Category Archives: podcasting

Balsa Tower Podcast Rubric

With all of the talk on #edchat this past week about differentiated learning, one tweet stuck with me about having students create their own rubrics. Off the cuff I had students create the rubric for the podcasts we are making about our Balsa tower project.

I played them part of this student podcast from uptonben  We talked about the good things we heard: music, multiple speakers, enthusiasm, and interviews.

Then I had one student write down our requirements on the board:

Podcast Rubric

  • 45 points total
  • must have a written script before you are allowed to record
  • podcast should be 2-4 minutes in length (-5points/ 15 seconds off)
  • Introduce yourselves with first names only. (2 points)
  • Explain the project-what were the requirements/goals. (5 points)
  • Explain how you made your tower and your design ideas. (5 points)
  • Tell about your results-weight of tower, sand, and efficiency (5 points)
  • Explain what you learned. (5 points)
  • Creativity and making it interesting (8 points)
  • Cooperation (15 points)
  • Music is extra credit-5 points

This is my polished version. I added the total points and points for each item. I also required them to have a written script, creativity, and cooperation. So the rubric was not totally created by the  students 🙂

Matt Townsley, who always gives me great pushback, asked me on twitter:

“Also in the spirit of reporting learning, how many of your podcast points are based on process/requirements vs. learning/content?”

My response is that 20 points are for the learning/content of the podcast and 10 points are for style (intro. plus creativity). The cooperation points are for effort and are primarily to make sure that both partners are doing their fair share of the podcast. So a little less than half of the points are for learning/ content from this perspective.

But this is a technology class and learning how to make a podcast is also a learning objective for me. The students have already received a grade of 140 possible points on the Balsa Project itself for things like research, drawings, construction, and how much sand their tower held before breaking. Therefore the purpose of the podcast is two-fold: to report their learning from the Balsa Tower project and to learn how to make a podcast. So in my opinion all of the points represent learning/content.

Finally I do not believe that true assessment of student learning can always be measured. Some of my top students tried some experimental designs. They looked cooler than the rest of the class’s towers and were voted by almost every member of the class as most likely to be the champion. Ultimately they were failures as designs and broke under the weight of the bucket with no sand. 

These students definitely learned about design from their failure, probably more than the rest of the class even though their grade may not reflect it.


I still did not find much in the podcasts that I would use in class. I did find a fun trivia podcast but it was too difficult for middle schoolers.

I could see having students make podcasts as an alternative to writing a paper. Students would be more motivated to write for a podcast than a research paper. That is the key to podcasts: student motivation. I also could make my own podcasts of lectures or student instructions. Students could also make podcasts for morning announcements.


I’ve known about podcasting but have never listened to them except to messages from my church if I miss. I set up an itunes account which I found to be aggravating. Many of the podcasts were boring to me. I like the RSS feeds better because I can skim and pick the blogs that I want to read. I also can skim an article. Podcasts require you to listen to alot of it to determine if it is worthwhile.

One podcast that was interesting was The Works with Glenn Fleishman Podcast. It is from a local NPR station and discusses the latest technology issues. This particular podcast talks about a move by record companies to release music with out restrictions making it free. Of particular interest to me was a discussion about primary source material being published on the web. It talked about Europeana a site of sources from through out Europe and Google publishing all of the pictures from Life Magazine. This podcast would help me keep track of the latest tech trends and give ideas to use or have students research in class.

I like the professional podcasts like NPR best. The student podcasts on Willow Web are good examples of having students make podcasts.