Having worked closely with teens in public libraries for thirteen years, I have discovered they are among the most creative of age groups. Who else would think of a Harry Potter character jumping out of library shelves for a promotional video, or representing themselves and their friends with anime drawings? Teens are always full of surprises, just waiting for a chance to be expressed. Libraries have growing numbers of culturally diverse teens involved each year and that adds more fun to my job, but library programs aren’t always keeping up with change. Youth programs should help build teamwork and confidence, and teens should be encouraged to speak their minds and find their voices. Podcasting can encourage youth to speak about their diverse cultures and viewpoints, foster self-confidence, and develop new technology skills they can use for life. Teaching teens how to podcast is a great way to empower your teens and give them a platform to voice their opinions and unique experiences.
The first step toward great podcasting is to prepare a room with the necessary tools, the appropriate seating space, and a relaxed ambience. I know from experience that teens will open up and speak their minds only with someone they are comfortable with and in a place where they feel safe and relaxed. I chose the Discover Studio, a makerspace lab where we teach technology programs at the Boca Raton Public Library. The Discover Studio is a private space with nine Mac computers and GarageBand preinstalled on each. My goal is to design this as a program—not a formal class—and I envision this as a gathering place for the teens to hang out and tinker with their creative projects. In this studio, we also have high-quality microphones that the teens can share. Audacity will do the job if your lab has Windows computers, but GarageBand is my preference since it is intuitive and has many built-in features and effects. It also comes with a variety of sound clips ready to use.
My podcasting programs offer three sessions, each scheduled once per month. Most of the teens participating in podcasting are our regulars—some of them already know each other from joining in other teen programs and book clubs. For easy recording, I divide them into groups of four or five.
With an appropriate setting prepared, it’s time to get to work on the teens’ podcasts. Giving these youth the freedom to choose their own topics is an absolute must for a successful program. My teens have told me they love music, movies, manga and anime, food, actors and actresses, YA books, sports, travels, poetry, cultures, fashion, video games, crafts, and current socialissues.. But don’t assume your local teens have the same interests; you must ask them! To start, it might help to use icebreaker activities so they can get to know each other and get comfortable with you. I also set up a flip chart and make a list of what they want to talk about. (In the case of my teens, I suggested they vote for three topics they wanted to focus on.)
Each group member should choose a “role” in the first production. They can be a host, co-host, guest, music manager, or podcast editor. It can take the shape of popular formats such as a standard podcast, a forum, or a radio talk show. Setting up a timer is an effective way to keep track of time and make sure that no one dominates the discussion. In a rewarding session everyone has a chance to contribute, and it’s your job to facilitate that outcome! The podcast can start with introducing themselves and the topic (or name of the podcast) to the audience, unless the teens come up with a more creative beginning.
Now that you and your teens are involved in the podcasting, it’s time to focus on content. Ideally this is a forum where all teens have a chance to share their unique cultures and backgrounds as well as their individual thoughts and experiences. In one of my sessions, the teens enjoyed talking about food in their respective cultures. The host asked each guest to take turns talking about delicacies. I was surprised to learn so many new dishes from what they shared in a one-hour program: Poulet Aux Noix or chicken and cashew nuts is a Haitian dish. Popular in middle-eastern countries like Greece and Turkey, Baklava is a rich sweet dessert filled with chopped nuts and syrup or honey. A student from Thailand mentioned Thom Kha Gai, a chicken coconut soup.
It’s helpful to let the teens unwind and talk freely first to get the creativity flowing, and wait to edit the piece afterward. Don’t worry so much about music and effects that might distract from the main content. If necessary, you can help them insert music later. Somewhere along the line, you’ll need to cover the basics of using the app of your choice, and all podcast sessions should include a quick lesson on copyright, creative common license, and public domain.
During our session, a spirited discussion about manga and anime followed the food talk. The teens talked about their favorite manga or anime and recommended the series to their friends. K-pop music and Korean drama is another engaging topic for teens. In creating a podcast, teens learn how to produce content that fits with their interests and displays their unique talents. They can read poetry they write, perform impersonations, retell stories, or share rap music—whatever fits their own style.
I see podcasting as one of our greatest tools to build self confidence in teens. Since podcasts revolve around topics that teens are passionate about, they tend to talk more freely, showcasing their skills, interests, and talents. Finally, they have the experience of someone listening to their point of view and caring enough to ask what they think about an issue. This is a forum where their opinions count (including a diversity of individual opinions and cultural differences) and their creativity can shine. Teens have a chance to work together as a team to brainstorm ideas and create a quality product. They can also use the technological skills they learn to produce podcasts of their own!
Learn more about podcasting with teens:
Where can you publish podcasts with no cost?
Apple Podcasts: https://www.apple.com/itunes/podcasts/
Sukalaya Kenworthy is a Youth Services Supervisor at the Boca Raton Public Library. She holds an MLIS from the University of South Florida and an MA in Teaching English as a Second Language from the University of Central Missouri. When not leading book groups or teaching Maker, Robotics, and Coding classes at the library, Sukalaya watches Korean drama, attends church, reads juvenile and YA fiction, and tries her hand at new Thai recipes. Sukalaya was born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand.