Podcasting in the Library and Amplifying Student Voice

By Alexandra Cornejo

Alexandra Cornejo is a high school librarian in Harlingen, TX. She is a member of the Texas Maverick Reading List Committee and hosts a booktalk podcast Allie the Librarian Booktalks. She is an enthusiast of comics and graphic novels and can often be found reading them late into the night with her booklight. Twitter @allie_cornejo

iPod + Broadcast =Podcast, this was the concept that was born in 2004 to offer the world radio on demand. Podcasts are usually audio only and meant for entertainment or news, but have since evolved to provide content on a multitude of subjects. There are actually about 750,000 podcasts or 30 million episodes available today!  It's not surprising that educators have found their niche within the podcast sphere and some of my absolute favorite podcasts are Cult of Pedagogy, Overthrowing Education and Educhange. However, my love of podcasts doesn’t stem from listening to them or even hosting my own. I really knew I loved podcasts when I realized they were an essential tool for providing students choice in the classroom or library. 

I've been listening to podcasts for years and I've always preferred them over YouTube or even music on the radio. Being an auditory learner, listening to thoughtful conversation has always aided in my comprehension of information. This served as an inspiration to bring this way of learning into the library; an innovative way for students to demonstrate evidence of learning or using it as a method of internalizing information. Choice boards have become popular and education technology is now essential to a quality education, so my hunt for a user-friendly way of recording a podcast was urgent. I needed an app that wouldn’t be hard for students to grasp and made the product easily shareable. Synth was an app I found on library Twitter that offered everything I needed to carry out podcasting for the classroom. Synth, at the time, allowed 4 ½ minutes to record and students could respond to their classmate’s podcast through voice comments. I immediately brought it into my library and had students begin creating their own podcasts by summarizing informational texts and having their classmates, or audience, respond with thoughtful commentary. Podcast projects grew to include reflections for expository writing, book reviews, interviews and eventually, even my Tech Team had a weekly podcast they were publishing. Podcast presentations became a fixture on my student choice boards and after I conducted podcast PD with my teachers, this presentation method was a common tool in my teachers’ digital toolbox. 

The benefits I’ve seen from podcasting with students have been numerous, indeed. Podcasts are immersive, which appeals to our sociologically trained ear that is inclined to listen to a story from start to finish, which also diminishes opportunity for distraction. Students develop valuable skills in articulating their thoughts effectively with the limited time they are allowed. Also, my students are their own harshest critics, so when they listen to themselves, they notice every “Um”, “Well”, and “Like” and quickly make the necessary adjustments. One of my favorite benefits, though, has to do with Emergent Bilinguals and the fact that they’re using their listening, speaking, reading and writing skills required for language proficiency when a podcast project requires script writing, voice recording and audience participation. And while Synth is still my preferred way of producing podcasts in the library, the trend has grown and increased in availability on a number of platforms, including Flipgrid, Garageband and Anchor. 

It’s a joy to witness my students become expert storytellers and savvy debaters, and I have, especially, enjoyed being able to effectively communicate with parents and teachers through an audio newsletter podcast I embed on my website. Podcasting has become such a passion of mine that I created my own podcast, Allie the Librarian Booktalks, which is available where you listen to your favorite podcasts. Conveniently, recording a podcast is fairly easy to carry out using a variety of devices. Chromebooks, laptops, iPads and smartphones are all great choices for recording. Earbuds with mic capabilities eliminate a lot of noise pollution which increases sound quality but are not necessary. 

I do hope you’ll give this a try in your library, as many of our students tend to be anxious creating a video response in class. Let podcasts serve as a way of easing a student out of their comfort zone to create something just as effective and entertaining. This is a trend that will not be going away anytime soon and I’m positive that it has found a permanent spot on our choice boards to amplify student voice.

Let's Promote Libraries 2021

by Brooke King, Middle School Librarian in Humble ISD, TASL Legislative & Advocacy Chair

The TASL Legislative & Advocacy Committee began the "Let's Promote Libraries!" campaign in 2017 with the hopes of encouraging school librarians to promote themselves, their programs, and their instruction proactively to our stakeholders. This social media campaign encouraged school librarians to show off what happened in their school libraries each month as a question framed around the Texas Library Standards.

This year, we would like to focus on specific stakeholders each month and show those stakeholders a way their school librarian is important to them. Personalize your message to that specific group. 

We will still share on the 1st of each month, but choose whichever platform works best for your stakeholders. You can post on any social media outlet, send an email, create a newsletter, or write a blog. Choose photos and images to tell your story. 

