Reading, Writing, Foreign Language and Technology Blend
    to Create an Effective Personal Essay and Podcast Project

    A collaborative project for 9th and 10th grade International Studies Students


    From 1951 to l955, Edward R. Murrow hosted This I Believe, a daily radio program that reached 39 million listeners. On this broadcast, Americans—both well known and unknown—read five-minute essays about their personal philosophy of life. They shared insights about individual values that shaped their daily actions. The first volume of This I Believe essays, published in 1952, sold 300,000 copies—more than any other book in the U. S. during that year except for the Bible. In fact, these Murrow broadcasts were so popular that curriculum was even developed to encourage American high school students to compose essays about their most significant personal beliefs. Fifty years later, This I Believe, Inc., and NPR are again inviting Americans of all ages and all perspectives to examine their belief systems and then write a 400- to 500-word personal essay.

    lcOur project in East Aurora required pairs of International Studies students to work collaboratively to craft a common belief statement that encompassed a value and a belief system from their research in the International Studies Program. Students were introduced to an online web 2.0 tool that invited them to collaborate on one document simultaneously called
    "TitanPad" (with Mrs. Cichocki, left). Students discussed and drafted a belief statement that demonstrated their own personal voices. Titanpad is a free service that lets you collaborate on documents in real time. Everyone looking at the document sees the exact same thing, including changes being made as they happen. Each person working on the document has their contributions highlighted in a different color, so it's easy to see who did what. There's also a chat feature, so you can discuss the document with the person or people you are collaborating with. In our situation, the teachers were able to collaborate and engage students inside and outside of the classroom.

    Additionally, this project afforded the students the opportunity to perform an oral activity with one of their peers. Some duets were recorded using AUDACITY, (Audacity® is free, open source software for recording and editing sounds.) and others were captured while talking on a cell phone using iPadio as the technology tool. As the sophomores in the International Studies program currently study German, they incorporated their knowledge of the language into German sponsorship ads that they personally wrote. The radio program's montage of voices saying what they believe in that begins each episode was also done by the International Studies II students.

    One take-away for the teachers involved was effective time and group management. The students enjoyed the activity and were eager to listen to themselves speaking.

    Not only did the International I and II students have an opportunity to work with each other on an interdisciplinary project, they became part of a universal learning community, joining with all those participants in This I Believe. The students were able to participate in a truly collaborative effort, using research, two language, music choices, and technology.

    This activity demonstrates an innovative way to use a cell phone within the confines of the classroom. Mobile technology is playing an increasingly large role in the classroom - most students have a phone of their own, so we used a device that students are familiar with to engage them in this project. We also used this tool as a way to manage the recording process. As one teacher was recording pairs of students with Audacity, another teacher was using iPadio.

    iPadio technology links up the telephone network with the internet, enabling the live broadcast of audio directly to the internet. To view the completed podcasts, click
    Collaborating faculty:

    Christine Burke (World Lit 9)
    Laurie Cichocki (Technology Integrator)
    Alka Moudgil (World Lit 10)
    Katie Reimers (German)