Happy Steve

Innovation and Learning

Start with clarity of intent.

Now build it out with an evocative vision. Improvise progress by tinkering: with lots of trial and lots of error. The not knowing is the best bit: the mysteries the surprises, and from time to time the windfalls! 

Hello there, I'm Steve Collis! 

Click on "contact", won't you, and wave right back at me?

Project Based Learning: Running An Internet Radio Station

ELH Conference 2010 Presentation, 22nd August
2010. 2pm AEST (GMT+10)



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Here is the core information from my presentation, along
with lots of links you can follow depending on what grabs your interest! CHALLENGE: For those who just want action - go to www.makeavoice.com/shoutcast right now, sign up for the 128kbps / 30 listeners plan with your credit card, record an MP3 using Audacity & upload it to the server, and you'll have your own functioning station by the end of this hour. You don't need policy, or a plan, or a program. Just act now!

Anyway, see below for:

  1. The chat system so you can text chat during the presentation. Swap your own ideas! Disagree with me! Say 'o hai'!

  2. A text version of what I'm going to say. Please follow the links until your heart is overflowing with joy, even while I blabber.

  3. Right down the bottom of this post - a list of things to do during the session.


Collaborative Whiteboards:

Each of these can take between 8 and 16 people, and is a great place to do the brainstorming task described later on.



Open one of them in a new window and start adding your ideas, useful links, opinions, etc.

Integrated Chat System

Use this to chat with people both physically present and absent from the conference:


Starting Point: What
World Will Students Grow Into?

Imagine predicting 2010, one hundred years ago!

- In 1910 Robert Sloss made some astonishingly accurate predictions about the "wireless telegraph". Read his predictions here: http://www.bullfax.com/?q=node-robert-sloss-predicted-iphone-1910

His essay has been reprinted in recent this recent German book: http://www.amazon.de/Die-Wet-Jahren-hundert-einhundert/dp/3487083043

Die welt in 100 jahren
 - But Robert Sloss was not a prophet, he was just lucky! 

- Would YOU have been able to predict 2010, back in the year 2000, only 10 years ago? Wikipedia is a year off before even launching; MySpace and Facebook four years. Yet these sites have changed the nature of knowledge, and privacy, respectively. Of course you couldn't!

- And so we are preparing our young people for an unknown future.

(By the way, the famous video "Did You Know" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cL9Wu2kWwSY which claims that the top 10 jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004, is wrong! See http://hearingvoices.com/news/webworks/didya-know/ for a general analysis and sometimes debunking of the video. This doesn't undermine the point: history is speeding, and 5 years is a long time!)

So we need to assist students develop skills that are flexible.

our students to be:

  • entrepreneurs

  • project-managers

  • self-starters

  • independent

  • problem-solvers

  • inquisitive

  • resourceful

But 'doing school' is about pacification. The key unstated notion of success in many teachers' minds (I too am susceptible) is am I in control of my class? Docility is rewarded, and the kids who rock the boat and refuse to conform get sanctioned. We pacify our students. An ordered classroom is perceived as a good classroom. But:

1. Since when does order correlate with learning?

2. Since when does learning have to happen in a room?


STOP HERE! What unstated meta-language / unspoken narratives / mythology secretly drives your agenda as you enter a classroom? Use metaphors and imagery. Now, speculate on what language, metaphors and imagery (positive or negative) you COULD use. Be playful. e.g. my danger has been to unconsciously have 'warfare' imagery - I must, first, subdue my students, and THEN teach them, i.e. language of conflict. Confess in the chat system!

Then be playful, what language could you use (good OR bad):

A classroom is... a circus? a $2 shop? a stage where the students perform? a publishing house? a cesspool? a chaotic ocean? fecund pond? a dance? an artifice-ial play defined by social codes? a brainwashing machine? OK OVER TO YOU. You'll find the more you are deliberate and evocative, the more you have control over your subconscious schema for 'schooling'. Language BINDS US!


This is not teaching a man to fish!

Of course private schools are often the most guilty of this, pinning their reputations on strong achievement in exams that do NOT measure the flexible skills the students will actually need in the unknown future.

Without such skills, private school students don't flourish at university, where self-directed learning is required, in the same way non-selective public school students do. Note this graph from a Monash University study:

Uni graph

(from http://elecpress.monash.edu.au/pnp/cart/download/free.php?paper=236)

At my school, Northern Beaches Christian School, in Sydney, students in years 5, 6, 7, 8 spend large proportions of the week working in a new way, where students define their own path through the curriculum, to varying degrees with boundaries defined by teams of teachers, who act not as deliverers of information but as coaches, mentors and trouble-shooters. This is now very much part of the culture of our students. 


In the live presentation I'll show a video of some of this in action.