Please use #TxASLTalks so it is easy for all of us school librarians to find and help share our messages. Then use your own hashtags to share your message of the important role school libraries have with students and learning with your local stakeholders

It’s easy to participate!

Step 1: Look at the current month’s audience and prompt.

Step 2: Snap a photo and write your message showing how you do that task or activity to help that stakeholder.

Step 3: Post your message and photo on any/all platforms of social media.

Step 4: Be sure to use the hashtags #TxASLTalks and any other key hashtags.

Step 5: Repost/retweet/share

Here is an infographic to guide you.

Thank you for participating in this campaign and advocating for the work librarians do that contributes to the success of students and schools!

Advocacy Doesn’t Stop When Retirement Begins

Jennifer Rike, Retired Librarian

In May 2020, I retired from my high school library position and have spent the past school year trying to figure out how to be retired.    During COVID, I stayed in touch with former colleagues, and realized my former peers were experiencing a hard time.  It wasn’t just Covid struggles, this went beyond that.  One friend could not even talk about it.  But sometimes, your gut just tells you to reach out to someone.  I’m so glad I did.

We began with a conversation about the past year.   But then came a shocker.  My friend mentioned that in April all elementary principals had been told it would be “okay” to put all their librarians in rotation.  My friend’s principal was going to follow that advice.  Sadly, the elementary librarians in my former district had no advocate at the district level.  My school district of 49 schools doesn’t have a library director.  And the person who had suggested rotation?  Their district level advocate.  

My anger and frustration at the situation forced me to step up.  This was a Thursday afternoon and the next school board meeting was the following Tuesday.  So there were about four days to pull together some sort of presentation for the board.  

So just how do you advocate when you are retired?  First, I recruited some other district retiree friends.  This allowed me to build a “brain hive”.  Secondly, I reached out to library administrators I had worked with through TLA and in advocacy work over the years.  This not-so-subtle plug reminds us of why we need to work with our professional organizations.   The Texas Library Association has been a large part of my professional development and advocacy training.  

The TLA hive was powerful as I prepared my presentation. My local hive helped craft and deliver the message.

The benefits of the hive included:

1. Help researching talking points 

2. Curating links to documents.

2. Perspective in what would resonate with the school board.

3. Valuable suggestions to improve my presentation.

The most valuable suggestion was never, ever surprise your superintendent.  Send an email with your intent to speak at the board meeting.

 Besides not surprising the superintendent, it gave her an opportunity to have an Area Superintendent and the Directors of Elementary Education to call me.  This allowed for a conversation.  While not extensive, it was a start.  

Next, I constructed 3 focused questions for the school board.  Then I sent an email to my school board with these questions.  This variation of the one sent to the superintendent shifted the focus to the board as the audience.  It also allowed for continuity of thought.  By sending the board an email prior to their meeting allowed them to “listen” more critically.  It also allowed me to provide resources for the board to review both prior to and after my presentation.

Lastly, another retired librarian and I spoke at the school board meeting.  We prepped dividing the information so we maximized our 3 minute speaking time.  We distributed to the school board, superintendent, top administrators copies of the advocacy piece created by Dorcas Hand.  I sent a follow-up email thanking everyone for the opportunity to speak.

How effective was this advocacy work?  One of the school board members spoke to the superintendent the next day for 30 minutes. Later, two additional school board members thanked me for letting them know what was going on.  Will that result in keeping the librarians from going into rotation?  I hope so.  

More importantly, I know that advocacy works.  Our school board and administrators know there are people in the community who are interested and knowledgeable about how librarians benefit learning and student outcomes.  And I have built a “hive” of support for the future.

My advice for current librarians includes:  

  • Reach out to the TLA advocacy folks when you need them.  Ask them to become advocates or recommend options.  

  • Cultivate your retired peers.  The more members of your hive you have, the better your response to the issue.  We care and there are no consequences to our job.  This is one perk of retirement.  

  • Reach out to parents.  

  • Lastly, remember you are not alone.  The phrase “the hive is powerful” is true.  

Together the hive can create a voice of advocacy.  Start building your hive today so it can spring into action when needed.  

Editor’s note:  As a District Level Supervisor I can attest that while district leadership will speak on your behalf, parents, retired librarians, and others speaking up through emails, petitions, and talking to Principals, Administrators, and School Board Members is more powerful.  Look to district leadership to provide guidance and help with statistics.