Getting to Know GarageBand

Musical Composition and Podcasting in the Elementary Classroom

Back in November, our absolutely amazing Elementary music teacher, Vince Bullen, and I led an EARCOS Weekend Workshop on GarageBand. Our goal was to spend two full days exploring GarageBand in a hands-on, project-based environment, tailored to the needs of both music and elementary classroom teachers. Even with this very specific focus, we had 10 international school teachers from around Asia join us in Bangkok for the weekend.

GarageBand Workshop

Thankfully, Vince is a complete expert in all things musical, so he started the workshop off with a thorough overview of pretty much everything GarageBand has to offer: from creating your own music, to editing pre-created tracks, to making “magic GarageBand” songs. Within about 1 minute of his introduction I had learned a number of useful tricks:

After getting the musical basics, the workshop switched gears to learn about easy ways to integrate music, video, photos and voice recordings to make enhanced podcasts.  I started off this session by sharing the absolutely fantastic podcasts our fifth graders here at ISB made at the end of last school year as part of the Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop book club unit (here’s our unit planner), and then went over the basics of recording your voice and adding jingles, images or movies to a podcast. It always amazes me just how easy it is to create a podcast with GarageBand!

Once our participants had the basics, we split into two groups to delve deeper into the ways that teachers can use GarageBand in the classroom. Under Vince’s extremely capable guidance, the music teachers worked together to create their own songs using MIDI instruments and all of the pre-created tracks in Garage Band.

Separately, the classroom teachers worked with me to collaborate on their very first podcast – a multimedia book recommendation they can share with their students in class, which can also be used as a model for student-created podcasts:

One of the things the classroom teachers were most interested in was the process that I use to guide students through a technology-rich project like a podcast, specifically using the MYP Technology Design Cycle. Although it was created for middle years students, I find the design cycle to be an authentic, practical, useful way to tackle technology projects. It’s actually the process you naturally go through when working with technology, but if you don’t break down the steps, you can tend to skip through and end up at the computer before you’re ready.

MYP Technology Design Cycle

So we ended up spending quite a bit of time working through the stages of the design cycle, as I would with a class of students. Here’s how I would break down a podcasting project according to the design cycle:


  • Explore with the software – some time to play with Garage Band to get to know the basics – what are the strengths and weaknesses of this tool, what can it do, with the goal to generally feel comfortable with the tool towards the beginning of the project.
  • Brainstorm a topic for your podcast (even if there is a specific topic, each group/individual will most likely have some individual choice involved. At this stage, it’s important for them to come up with a number of ideas (thought through to a basic level) so they can choose the best one. Have students justify their choice to you.
  • Organize resources: take the time to figure out what is needed to complete the project (pictures, books, cameras, special clothing, etc). Make sure they have a list and it’s clear who is going to bring in each item.
  • If any research needs to be done, this would be the best time. Begin with a focused research question and organize all relevant information in one central place.


  • Write your script (you might want to use a checklist like this with your students)
  • Use a storyboard to organize your pictures and audio. (this one is more for digital video, so you may want to change the directions on the boxes).


  • This stage should be no longer than the Investigate stage (as long as they have done a good job with the Investigate and the Plan). This should be simply transferring all of the work they’ve already done on paper to their finished podcast.
  • Export the finished product into AAC format if you have pictures (without pictures, you can choose .mp3)
  • Publish the podcast on iTunes or a podcasting service like GcastPodBean, or Podomatic. (Usually the teacher will compile all student podcasts into one account so that the RSS feed includes all student work. As a teacher, you can also embed a widget on your class blog or website so parents and students can listen anytime).
  • Create an iTunes channel for your podcast following these steps.


  • Listen to their podcast, looking for strengths and weaknesses – what did we do well? what do we need to improve?
  • Listen to other group podcasts, looking for similarities and differences, what did we do well? what do we need to improve?

Finally, on the second workshop day, participants had a chance to develop their own GarageBand projects for use in the classroom. Teachers worked on everything from designing a podcasting project from scratch, following the technology design cycle and Understanding by Design curriculum planning process, to creating their own musical compositions, to exploring new ways to integrate technology into classroom practice.

