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Best of the Week 2019-2020: Teaching to the Future


To put an innovative twist on learning the principles of interviewing, Ms. Shelby Dennstedt's Public Speaking class has been conducting podcast interviews with members of the St. Ed's faculty and staff. Students, ranging from all four grade levels, were asked to choose a topic at St. Ed's that they found interesting or wanted to learn more about and ask to interview a faculty or staff member knowledgable about this topic. "The faculty or staff member that each group decided to interview fell into place based on the natural connection between the topic and who is most connected to it within our community. I also think that students chose this group of adults based on their previously built relationships with them so that they can get to know them better," says English teacher Ms. Dennstedt. For example, students asked Wrestling Coach Greg Urbas how St. Ed's has changed over time, Dean of Students Mr. Mark Urban about the Seven Standards of an Edsmen, Head Football Coach Tom Lombardo about leadership at St. Ed's and Principal KC McKenna '00 about this year's new backpack policy. Recording 5-7 minute long podcast interviews, students were given specific roles in groups of three to host their podcast episodes and they had to write formal emails to the faculty or staff guest of their choice requesting their participation in this project. "Students have to learn to work in small groups and individually assign roles to themselves based on their skill sets," says Ms. Dennstedt. "This requires communication of their goals for the project among each other, which is something that many students at this age need practice doing. Additionally, this experience pushed them to reach out to adults in a professional manner."

Prior to conducting their interviews, students listened to a series of professional podcasts and discussed their structure and purpose to learn how best to formulate their own podcast interviews. "One of the first things we did was look at a couple articles that discussed how podcasting was a new wave of the future," says Ms. Dennstedt. "People can access different kinds of podcasts through different platforms regardless of what they are doing, so this really broadens the way in which we can communicate and absorb information. Even though you are not seen as much as heard in podcasts, there is still an art to delivering an interview, listening and being invested to lead a conversation. Giving students the opportunity to create their own podcasts allows them to step into this new medium with a fresh take for the first time."

To provide students with an in-depth experience, Associate Dean of Academics and IB Coordinator Mr. Nick Kuhar showed students how to use the sound engineering equipment used to record a podcast and, once all podcast are recorded, they will learn how to use Audacity, an editing program that will finalize the cuts of their podcasts. "The fact that the students are the ones in control of this project and the direction of their podcasts makes them naturally more invested in the process. For many of them, this is a new format of communication that they're diving into and figuring out alongside their peers," says Ms. Dennstedt. "The idea of holding a positive, unbiased conversation and diving into the facts challenges these students to become leaders in a sense. Seeing students work together across their age gaps, especially seniors working with freshmen and stepping up to be leaders throughout this process, is awesome. Seeing them build stronger professional connections through this process has been really neat as well. Students have definitely recognized how the interdisciplinary skills they've learned through this experience can cross the boundaries from the English Department into other fields and I hope they've acquired a new skill in working with this new medium and building autonomy by way of driving the creative and logistic direction of this project."

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