Zach and Screech had a student-run radio station on Saved By the Bell that they used to save the local diner. Lyons Township High School outside of Chicago has an award-winning student-run radio station. While not student-run, my local NPR station is licensed and owned by Elkhart Community Schools in Indiana. But in the era of “everyone is a content creator” where are the student-run High School radio stations?
Independently hosted and published digital writing had its day with the rise and fall of blogging. Everyone’s 15 minutes of digital video fame is currently in transition from short-form Youtube videos to micro-form Tik Tok and Instagram Stories. The digital revolution saw online publishing of writing and videos dominate the K-12 space, with COVID bringing synchronous video for learning to a near ubiquitous state for K-12. But I don’t ever recall a particularly overwhelming surge in the use of internet radio for students and teachers to broadcast and share learning. The barriers to publishing, and maintaining a 24/7 stream of digital audio content used to be quite technical and logistical in nature. But then Jim Groom goes and keeps pushing his idea of radical open digital learning spaces and uncovers a hidden gem for me.
I watched one of Jim’s “bava weekly” updates (which he hosts on his own avante gard self-hosted video streaming platform) and it helped re-connect me to thoughts that used to dominate my instructional mindset for K-12 students; if we truly want students to learn ABOUT the real world, why not find ways for them to publish their thoughts and learning TO the real world in small and simple ways. I dove back into “bava land” and was introduced to AzuraCast, a freely available open-source, self-hosted internet radio management solution. Essentially, a “roll your own” internet radio station that you can host with any hosting provider, or locally on internal resources with the help of your district’s Technology department.
I’m intrigued. Mostly because I’m in a position to make something like this happen for our campus; we have the tech and servers to support our own internal student-run radio station. We have a relatively captive audience. But we have a curriculum that’s focused more on consumption of information; yes, students create websites, presentations, pamphlets, and visual display so knowledge. We even have a broadcasting course at the Junior High. Audio though is different though. We don’t have students writing and then producing short audio stories, or creating serialized podcasts (we did have one briefly before COVID), or even just giving one another audio feedback through Voice Notes.
Sure, podcasting is hot right now, and it would be straight forward to give teachers and students templates for creating student podcasts. Most podcasts today seem to fall into the “talk radio format” and would only require some loose ideas of segments, interviews, etc. It would be easy to expand a student or school-run radio station by playing recorded band and choir performances, reruns of radio broadcasts from basketball and football games, or even encourage students to start producing spoken word poetry! I’m going to noodle on this idea for awhile, because it would be a really fun way to push teachers and students outside of their norm, while leveraging the mostly hidden technology that hums along maintaining our network and systems.
If anyone is still reading my blog, and has examples of student and school-run radio stations, please share!