Guest Post: K-12 Student Radio – Making Media Educational & Fun

In today’s remote and blended learning environment, radio is becoming an essential tool for teachers and students alike. We’re thrilled to share a contributed post by Paula Neidlinger, media educator and co-author of Scripted, An Educator’s Guide to Media in the Classroom, the marvelous, new book that illustrates how to introduce 21st Century technology into K-12 schools, and why. Here she gives us a view of how she has applied these technologies in her middle school in Indiana with amazing success.

Scripted, an Educator's Guide to Media in the Classroom


“New Age” Radio: K-12 Student Radio – Making Media Educational & Fun

By Paula Neidlinger

Through the maze of desks, in the back of the middle school classroom, a pillar of tall, slender sound baffles, tower over a large, red wooden table. Student voices resonate like a small chorus. The red sign perched on the edge of the chalkboard, proudly affirms that this is the home of “Storm Radio,” the school Internet radio station.

Storm Radio is a middle school radio station run by 7th & 8th-grade students during 45-minute class periods throughout the school day and facilitated by one media teacher. For the last five years, Storm Radio has been “riding the waves” on the air, 24/7, using Backbone Radio as the core broadcasting software. Although “The Golden Age of Radio” might be in the history books, student-run radio stations are creeping into the K-12 classrooms around the country, capturing the imaginations of listeners using words rather than pictures to engage their listeners.

Student-run radio stations provide a platform for students to build communication skills and express their thoughts and ideas, unleashing imaginations for all to hear and enjoy. Students are able to develop their radio shows based on personal interest and current school and community news and events daily. Very few schools are equipped with state-of-the-art studios; some stations are housed in small workrooms, corners of classrooms, or even closets. Storm Radio started with nothing more than a rolling desk, computer, a microphone and headsets.

School radio affords students of all ages the opportunity to master broadcast technologies, including audio production and recording, streaming, scheduling, and how to use “the Cloud.” Students learn by producing live on-air broadcasting including remotes, creating and publishing podcasts, launching school news briefings to smart devices like Alexa®, and maybe even engaging call-in listeners, such as Backbone Talk, which allows listeners to call in and join the broadcast.

Is radio only for a media class? Building a station offers numerous cross-curricular opportunities for all students within the school building. Promoting radio broadcasting possibilities is key to a successful school station. Consider some of the following ideas:

  • Producing radio commercials for community sponsors.
  • Producing PSAs.
  • Producing radio promotions for marketing purposes.
  • Broadcasting play-by-play sporting events and special school events, such as dances, plays, or music concerts.
  • Broadcasting on-location community special events.
  • Hosting radio days.
  • Hosting local civic organizations in-studio podcasts and radio shows.
  • Hosting student-produced Vinyl Fridays.

Who’s Listening? How many times has a student asked, “Is anyone actually listening?” One of the greatest benefits of 21st-century technology-infused classrooms is the integration of authentic audiences. Launching a student-produced radio station enables students to reach listeners worldwide with “live, local” shows produced solely by students. Most importantly, they have a global audience.

Let’s get technical. At the helm of Storm Radio is Backbone Radio. Backbone’s advanced technology “virtualizes” (in the cloud) all of the expensive production and broadcast equipment, including automation, storage, servers, and even phones. This automation allows schools to broadcast essentially, anywhere- home, sporting events, dances, and any classroom throughout the day as long as there is an Internet connection and a computer.

What if I teach in a blended or virtual learning environment? All stations on the Backbone platform are on the air all the time, 24/7. When your students are not broadcasting LIVE, the automation system takes over to run your recorded content, like music, concerts, interviews, old shows, or your podcasts—overnight, weekends, or during vacation. Teachers and students are able to program it from anywhere and can go LIVE anytime.

K-12 Student Radio teams with Scripted, the Educator's Guide to Media in the Classroom, for remote and blended learning environments
See Backbone’s K-12 Media Project page

Backbone Radio has created a K-12 Student-Radio Media Project, aimed at helping schools of all levels develop productive, fun, and professional sounding student-run Internet radio stations for the benefit of students, families, alumni, and the schools themselves.

School radio provides an exciting and engaging medium for your students to develop their communication skills, build confidence and discuss the issues that are important to them within a classroom, studio, or virtual setting. The station can become a focal point for your school where students express their views in a safe environment, which will promote inclusion and the school community. It is perhaps the “New Age” of radio.


We at Backbone thank the authors of Scripted for illustrating how easy it is to start teaching media technology as early as possible in the K-12 system, and how important it is to do so. This book could be the turbo boost your school needs, especially today and into the “new normal”. Please order your copy of Scripted from Amazon or Barnes & Noble today.

About the Author

Paula Neidlinger

@pneid

LinkedIn

Scripted Educators- @scriptededu

Scripted Educators- Facebook

Website- Scripted- An Educator’s Guide to Media in the Classroom

Publisher- EduMatch Publishing

An Indiana University B.A. & M.S. graduate, Paula Neidlinger is a globally connected, 28-year middle school, veteran media and English educator, presenter, and author.

Scripted, Educators’ Media Guide Launches, Backbone Supports K12 Stations

Just released, the media education resource K12 educators have been waiting for: “Scripted” An Educator’s Guide to Media in the ClassroomThis comprehensive, step-by-step “recipe” book is the manual we, too, have been eagerly anticipating. It opens up the world of hands-on mediaScripted, an Educator's Guide to Media in the Classroom experience to students at an age when they can absorb so much more, and at an age when they critically need to develop their lifetime communication and presentation skills.

How does Backbone figure into this? Well, for the last dozen years we have operated the largest college and high school radio network, The Intercollegiate Broadcast System‘s Student Radio Network (IBS-SRN) on behalf of IBS, the 1,000 member, all volunteer college radio & TV association.

Backbone provides the technology infrastructure in the cloud — the 24/7 radio station. Plus, we are happy to populate the station’s automation library with a few thousand free indie music tracks courtesy of Pirate Promotions. However, the entire choice of content and curriculum is up to the school and the teacher or faculty advisor. Historically, that has been a speed bump for many educators when there is very little published guidance to help them build a media program. Scripted, as far as we can tell, is the first such guidebook that starts with easy-to-use 21st century technologies, then actually lays out an extensive set of templates upon which schools can confidently build a curriculum pathway, evaluate progress, project budgets, specify products with the best ROI, and even ways to self-fund the entire program with local business sponsorships.

We want to thank and congratulate the authors, who all happen to teach with Backbone Radio in their respective schools. This, we believe, will be a watershed moment for student-run radio, where every school can now easily create and afford its own broadcast/podcast program, and do it with the guidance of a systematic yet flexible set of proven methods and benchmarks.

We look forward to seeing Scripted become the nucleus of a media movement in education, and we hope to be creating one or more radio networks just for schools that want to extend their reach. See more at https://www.scriptededucators.com/

Radio World Follows Up on a “Volunteer Miracle”

How do you pop up a radio station virtually overnight to fight a deadly pandemic? Ask Bill Trifero who assembled an all-volunteer army of professionals and a few companies like Backbone and Technical del Arte to chip in state-of-the-art technology. He reports how it came about in Radio World

For the past four months, it’s been our honor to work with Bill on tackling this crisis with 24/7 radio coverage. Equipped with just smartphones, laptops, and Backbone Production Suite, which includes LUCI Global, operating in the cloud, the station was up and running in a matter of a hours and days instead of weeks and months.

Multiple hosts and reporters worked simultaneously, remotely in collaborative broadcasts, without having to buy or borrow many thousands of dollars in hardware. Virtually, every function an agile radio station needs to operate, including phones and terrestrial program syndication to their participating local station, was at their disposal. This is how the cloud can work magic, and Backbone is proud to have been there to help.
Read more in Radio World

COVID Virginia Station Helps Listeners Be “Together in Isolation” — Radio World

COVID Virginia Radio Station with Backbone NetworksThe TV/Radio industry is suddenly embracing the benefits of cloud broadcasting as the world fights against COVID-19. In the new Radio World, read how one Roanoke resident has quickly launched a powerful emergency radio station with the help of his community and Backbone Networks, using the gear they already own: laptops and smartphones.

