In these days of YouTube, iPods and mobile phones that shoot HD video, one could be forgiven for thinking radio is a rather dated medium. However, the fact that radio refuses to go away despite the onslaught of more recent media is testament to its power, and it can provide unique learning experiences in schools.
School radio can work in different ways, from prerecorded podcast shows which can be shared online and accessed at any time, to fully live shows broadcast in real time. It can take advantage of specialist equipment to allow learning technical skills, but one of the benefits of radio as a medium is that it can be produced with really minimal equipment and cost. A USB microphone and a computer is really all you need to get started to recording shows, and free software such as Audacity
can provide sophisticated recording and editing functions for nothing.
Whilst learning technical skills is of value, the best learning that has taken place in our radio studio has been when the technology has become invisible and left children to concentrate on the content and delivery of what they are producing. In some ways the strength of radio as a medium is its simplicity. There are no visual shots to frame, no purely technical roles operating the camera, and this really focuses children on what they are saying and how they are saying it. It can also enable normally shy children to have a go at expressing themselves, and grow their confidence. The immediacy and speed of audio recording allows pupils to take ownership of the process really quickly, and that is when the really valuable results happen as their own ideas and creativity take over.
At Robin Hood Junior and Infant Schoo
l in Birmingham our main radio output has been in the form of podcasts, available on our radio blog at http://rhsradio.wordpress.com
. These comprise regular programmes put together by a volunteer team of older children. Although the production takes place as an extra curricular activity, we also try to feed the curriculum into what we are doing by allowing classes to submit speaking and listening or music work they have done for inclusion in the shows. This provides an authentic audience for work, and helps to increase our sense of community as we can all share and enjoy the successes from across the school.
These prerecorded broadcasts provide learning opportunities from planning to evaluating and editing, but as anyone who has worked in radio will tell you; there is nothing quite like live! Broadcasting live to a real time audience piles on the pressure, but also brings out the best in problem solving, resilience and risk taking. When something goes wrong pupils have to keep going, and whilst this can be scary, there is nothing like it for developing confidence. This can be achieved with a simple setup of speakers outside the studio, to using your computer network to stream the live show to any computer in the school.
If you are interested in equipment for school radio there are sites like www.schoolradio.co.uk
with a range of equipment solutions. However, all you need to get started is a computer with a microphone, and some pupils with ideas to share.