How I used Project Based Learning to start a podcast


Creativity | Tuesday, October 8, 2019

How I used Project Based Learning to start a podcast

Project Based Learning

Project Based Learning is a powerful way to learn and grow. As educators, we can discover so much by going through the process themselves. Here is how one educator used PBL to start a podcast.

[callout]This post is written by Cicely A, Day, a Fab Lab Coach in West Contra Costa Unified School District in California. You can learn more about Cicely and check out her blog at You can also connect with her on Twitter @cutenose76.[/callout]

This past summer I had the opportunity to participate in a program called MERIT, which stands for Making Education Relevant through Innovative Teaching, in Los Altos, CA. As a part of MERIT, I took an online course about Project Based Learning (PBL).

Project Based Learning (PBL) is a teaching method in which students learn by actively engaging in real-world and personally meaningful projects. ( I was motivated to use the project based learning approach to create my own podcast and share the process with my fellow teachers.

It was an exciting journey and I learned a lot.

I wanted to stay as close to the PBL process as possible, so I would go back and review each part of the Gold Standard PBL: Essential Project Design Elements often during the process. Gold Standard PBL contains seven design elements shown in the image below.

Gold Standard Project Based Learning by PBLWorks is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

I had to remember that the process would not be linear and could go all over the place. You might bounce around within the elements until it is time to have your final “product”.

So with that in mind, I jumped in feet first to PBL and podcasting.

Here is what I discovered as I used PBL to create my own podcast.

1. Begin with a challenging program or question

Part of the class was for us to have a Genius Hour project and use the PBL process to learn more about that topic or interest. I wanted to learn about what makes a good podcast. I was interested in how to make a podcast that kept the audience interested. I wanted to understand the structure of making a podcast and how to make it apply to the process of learning something new. I also had a personal reason, I am planning my own podcast so this was a great chance to figure this out.

2. Offer student voice and choice

As I was researching my topic, I realized how empowering it can be to be able to choose what and how I was going to research. I looked up articles, watched Youtube videos and even took a Skillshare class. The way the assignment was set up, it gave you the opportunity to have a student voice and choice. This took down a barrier to having my podcast be the way I wanted it to be. I had a choice now in how I wanted to make the podcast and what I wanted to talk about.

Resources for offering voice and choice in PBL:

3. Be open to critique and revision

For the critique and revision part of PBL, I had a friend listen to a part of the podcast so she can give me her opinion about how it sounds and does it make sense. This was important because of the articles I read focused on making sure your sound was good. If your audience can’t hear you, they will not come back to your podcast again.

Resources for getting started with PBL:

4. Give time for reflection

After my friend gave me her opinion, I went back and thought about what I wanted to say and how it connects back to PBL. I also used the design thinking process to help me define my inquiry and to test out my podcast. I found myself focusing on Empathize, Define, Ideate and Test. I wanted to include that in the podcast too.

5. Share your public product

In the cycle of PBL according to the Buck Institute, I needed to show off my “product” or learning I did to get to this stage. I was really nervous about this part because I was not sure my podcast was going to be any good. Did I explain my process well enough? Will people listen and care? Was the sound any good? I had to stay true to the process so I posted it on Twitter (see below). Getting people to listen to your podcast is hard!

In conclusion, I am glad I made the podcast episode and I put myself out there. This pushed me to get out of my comfort zone and try something new. I gained a better understanding of PBL and what our students will do when they go through the process. This also will help me as a facilitator to help push students to reflect, work together, and share what they had learned.

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