Compiled by former Learning Lab Fellow William O'Hara
In order to prepare students for a successful podcast assignment, you'll want to train them in two key technical moves (recording audio and editing audio) and two key storytelling moves (performing an interview and then creating a story through your editing).
There are basically two key tips here: 1) try to find a setting without too much ambient noise, and 2) get the microphone as close to the speaker as possible. Here is a useful YouTube video that offers some tips on using your phone to acquire high quality audio:
There are two great apps for this purpose: Audacity, if you are on a PC, and Garageband, if you are on a Mac. Both are easy to learn and offer you all the tools you need to edit a basic podcast (and more). For both of these apps, you can find extended training on Lynda.com, which Harvard faculty, staff, and students can access for free. Here is the link to the Audacity course, and here is the link to the Garageband course.
If these lengthy courses are more than you need, you might try YouTube, where you can find shorter tips on editing podcasts with Audacity.
Or editing podcasts with Garageband:
Interviews (and other audio)
If your podcast assignment is going to depend largely on sound you capture on location, your students will need to do their best to give their interview subjects the best possible shot at telling them their stories. (They also need to think about capturing some of the "natural sound" they find at the location to help listeners understand the context). Here is a useful set of tips from the star of a popular NPR show and podcast:
Pulling it all together into a story
Once your students have acquired all of their audio, they need to start thinking about how they are going to trim it, arrange it—maybe even how to enhance it with an additional voice-over they record themselves later on. The goal, ideally, will be for it to seem like there is a necessary rather than random order to the pieces they have selected, for the elements to seem linked and patterned, and for the piece as a whole to "add up to something." Here is a great Medium post on how Ira Glass from "This American Life" uses the basic "anecdote" (or series of events) and the "moment of reflection" to construct stories.
Some Demos, Models, and Inspiration
Imitation is the secret to great art, so when your students are creating their podcasts, they'll want to look for great models. Some of our favorite podcasts here at the Bok Center are This American Life, 99% Invisible (and other great podcasts from Radiotopia), Song Exploder, and Gravy.
The following TED Talk features 99% Invisible host Roman Mars, who performs a podcast live on-stage, complete with music beds and recorded interviews. Seeing the familiar elements of a podcast being cued up and stitched together in real time can help students understand how to put their own together.
If they have a little more time, they might watch this workshop taught at the Bok Center in April 2016, which covers the basics of editing in GarageBand AND some strategies for interviewing and audio storytelling.