Before connectopod was connectopod, it was a bunch of ideas marinating over 4 years. Andrea and I had always talked about taking podcast further because we both saw the potential. When I wrote it out, I was shocked to see how far the kids had come, how much they had taught me and I them, and how much we had accomplished together. When Andrea called to throw her kick butt admin skills in the ring I knew that the yet to be fabulously named youth podcast was about to be. This, then, is the whole enchilada. If you are here, that means you want to dig in! Thanks for that. If after reading this, you feel connected to connectopod, work with us! We look forward to hearing from you!
- Betsy Foldes Meiman, August 4, 2017
Connectopod is up and running! After 4 years of developing a once weekly after school program at MEND, I have come to understand that podcast is an extremely effective teaching model for kids living through situations that hinder them from flourishing in standard teaching venues. It is also evolving as a network for kid populations to connect and work together as they learn.
I have twenty years of professional voice over experience across many platforms from news to video games to book narration to apply to connectopod.
Andrea Lopez former Youth Services Coordinator at MEND brings 12 years experience in youth admin and two degrees to connectopod.
We’ve created connectopod to teach kids to rise to this mission-Speak out. Reach out. Turn needing into leading! So here are the “Octo Arms” of Connectopod. The very least of which is actually the show.
Kids that are living in poverty, kids feeling domestic abuse, kids that are refugees from war torn or gang controlled countries may feel little or no connection to lessons presented in school. They may feel no connection to their peers whose lives seem miles from their own in experience and opportunity. How hard it must be expected to focus on a work- sheet when things are traumatic at home or you are recovering from toxic stress or PTSD, or you are hungry. To be expected to do the same or better as peers whose socio -economic advantage drives success is unrealistic. Education is truly the way to break the cycle of poverty. Because poverty isn’t just about lack of money; poverty can also foster the feeling of powerlessness to change situation and can be debilitating to generations of a family. Here are the unexpected discoveries of teach- ing podcast:
-The power of of bearing witness to another’s story (interviews) fosters empathy, curiosity, and affirmation of our own struggles
-Self esteem. Their voices matter. They have power to inspire, inform, reach, entertain, and skills to figure out what they want to say, how to say it and how to get it out there.
-Confidence to trust that they can learn any skill even if they don’t know it now.
-Finding the importance of their unique Point of View to a story and how to use it to help listeners have a greater understanding of a situation or a group of people or an event.
-MONEY IS AN OBSTACLE, NOT A DETERRENT. When you feel you have no chance at a future, why try? In this age of tech and social media, if you have a phone, you have a platform. If they have the above they can SPEAK OUT, REACH OUT, AND TURN NEEDING INTO LEADING. Money is one resource. We teach kids to consider all of the resources they have access to and to use those resources innovative ways.
2. Tech Skills
This part of podcast fits well with STEM. Science, Tech and engineering are easily spotted, but you would be surprised at the amount of math that is involved in editing. Fig- uring out timing and the visual tetras of fitting the media parts together are two things that come to mind. The kids work as each other’s engineers and often edit their own sound files. As we are moving into video, we are all learning new skills yet again. One of the reporters, Daniela Catalan is excelling at video editing.
- Microphone specs, how a microphone works (receives and translates sound), gain control (levels that don’t short out because they are too high or don’t pick up as they are too low).
-Twisted Wave app for audio recording and editing. -Editing video on iMovie.
-Learning how to shoot efficiently with just phone cameras. -Uploading media to google drive from different sources. -Garage Band app for creating interstitial music.
We will explore collaborating remotely with anyone anywhere via Skype and Soundscape. Also to evolve with social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram Live. This is an area in which the kids lead the adults in tech. And the adults help the kids craft their stories and create opportunities of connection with community leaders and interesting subjects.
This encompasses writing and interviewing skills. Not only do they learn these skills, they learn to look deeper. They learn to think like journalist:
-Curiosity in others and to understand there may be more to a story than what is visible on the surface.
-Listen effectively and actively.
-Ask questions that will elicit conversation and complex answers (more than just yes or no) to drive the story forward.
-Research a subject and have a list of questions prepared.
-Leave the list and follow a lead that may arise out of the conversation that they find interesting. They can always come back. They can always edit.
-Explore differences with an open mind.
-Identify similarities and common ground in unexpected places.
-Understand how a POV can change a story. Discover what pov you wish to tell and be specific. Or tell the story from multiple povs clearly.