COVID Virginia Radio, via BackboneCOVID Virginia, a hyper-local station created by veteran radio reporter Bill Trifiro, promises to be a template for communities in dealing with national, regional, and local crises. Bill recognized the importance of employing an integrated cloud approach like Backbone Production Suite™ in terms of ease of use, quality, reliability, and affordability.

The station’s cloud-based core, donated by Backbone, provides live radio assist, automation, streaming, terrestrial syndication, multiline call-in phones with SMS handling, studio quality remotes, multiple co-hosts from their homes, podcast generation and hosting, and a branded website with HTML5 player.

With Backbone’s cloud topology your station can:

  • Produce better broadcasts, made easier, by more people, at a lower cost
  • Avoid specialized equipment, just use your laptops and smartphones
  • Scale up to as many remote contributors as desired via the downloadable LUCI Global app
  • Manage phones and take calls from anywhere
  • Eliminate the IT issues of complex studio equipment
  • Transmit professional sound, rivaling conventional hardware solutions
Backbone Talk Radio Production Suite, in the cloud

Manage all broadcast communications on one Mac® screen.

During this COVID pandemic and beyond, your Backbone friends want to help in any way we can. We think Bill’s brilliant concept is a game changer in battling this threat and perhaps threats to come.

If you are an existing AM/FM/TV station or municipality, please contact us. We have a limited number of slots available for a 30- to 60-day “free trial”, maybe longer. If you want to keep or repurpose it when this all goes away, it’s less than $700/month, fully loaded, including unlimited LUCI Global users and usage.

 

 

 

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Backbone Focusing on the Hot Topics at NAB 2019

Total Podcast and Radio Production & Streaming in the Cloud

The annual NAB Show in Las Vegas is invigorating, allowing us to reconnect with old friends and recalibrate our technological focus. Among this years top ten hot topics are Content in the Cloud, Streaming, and Podcasting, all of which you’ll see in operation at Booth N6319, Backbone Networks. No other company on the show floor will bring together such a completely virtualized radio production environment, all operating in the cloud to guarantee Your Station Anywhere.

Look closely so you can find our diminutive stand, where a student crew from Robert Morris University Radio will be broadcasting live — demonstrating how they produce live and automated shows in the cloud, stream them, and automatically generate and publish podcasts — with just a Mac, a mixer, and a couple of mics.

What to check out at Backbone Networks, Booth 6319:

  • Backbone Production Suite™—The whole turnkey bundle for a complete radio station, or any of its component modules, including:
    • Backbone Radio™ — Professional streaming radio station in the cloud, live and automated, always-on 24/7
    • Backbone Talk™ — Broadcast multi-line call-in phone system, PBX in the cloud, take/make calls from anywhere, streamlined for online and AM/FM stations, as well as talk-show podcasters
    • Backbone Co-Host™, with LUCI® Global — Unlimited SIP/OPUS remotes and multi-location shows with no boxes or hardware; just laptops and smartphones; conference directly with Talk callers
    • Backbone Hub — Cloud assistant for automated production, Podcast publication, Alexa® briefings, and scheduling live audio and FTP show syndication to AM/FM stations; included with Backbone Radio™
  • New 3rd Party Hardware — including an exciting new mix-minus portable mixer for sports and talk radio remotes, and new hardware concepts for creating your own robust cloud.

See you in Las Vegas!

LUCI in the Cloud with Backbone

We have a big announcement to make, and we’re going to the IBC2015 conference in Amsterdam to tell about it. The news is that Backbone has teamed up with Amsterdam-based Technica Del Arte BV, the creator of LUCI® Live, to introduce two new intertwined products that we think represent a major advance in radio broadcast technology—one that captures, delivers and manages studio-quality live feeds from a station’s remote co-hosts, guests and field reporters, who require nothing more than an iOS smartphone or tablet. (Android coming soon.)

Iphone, Mobile Phone, Smart Phone.

Studio Quality Remotes, Guests, Co-Hosts

The two new products that make this possible are LUCI® Global and Backbone Co-Host™, complementary cloud-based radio “backhaul” services. When married together, they allow talk radio stations to produce live programming from anywhere in the world with the simplest of equipment and no physical infrastructure.

