I’m covering for a music department class this morning, because swine flu has laid low a number of students and colleagues.  What are they working on? Podcasts.  Each group of 2-3 students has to produce a radio show that might have been created in a specific week of a specific year, on a jazz radio station.

Now, a lot of these kids know something about rock music.  But one group is learning about the kidnapping of Charles Lindburgh’s baby, another is learning about the events surrounding the death of Martin Luther King, Jr.,  and the last group is reporting on the fall of Saigon.  Each group has a range of national, regional, and international news to report on, in addition to music from the top-10 list for that month.

Their half-hour program has to include an introduction to the radio show, national and international news, sports results, a commerical, an interview with a performer, three pieces of music, and a closing.

They’re learning to do research, clearly.  They’re learning to work in a team.  They’re learning a specific time in history.  And they’re comparing their results with the archive of previous radio shows that this class has done for several years.

Now, my school has a pretty restrictive policy about releasing student work to the wider internet.  So I wouldn’t get excited that this archive is going to go online any time soon.  But I’m impressed by the cleverness of my colleague who set up this program, and has continued it since her arrival at school.

Yet it’s also a little ridiculous.  Here’s a clear use of technology in the classroom, with powerful and widespread cross-curriculum benefits.  Eleven students out of eleven in this class  (one is out sick) are engaged and happy and excited.  They’re learning new tools and new tech.

And yet this is the first time I’ve heard about this program at my own school. But, it’s taking place in the music program, and therefore it’s divorced from the core curriculum of our school’s five “main subjects”: history, mathematics, science, English, and foreign language.

This could be a core element of our school’s program — a radio station that plays continuously, presenting the history of jazz in realtime along with the parallel events of history… and we let it languish in the basement.

How silly is that?