantha Gordon. "There was a major panic, but we had it on file and got on the computer to print another one off in time.

"And the Christmas one was a bit of a disaster. We had pictures of candy cane and some handmade cards. We put them down and then forgot where we had put them, so we started a bit later."

But most Fridays everything goes to plan, with classes sitting down at 10.45 for the five- to 10-minute podcast.

Mrs Carson admits that the groups now primarily run it on their own. "Once up and running, they were able to run with it every week" she says. "It is easy to maintain. I host meetings, logging in to Glow, and am always around when they podcast, but I can't oversee it all, so it is an opportunity for them to lead."

As well as improving ICT skills and providing a context for podcasting, pupils have benefited from working in teams and from the responsibility. Mrs Carson tells how she overheard two of the presenters discussing what worked and what didn't, keen to learn from their mistakes and to improve.

"These are children who are confident in their roles. They have gained in independence, decision making, delegation, and organisational skills. They play to their own strengths and have taken on roles they felt they were good at."

`BLOWN AWAY'

An evaluation of the weekly podcasts was conducted to find out what pupils thought of them. Mrs Carson says she was "blown away" by the results.

Feedback was 100 per cent positive, with pupils commenting on how much they enjoyed it and how they looked forward to hearing news they would otherwise have missed out on.

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