Let's now zoom in close on a very specific example of this sort of open-ended, student-centred, project-based learning.


Students Running Their Own Internet Radio Station

In Term 2 I created a new Year 9 elective subject for students to run their own internet radio station. My time being already allocated, I don't directly supervise the students, but mentor them in snatches of time. For the moment there are only 4 students in this subject, but the project replicates much of what we're doing across the board in our other programs. 

Here are the specifics so you can replicate this idea.

1. Well, first of all, have a listen: Copy this URL and open it in iTunes, Windows Media Player, RealPlayer, or whatever: 

2. The website: http://makeavoice.com/shoutcast/ 

Notice the $7.95 US per month for 30 listeners at 128kbps? This is ample quality, and it is what we signed up for. There are lots of other companies who offer a similar service at a similar price, believe me I tried them out, and this is the best in my experience.

3. How it works:

You log into the website and upload sound files. You put them in the order you want, and BANG they are broadcast over the net as a playlist, on a loop. If you want to get technical you can broadcast LIVE but we haven't tried this yet. The beauty is, it's simple... all you need to do is get some sound recordings, and send them to the website. Low maintenance = sustainable!

4. How the students work:

The four students mix and match their responsibilities, but we've defined four roles:

- Manager (keeps an eye on everything and meets weekly deadlines)

- Reporter (roves the school during class, and during breaks, and attends special school events, to capture what's happening)

- Editor (Takes the sound files and tidies them up, or formats them. Makes jingles. Strings together different segments. Sends me the files for uploading.)

- Promoter (Gets the message out to our staff that the reporter is bookable to come visit their class. Advertises the existence of the radio station to teachers, parents, and students).

5. Ideas for practical implementation:

My four students have three 70 minute blocks a fortnight. I can see the project working in large classes, small ones, young students, (even Kindy kids) Year 12s. Any combination of students could contribute MP3 sound files of any genre. Science students reporting on Science, History students reenacting key moments or debating topics, English students making pretend advertisements, PDHPE kids giving 'health minutes', Music recordings, Maths 'rap' versions of formulas and rules. 

In the chat system brainstorm other genres or spoken 'text types' that would suit your context. Practically how would it work for you? You may have 30 kids in your class, or 7, they may be 6 years old or 17.

6. What equipment and software to use:

Ok you have various options, depending on your situation.

- students record onto their computers with a plug-in microphone, using free software Audacity (


- if you want a class set of microphones, I recommend this one:

They only cost $3.60 from www.rockrock.com.au (the product code is "Microph-3"). Expect them to last about a year before breaking. Don't invest in $50 microphones that have very similar sound quality but cost so much more!

- if you want something better quality, jump up to the Samson C01U (about $150) or C03U (about $179), google them to find a store. They plug into the computer's USB and give fantastic crisp sound quality:


 - for roving reporting, to save students having to carry around a laptop, you could get a little MP3 recorder. I purchased the Sony ICD-UX200F for between $150 to $200 (


Sony ICD-UX200F

The importance of backing off and giving the students space.

We have to give the students space to make their own decisions, for real. This is what I am trying to do with the radio station. This semester I have defined "KPIs" for them to meet. Students definitely need feedback, and a regular guiding hand, but fundamentally it must be student driving the learning, not the teacher.


WHAT TO DO IN THE SESSION (from home or at ELH)

1. Explore all the links above. 

2. Make your own plan for setting up an Internet radio station. How many contributing students? (Lots is fine, you just need some editors!) How will it work? What specific actions will you need to take for it to work and be sustainable? Which allies will you need? (Hint: don't ask permission, ask for forgiveness!) 

3. Engage with my challenge to rewrite your unspoken language architecture for 'schooling'. (See earlier in this post).

4. Install and play with Audacity (on your conference CD, and also at:: 


5. Have a listen of the radio show: Copy this URL and open it in iTunes, Windows Media Player, RealPlayer, or whatever: (copy the text of the address, open your player, then click 'open URL').

6. Explore the wider idea of 'student publishing': an internet radio station is a platform for publishing what students are doing. The wider notion of publishing whatever the students are creating, freely and openly on the net, is very powerful. Check out all our wider publishing projects at our website www.realaudienceproject.com and discussion at http://realaudienceproject.wikispaces.com

7. Leave a comment on this blog post with your ideas, reactions, questions, experiences and so forth.

8. Come grab the equipment I've discussed and have a play.

9. Go to 

http://www.makeavoice.com/shoutcast/ and sign up right now! They set up the server instantly for you, for only a few dollars. Record some sound now and have your server broadcasting by the end of the session!

10. Explore the million other crazy things we're doing at my school by browsing my blog website. Subscribe to my blog using the button in the right hand margin!

11. Bored? Check out the lolcatz Bible: http://www.lolcatbible.com/index.php?title=John_1