I’ve always been a fan of radio and podcasting in particular. When I was a child I would listen to master storyteller Jean Shepherd on WOR every evening before bedtime. Now it’s “This American Life,” “Freakonomics Radio” or “Fresh Air.” That’s why it should come as no surprise that I was led to develop a series of podcasts for Brooklyn Friends School.
The idea for the BFS ENEWS Podcast initially was pretty simple, make weekly, five-minute episodes that highlighted an upcoming event or program at school. It would include as many student voices as possible. The program would be made available via the school’s weekly electronic newsletter on Fridays and shared on our social media channels, particularly Twitter, as well.
The goal was to help engage and inform community members in the school’s program. Parents are the primary audience followed by the students and faculty/staff.
The first three episodes are audio only, as intended. But, as is often the case in the digital age, other possibilities presented itself, “enhanced podcasts.” Technically enhanced podcasts are…
“AAC encoded audio files (m4a or m4b, m4p) with new data inside them that can be time based, like an image or a URL to appear at a certain time.” I use this term liberally to mean to include images and video with the audio to enhance or add to the story.
The advantage of enhanced podcasting is being able to communicate two ideas simultaneously, one visually and the other with audio. The audio is primary to the message of the show; one can simply listen to the show and be satisfied. The visual elements sometimes relate directly to the episode, but often will just be a glimpse into another facet of the school’s program.
At BFS we have digital signage throughout the campus. The signage program consists mostly of slide shows from the various divisions and non-academic departments. The images are available via the school’s SmugMug photo-sharing program and used to enhance the podcasts.
How an episode is created.
Choose a topic from the school’s calendar of events.
Interview students involved in the upcoming event or about a related topic. These interviews are conducted in the field with a handheld digital audio recorder
Interview the organizer of the event (student, staff or parent) in studio.
Edit the audio portion of the program. I use GarageBand.
Export out the program as a movie and upload it to Vimeo.
The links to the podcasts are added to the school’s weekly ENEWS newsletter and also added to a Google Sites website for archival purposes.
The typical episode takes six hours to complete.
It is difficult at best to quantify the effectiveness of the podcasts. I do have data with regards to views, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. These podcasts are used in a variety of ways, such as, embedded in articles on the website, played on digital signage displays, and presented in assemblies and classrooms. Anecdotally, this first year I have had numerous interactions with students, faculty/staff and parents about the stories and about future ideas.
This year 27 ENEWS Podcast episodes were produced that varied in length from 6 – 20 minutes. It was a little hectic. This upcoming school year the plan is to do 19 episodes, approximately one every two weeks based on the academic calendar. The plan is to solidify the format with two brief segments, announcements by students and alumni reflections, and two long segments, one about an upcoming event and another about the BFS program.
It may not have been one of the initial goals, but I believe the show has significantly bolstered community building and enhanced internal marketing. Although I produce and host the segments, it has become a community effort. Faculty, staff, students and parents have collaborated on all of these segments.
Because this was the first year of the podcasts, the episodes vary greatly in style, content and format. As indicated on the ENEWS Podcast Archive, the episodes may be audio only, enhanced podcast, or video. It’s difficult for me to suggest just one episode that exemplifies the podcasts. Please read the descriptions and decide for yourself.
It has been a pleasure for me to interview and meet faculty, administrators, students and parents alike, asking them about their passions, hopes and dreams. It allowed me, as a representative of the school, to acknowledge the valuable contributions they make to the community.