-Who, what, when, where, how, why? -create the the story in editing
This is something I had done on my own, but more and more I am including the reporters. These are the steps that lead up to the show, the event or interview, overall show edit, posting, post show follow up, thank yous. Here’s how we tackle it:
-What subjects are we interested in? Who/what would be fun/interesting to talk to/ explore/report on?
- How do we contact the subject/ arrange visit? Cold Call? Find rep? Visit site? Sometimes it takes multiple tries to reach our goal. Lauren Cerand, the rep for Lemony Snicket called us back in 1 hr!
-You can never aim too high. The worst that can happen is you get a no. Big Deal.
-Don’t take silence as a rejection. Often times it is miscommunication or failure to connect. Guide Dogs of America took 3 attempts.
-Arrange time and date for visit/interview and or field trip
-Arrange transportation or meet up info.
-Set up interview/event location and video/audio equipment and look at lighting/setting. -delegate duties to pod
Our first student produced episode, still in editing, is Guide Dogs of America. Angie Benitez came up with the idea, made all initial contacts, scheduled and ran this 2 part event and followed up and translated into Spanish for the audience in real time with GDA presenter. She is 13.
We try to do one monthly, although we worked a lot slower the first half of this year due to family events for me. This is the final product of all of the above work.
-There is a theme and all stories revolve around it.
-Stories have been written, interviews have been edited
-record corrections to segments or additional narration
-upload media to iMovie or Twisted Wave
-oversee student editing
-add music, transitions and credits
-upload show to YouTube/Facebook (video) or podbean/ iTunes (audio) -write and upload show intro and credits podbean/iTunes and/or YouTube
6. Social Media
We are on multiple social media platforms. We teach our participants to create quality content for social media turning them from consumers into digital leaders. You can find us on iTunes, Podbean, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. We connect our students with professionals in the field to hone their marketing and communications skills.
The Connectopod website serves as a forum for our various youth correspondents. You can currently hear the Connectopod podcasts as well as our flagship show, the GMP. We can add new pages tp feature any youth reporter, school or organization that competes the Connectopod program.
8. It’s a Small World (But I wouldn’t want to paint it)
And we aim to own it! The reporters and I were feeling bad about the election events. As you know, their families are person- ally affected by the immigration situation. In an effort to empower ourselves, and in the spirit of soroLEAD (speak out, reach out, turn needing into leading.) I found an organization via UNHRC in Kualalampur very much like MEND. The Malaysian Social Research Institute caters to mostly muslim refugee families from war torn areas . We reached out and arranged a Skype interview with them. It is amazing how similar the kids were! They were from Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan Sudan and more. They all spoke English. Andrea Fernandez, their your services director, and I coordinated before. We had a list of questions to stay away from as their kids so recently fled unstable areas and were still recovering from being trauma. Unfortunately we couldn't make an episode of our interview because the audio was just too unusable. But the kids were so bright and there was a lot of common ground. Pizza and Pewdie Pie are universal it seems. It got me thinking.
-I invited them to be correspondents with connectopod. I emailed the coordinator a list of easy assignment choices (favorite teacher, something you love about your culture, something interesting about Kualalampur, etc). The student would video with a phone and send us the media. Our kids would edit and set up the segment with a narration.
-When they get more comfortable, they can contribute stories of their own choosing.
-The person I first contacted at MSRI was Gloria Martinez. Even though she was leaving the job, she expedited the connection and followed through. She left the job to form an International Refugee Children’s Network. Hmmmm.... We could have correspondents all over the world!
-As part of the international initiative, we could Skype our podcast work sessions and truly work together, not just give assignments.
I am going to give this octopus a future Franken-arm.
With all of our collective connections and initiative, I think we could access some pretty amazing internships. We could also be a casting pool for youth via my connections.
Benefits of this program for the Reporters
-Strong interview skills for college, jobs, internships, and scholarships. -Opinionated, empowered, confident kids.
-Writing and tech skills that translate to other areas.
-Opportunities to meet interesting people and create connections.
-An archived portfolio/resume with links to their work for college and scholarship applications and job interviews.
How we do
- Our studio quality equipment is portable. We go where the story is or arrange studio time. We are looking for a home space at a college (CSUN maybe?), or somewhere like Pacoima City Hall. St. Mikes, studio city has generously given us space to operate but it is far away for our clients.
-Boxes are for shoes, not kids. Though kids have been known to make some wicked cool things out of boxes.
In summation, there are so much value in connectopod and the podcast as teaching venue. I have no doubt that it could fly. The possibilities are endless!
Speak out. Reach out. Turn needing into leading!!