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“New Age” Radio: K-12 Student Radio - Making Media Educational & Fun

By Paula Neidlinger

Through the maze of desks, in the back of the middle school classroom, a pillar of tall, slender sound baffles, tower over a large, red wooden table. Student voices resonate like a small chorus. The red sign perched on the edge of the chalkboard, proudly affirms that this is the home of “Storm Radio,” the school Internet radio station.

Storm Radio is a middle school radio station run by 7th & 8th-grade students during 45-minute class periods throughout the school day and facilitated by one media teacher. For the last five years, Storm Radio has been “riding the waves” on the air, 24/7, using Backbone Radio as the core broadcasting software. Although “The Golden Age of Radio” might be in the history books, student-run radio stations are creeping into the K-12 classrooms around the country, capturing the imaginations of listeners using words rather than pictures to engage their listeners.

Student-run radio stations provide a platform for students to build communication skills and express their thoughts and ideas, unleashing imaginations for all to hear and enjoy. Students are able to develop their radio shows based on personal interest and current school and community news and events daily. Very few schools are equipped with state-of-the-art studios; some stations are housed in small workrooms, corners of classrooms, or even closets. Storm Radio started with nothing more than a rolling desk, computer, a microphone and headsets.

School radio affords students of all ages the opportunity to master broadcast technologies, including audio production and recording, streaming, scheduling, and how to use “the Cloud.” Students learn by producing live on-air broadcasting including remotes, creating and publishing podcasts, launching school news briefings to smart devices like Alexa®, and maybe even engaging call-in listeners, such as Backbone Talk, which allows listeners to call in and join the broadcast.

Is radio only for a media class? Building a station offers numerous cross-curricular opportunities for all students within the school building. Promoting radio broadcasting possibilities is key to a successful school station. Consider some of the following ideas:

  • Producing radio commercials for community sponsors.

  • Producing PSAs.

  • Producing radio promotions for marketing purposes.

  • Broadcasting play-by-play sporting events and special school events, such as dances, plays, or music concerts.

  • Broadcasting on-location community special events.

  • Hosting radio days.

  • Hosting local civic organizations in-studio podcasts and radio shows.

  • Hosting student-produced Vinyl Fridays.

Who’s Listening? How many times has a student asked, “Is anyone actually listening?” One of the greatest benefits of 21st-century technology-infused classrooms is the integration of authentic audiences. Launching a student-produced radio station enables students to reach listeners worldwide with “live, local” shows produced solely by students. Most importantly, they have a global audience.

Let’s get technical. At the helm of Storm Radio is Backbone Radio. Backbone’s advanced technology “virtualizes” (in the cloud) all of the expensive production and broadcast equipment, including automation, storage, servers, and even phones. This automation allows schools to broadcast essentially, anywhere- home, sporting events, dances, and any classroom throughout the day as long as there is an Internet connection and a computer.

What if I teach in a blended or virtual learning environment? All stations on the Backbone platform are on the air all the time, 24/7. When your students are not broadcasting LIVE, the automation system takes over to run your recorded content, like music, concerts, interviews, old shows, or your podcasts—overnight, weekends, or during vacation. Teachers and students are able to program it from anywhere and can go LIVE anytime.

Backbone Radio has created a K-12 Student-Radio Media Project, aimed at helping schools of all levels develop productive, fun, and professional sounding student-run Internet radio stations for the benefit of students, families, alumni, and the schools themselves.

School radio provides an exciting and engaging medium for your students to develop their communication skills, build confidence and discuss the issues that are important to them within a classroom, studio, or virtual setting. The station can become a focal point for your school where students express their views in a safe environment, which will promote inclusion and the school community. It is perhaps the “New Age” of radio.

Paula Neidlinger

Scripted Educators- @scriptededu

Scripted Educators- Facebook

An Indiana University B.A. & M.S. graduate, Paula Neidlinger is a globally connected, 28-year middle school, veteran media and English educator, presenter, and author.

On August 11, 2020, our instructional media resource book was released, intended to help K-12 educators navigate virtually every aspect of introducing and teaching digital media in the classroom, including podcasting, radio, and television broadcasting. Scripted” An Educator’s Guide to Media in the Classroom, developed by three digital media educators with 75 years of combined experience, Paula Neidlinger, Bruce Reicher, and Randall Tomes, is published by EduMatch Publishing and is also available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Scripted- An Educator’s Guide to Media in the Classroom is the recipe guide to creating a successful media model for all students, preparing them with the future digital skills they will need for tomorrow’s careers.

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