Engagement and Education

Podcast: New ideas in science education

Being a regular on radio stations around the country, it often surprises people when I say I’ve never made a podcast before. I’ve also only been on one as a guest. So in the spirit of experimentation with content, I’ve given it a shot:

Finding the story

Deciding a topic for a podcast is the first challenge. It needed to be something that interested and excited me, as that energy would come across to the audience. With the theme of education, I decided on how digital methods could be used to engage students with science. And in particular, I was enthused to find studies into student-created digital media, which paralleled to what I was doing myself – learning a topic by creating media about it, to share with others.

As is usual for me, my initial draft script was significantly longer than desired, meaning I had to rethink the message and argument, distilling it to the key points. While I would have liked to draw more from the two case studies I present, and look deeper into the breadth of work that Wendy Nielsen in particular has done on the subject, unfortunately time constraints limited diving too deeply. I was also planning on interviewing an acquaintance who develops science teaching resources, instead we may record a longer form of the podcast in the future involving her.

To record I used a mobile hands-free-kit microphone. In the future I will use a different method, as I later found a rattle sound in some places in my recording. While it doesn’t obscure my voice or detract from the message, it is still not perfect. A standalone microphone into my laptop would be a better solution.

Music and sound

Music and sounds really lift a podcast, creating locations and moods. My intro and outro music, which ducks under my words, was chosen to be modern and upbeat, fitting the feeling I was hoping to create with my podcast – modern technology providing opportunities.

Similarly, while talking about real-world opportunities for students to create digital science media, a gentler more inspiring music was chosen. This music also creates a chapter mark, providing listeners a chance to refocus before diving into the next phase of the discussion.

During a case study I created a setting inside a school classroom with a school bell and hubbub, a storytelling element to help transport listeners to the class involved.

Yes it takes a lot of searching to find the right music, but hitting upon the right piece that you just know is the “one” is extremely satisfying.

I also created a short video with some tips based on what I learnt through the process:

And then, disaster struck. On the verge of completing it, my trusty computer gave up the ghost… Panic, reassessment of what I had, and what I could feasibly do by the end of the week saw me re-editing an early draft, which led to some awkward edits around music and sounds already “baked in” to the file.

In the end the technological hurdle was the biggest, but I think it turned out pretty well. There’s definitely some things I’d change for next time, but I’d love to know what you think in the comments.

Sound credits

School Bell by 13FPanska_Stranska_Michaela (CC0)

Classroom_atmosphere by reinsamba (CC BY 3.0)

Shanghai Reggae (DJ Side’s Alternate Take) by Karaoke Mouse (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

While She Sleeps (Morning Edit) by The Lights Galaxia (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Image Credit

Youth Videographer Training January 2012 by Media Arts Center San Diego (CC BY-NC 2.0)


Gauntlett, D 2011, Media Studies 2.0, and Other Battles around the Future of Media, Kindle e-book.

Gonski Institute for Education 2020, Growing Up Digital Australia: Phase 1 technical report, Gonski Institute for Education UNSW, Sydney <https://www.gie.unsw.edu.au/sites/default/files/documents/UNSW%20GIE%20GUD%20Phase%201%20Technical%20Report%20MAR20%20v2.pdf>

Harris C, Straker L, Pollock C 2017, ‘A socioeconomic related ‘digital divide’ exists in how, not if, young people use computers’, PLOS ONE, Vol.12, No. 3: e0175011. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0175011

Heisler J 2014, ‘The effects of student created digital media on understanding and motivation in a middle school science classroom’, Master of Science in Science Education, Montana State University, retrieved 3 May 2020, Theses and Dissertations at Montana State University (MSU)

Henwood B 2020, How screen-based technologies are impacting school students, media release, 16 April, University of New South Wales, retrieved 16 April 2020 <https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/social-affairs/how-screen-based-technologies-are-impacting-school-students>

Nielsen W 2015, ‘Promoting engagement in science education,’ in G Hoban, W Nielsen, A Shepherd (eds) Student-generated digital media in science education: learning, explaining and communicating content, Routledge, Abingdon UK, pp.3-12

O’Neill T, Barton AC 2005, ‘Student ownership in an urban middle school science video project,’ School Science and Mathematics, Vol.105, No.6. pp.292-302

Office of the Chief Scientist 2014, Australia’s Future: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, Australian Government Chief Scientist, Canberra <https://www.chiefscientist.gov.au/sites/default/files/STEM_AustraliasFuture_Sept2014_Web.pdf>

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