In my opinion, podcasts are a fantastic way to share student learning, allow time for reflection and metacognition and to connect your classroom to other learners around the world. This quick, but engaging, weekend workshop was a great way to get participants excited about this new mode of learning and to put the process of implementing authentic technology projects into practice in a safe environment.

How do you use podcasting in your classroom?

Workshop ‘Till You Drop

Once again, this school year is shaping up to be my busiest yet! (Seriously, how is it even possible to be any busier?)

In addition to moving into a slightly new role and continuing to teach courses for our SUNY Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy, I’m also very excited to be involved in a number of EARCOS weekend workshops around the Asia region.

All of these workshops are open for registration now and we would absolutely love to have participants from schools all over the region (and beyond!). We’re just starting to promote them (with the exception of the Flat Classroom Workshop) so please spread the word around your school!

The Flat Classroom Workshop at Hong Kong International School: September 16 – 19, 2009
Workshop Leaders: Julie Lindsay and Kim Cofino

The Flat Classroom Workshop is a 2.5 day strand of the 21 Century Learning Conference in Hong Kong. The aim of the workshop is to bring together geographically dispersed teachers and students with a view to learning about Web 2.0 communication and collaboration tools in a flattened learning environment while working on a project theme that can be transplanted back into their home school. The selected theme will inspire unity and action as well as fostering continued connections after the event in Hong Kong.

It is envisaged this will improve global understanding and cement friendships for ongoing collaborations. It is also envisaged that this will provide an opportunity for students and teachers together to “create the future” of education by employing best-practice use of emerging technologies, including mobile computing. Through exploration of a global or social issue and developing an “action” plan to work globally to overcome this, participants, both local and virtual, will model “flat classroom” modes of learning.

Garage Band for Beginners at the International School Bangkok: November 14 – 15, 2009
Workshop Leaders: Vincent Bullen and Kim Cofino

This hands-on workshop is geared toward teachers who have little or no experience working with Garage Band and will be ideal for elementary classroom teachers and music specialists. We will highlight classroom projects and upon completion you will walk away with the skills and knowledge necessary to integrate Garage Band with your class.

Garage Band is a powerful and user-friendly software program that allows you to create soundtracks, accompaniments, podcasts, and much more. During this course you will learn how to

  • create musical projects (even if you don’t play an instrument),
  • involve and inspire your students creativity,
  • create podcasts,
  • add effects,
  • how to export and share your projects.

Create the Future: Become a 21st Century Learner at Beijing (BISS) International School: January 16 – 17, 2010
Workshop Leaders: Julie Lindsay and Kim Cofino

Embrace Web 2.0, 1:1 and online learning in conjunction with multimedia for your classroom through this project-based workshop. A hands-on approach is emphasized with opportunities for learners at all levels to explore, discuss and model 21st Century pedagogy using digital tools. Break out sessions will include personal learning network and digital portfolio development, digital citizenship best practice and Web 2.0 toolbox. Participants will also work in teams on “flat classroom” objectives including Web 2.0 skill building, global collaboration and project management. This workshop is designed to open doors to new modes of teaching and learning and focus on the learner (teacher an student) as communicator, collaborator and creator.

TechTrain 2010: Beginners Learning Technology Together at the International School Bangkok: January 30 – 31, 2010
Workshop Leaders: Tara Ethridge, Kim Cofino, Chrissy Hellyer, Dennis Harter

TechTrain 2010 is an EARCOS weekend workshop hosted at the Interantional School Bangkok, Thailand on January 30 – 31, 2010. The goal is to bring together beginning technology users to help build their understanding of digital tools and how they can be used to enhance the learning experience in the classroom. We are hoping a workshop at the beginning level will appeal to those teachers that want to get started using technology in their classroom, but don’t really know where to start. We want to make sure that the weekend is focused on actually producing something that can be used in the classroom on Monday, and that most of the sessions are hands on, allowing teachers to actually use these digital tools with support.