Fourth-, fifth-graders produce 
online 'Allenton Podcast News'

By KYLE ZWIEG - GM Today Staff

March 31, 2009

Allenton Elementary School fourth graders Cliff Wood and Lindsey Retzer interview project technicians Stephanie Hofmann and Paul Backhaus from the Land and Water Conservation Division of the Washington County Planning and Parks Department Friday afternoon during the Allenton News podcast in Pat Garciaís classroom.

TOWN OF ADDISON - The next generation of global communication is already in the day-to-day curriculum of Allen-ton Elementaryís eldest students.

The schoolís fourth- and fifth-grade classes have spent the year in production on the "Allenton Podcast News," a loose bi-weekly podcasting series where youngsters develop and record content with the aid of teachers Patricia Garcia and Marilyn Schmitt.

Garcia and Schmitt attended a podcasting class last May at CESA 6, a school in Oshkosh, and then spent the summer gathering gadgetry, software and ideas for the project.

The result was APN: Allen-ton Podcast Network, available at Allenton Elementary Schoolís home page,




"In todayís world, paper and pencil are fine, but their jobs and what they do in the future is all going to center around digital ways of expressing themselves," Garcia said.

On Friday, two students interviewed Stephanie Hof-mann and Paul Backhaus, project technicians for the Wash-ington County Planning and Parks Departmentís Land & Water Conservation division. The two were at the school to honor students whose artwork was recognized in a national contest.

The students utilize a single-microphone setup and conversations are logged with basic - and free - software. The single mic is not ideal, Garcia said, but the sound quality is better than she expected when the project started last fall.

Students at first recorded scripts they had prepared with their teachers, mostly discussing what they were doing in class. Schmitt and Garcia incorporated the podcasts into their language arts curriculum and students recorded "Readerís Theaters" related to their reading assignments.

Cliff Wood, one of the fourth-grade interviewers, said his favorite part of the project is researching into his own interests. He surprised Hofmann Friday with a question about the Ice Age Trail - outside her typical realm of expertise.

"I just think of questions that I would want to know about," Wood said. "I like interviewing people. Itís interesting to hear what they know about their job, and that they like it."

The project has gone so well, Garcia said the school is looking at adding a video casting component next year.

"So now Iím looking for a camera and I need a new setup," she said. "I need to buy a box that more than one microphone can plug into."

Garcia said she doesnít know of any other districts doing a similar project with such young kids. One problem: Too many kids want to get involved.

"They all want to do it. Thatís part of the problem. Everybody wants to do it. Now weíve moved on to the other classrooms, having them come in. Then mine are disappointed because they want to do it again!"

Everything she is using for the podcasts was free, including the software. Sheís searching for a similar free software for video casting.

"Iím kind of becoming an expert through my failures," she said. "Playing with it, and then it works and you go ĎO.'"

This story appeared in The Daily News on March 31, 2009.