Before Bethke Elementary officially opened, Principal Ann Alfonso dreamed of a 21st century school that would engage students in technology. She and school technology guru Brad Flickinger then came up with the idea for a broadcast studio to give students more technology opportunities.
“We wanted to use and implement technology in different ways that would hook students,” said Flickinger, Bethke’s media technology site manager. “We thought a studio would hook their minds.”
Bethke’s KBOB Studios has certainly proven to engage students’ interests. Students and staff recently celebrated producing the 500th morning news podcast at KBOB Studios. The daily radio show features morning announcements, weather, lunch menus, fun news items and music and is produced entirely by students, who take on all jobs like hosts, performers, sound technicians and producers.
The show is uploaded to iTunes, and currently has more than 6,000 subscribers around the world, making it the most popular student podcast on iTunes, according to Flickinger.
“We get emails from all over the world. Our farthest fan letter came from Australia,” said Flickinger, noting that it is also probably one of the longest running student podcasts on iTunes. “A lot of podcasts don’t get past 30 to 40 episodes and we are at 500.”
The big 500th podcast fell on Halloween, Oct. 31. Dressed in costumes, students celebrated the accomplishment by recording the podcast in front of a live audience of parents and school administrators. They performed songs, delivered the news and bantered with each other through the ten-minute show.
Fifth-grader and host of the show Grady Forsyth has worked on the show for the past few years. “When we started here we had two computers and a microphone. Now it’s progressed into this major studio,” said Grady. “This has just been a great experience. I’ve done everything here. I hope to do something like this for a career.”
The 500th episode was fifth-grader Alena LeBerger’s first time working on the show. “My role today was host and I’m still learning what to do. It was my first day. It was stressful and I was really nervous, but I pushed through,” she said. “I think I did pretty well. It was a real rush.”
Different students in third through fifth-grade work on the podcast each quarter. As a result, almost 100 students have been involved in the show by the end of the school year. Alfonso said working on the podcast gives students an opportunity to explore another interest in school.
“This gives our students an opportunity to shine in ways that they may not get to shine in the classroom,” said Alfonso.
Alfonso and Flickinger said the podcast is a great example of Bethke’s focus on technology and helping students achieve 21st century skills in areas of work ethic, global and cultural awareness, personal responsibility, creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, communication, civic responsibility, and using information technology.
“The podcast also helps students gain confidence,” said Flickinger. “Confidence is a trait that can take them far in life.”