The podcasting trend seemed to be HUGE a decade or so ago. Librarians and teachers flocked to their Garage Band programs and instantly turned podcasting into the millennial version of the HAM radio frenzy of my youth. For a while, I will admit that I scoffed at it. It seemed like an outdated fad that would have no appeal to anyone under a certain age anymore. And with so many things vying for their time and attention, I just knew my teens wouldn’t entertain the thought of a radio show.
I was wrong.
Sometime while I was obviously asleep under a rock, podcasts had made a huge comeback. Shows like Serial, The Read, FanBros, and others were starting to really pick up steam. In a time where everyone is so addicted to convenience and customization, podcasts serve as the perfect replacement for traditional radio, with their theme-specific episodes and accessibility. As I started to get more hooked on them, I started to think of how cool it would be to give our teens a shot at creating their own.
So where to begin?
First, I put up flyers for an information meeting. I recognized that many teens in our library may not actually know what a podcast is, or how they are formatted, so I figured this first meeting could explain it to them while also generating interest. During the meeting, I played clips of teen-friendly episodes of other podcasts, and a portion of a teen podcast I found from another library. While they enjoyed what they heard, the real appeal for my teens came from wanting to be better than what they heard. They wanted to beat out the other shows and get other people listening to them. Motivation through competition? Okay, I’ll take that.
The teens chose to name their show “The Silence”, and decided that the regulars would be called “The Quiet Storm”. Together, we wrote out a rough structure.
Each episode would consist of the following:
A booktalk by me
A Hot Topic Discussion decided on by them
Commercials for upcoming teen programs
A Game of the Month selection from our Gaming Alliance
A “Loose Logic” joke from our resident teen room funny guy
From my original group of about eight, my core group eventually dwindled down to two. However, the two who stayed on had previously been teen girls who were too cool for just about every other club or program I’d held in the past. They were the elusive teens we all have from time to time, who are in our spaces, but not fully involved in anything we have going on. I’d been trying for at least a year to find ways to interest and motivate them. Giving them this outlet allowed them to feel like they had some agency and ownership of teen services. A few weeks after being involved in our newly formed podcast team, these girls became vocal and active participants in our teen room, and felt more comfortable speaking to staff.
So what are the benefits of having a teen podcast?
Teens love to TEACH. Having a podcast format that allows them to teach others something is awesome.
This is a great way for teens to get some skill building in script outlining, debate, and editing.
Readers Advisory: Since they “allowed” me to have a segment to share a book, I was able to get an already captive audience to listen to an impromptu book talk. Score!
Marketing! Use the podcast commercials to advertise upcoming teen events.
Provides an outlet for teens who feel like “others”. For a teen who never felt he quite fit into the crowd, a special segment called Loose Logic allowed him to speak on things in his deadpan comical delivery that was often lost on others when he was in a program setting.
Special Guests! Is there a cool teacher that all the kids love? Consider inviting them to be a guest star on the podcast and let teens flex their interviewing skills.
Let them argue things out with you! In the course of moderating, there will undoubtedly be times where you’ll have to address something that is inaccurate or that could fall against someone else’s beliefs. While truly outrageous moments can be edited out later, use some of the minor ones as teachable moments and allow teens to flesh out their beliefs against yours. You’d be surprise how many really pivotal moments can come from seemingly casual conversation.
A usb microphone
To record the shows, we used Audacity, a freeware program and a USB microphone on a Mac computer. Others have used Garage Band also, so feel free! When the teens were done with the preliminary edits of the show, I would drag and drop the clips into iMovie and line them up with segment visuals made in Canva . This was my personal preference, but it’s perfectly fine to simply upload the finished episodes onto the teen page of your library website or social media page.
Things to remember/watch out for:
Set some ground rules! Ours were, no profanity, no innuendo, and everyone gets to participate.
Chat format. It’s okay to just let them talk. Bring them back around to the guidelines, and watch the magic happen.
LENGTH! Remind them to remember their audience. We did a really long episode because the conversations were so great, but in hindsight, I could and should have cut it. Nobody is going to sit through a lengthy diatribe, no matter how interesting it was at the time.
Decide what you want teens to get out of the activity? Is it for the STEM benefits? If so, will you be teaching them editing, etc.? Or is it primarily to provide an outlet? Are you more focused on allowing them to chat and interact and you’ll handle the editing? Either is fine, but give yourself some focus.
Watch for topics that your community isn’t comfortable with. Cover yourself in the editing process. If it’s a conversation that could cause an issue for you, steer clear.
If you broach a touch topic, have a goal in mind, (outlines help) for where to take the conversation back to for some redeeming qualities.
Moderate! Moderate! Moderate! The conversations can veer off, but as the mentor, you are responsible for bringing it back around, OR use a teen who is good at it.
Let teens create pseudonyms, so that they feel more comfortable sharing.
I chose to use iMovie, because I found that it helped with editing and transitions because there were built in sound effects and transition images.
Learn from your mistakes. It’s okay. Really, it is.
Are you podcasting with your teens? Tell us what’s working (or isn’t) in your neck of the woods!