The LUCI product series has been bringing high quality “reportage” from the field for about ten years now, and their licensed LUCI Live app is accepted as the gold standard for turning mobile phones into remote broadcast platforms. Their new LUCI Global iOS app takes this concept a big step forward—the easy-to-use app is free on the iTunes store for anyone who wants to contribute professional audio content to any broadcast station around the world. That is, any station that subscribes to be listed in the LUCI Global directory. Imagine the incredible network of live correspondents who will become available to stations around the world, and the number of news outlets available to freelance reporters everywhere!

Backbone Co-Host is the software used by the radio station to receive, answer, conference and manage these incoming feeds, in full studio quality. The software, like all Backbone software, runs on a Mac. Like our phone system in the cloud, Backbone Talk™, it uses the intuitive call screener/producer and host/talent screens. Those stations that use both Backbone Talk and Co-Host are able to conference together remote guests, co-hosts, reporters, as well as listeners on the telephone network. All of this takes place in the cloud, managed by the host and screener, wherever they happen to be at the time. Remember, Your Station Anywhere.

See more about LUCI Global and Backbone Co-Host.

Visit LUCI at IBC 2015, Stand 7.C09, Hall 7, where representatives of both companies will be on hand for business and technical discussions. RAI Center, Amsterdam, Sept. 11-15, 2015.

High school students share lessons from series on Boston Herald Radio

Brian Foster, a junior at Excel High School, speaks on air in the Herald Radio studio with Joe Battenfeld and Erica Moura during a visit the Boston Herald.

Brian Foster, a junior at Excel High School, speaks on air in the Herald Radio studio with Joe Battenfeld and Erica Moura during a visit to the Boston Herald.

The biggest sport in Boston might really be politics, and Boston Herald Radio is giving the youth of New England a voice in the events. The city’s “watchdog newspaper” tells how students from area high schools were honored guests on a half hour special show to discuss their view of the political landscape.  Read the article here.

Boston Herald Radio is produced digitally online using Backbone Networks technology and service, and is carried worldwide online and terrestrially in the greater Boston area.  Backbone Networks also operates the largest network of student-run college and high school radio stations.

 

Radio, Comrex and open standards

Comrex logoAt Backbone we take pride in using open standards where possible. We have found that one of our local radio industry neighbors, Comrex, does too. Their product line has consistently applied the best in current technology to the specific needs of broadcasters. 

We’d like to thank them for the shout out about working together in support of some of our mutual customers. While it is a bit pre-mature to announce the Backbone product it is safe to say we think our Internet radio customers will find a great new way to distribute their content in the near future.

Equipment for Online Radio Remotes

Our customers often ask us for guidance on what equipment to purchase in setting up their radio stations, especially their remote broadcasts, when running Backbone Radio. There are virtually limitless configurations that can be supported, and often the answer is “it depends.”  The answer is often colored by your budget, what you are trying to accomplish with your live remote and your preferences in equipment and operation.

Jon Meterparel and Jen Royle at JJ Foleys

Jon Meterparel and Jen Royle at JJ Foleys

Let us lay out some of the basics.  First,you will need a Macintosh® computer. Clearly a portable Macintosh like a Macbook Air makes it easier to carry the equipment. If you want more screen real estate, the 13-inch Macbook Air may be a better choice than the 11-inch version.

For audio input into the Macintosh it will depend upon our needs at the site. For example you may need just 2 microphones for play by play and color at a basketball game and all you need is something like an M-Audio M-Track. For Microphones it is really a matter of taste. We have been using Shure 58’s and have found them to be quite reliable. Headphones with good sound isolation are also critical. Again it is a matter of taste and we have found the Sennheiser HD-205 II. One of our customers is using an Audio-Technical BPHS1 combo headset and condenser microphone. It simplifies the set up and makes it easier to transport the remote kit.

Of course the most important thing is an internet connection that is rock solid. Many venues now have an Internet drop so you can use that. We recommend that you go to the venue the day before the remote to test the network connection and clear up any issues you may have with firewalls and spotty service. Still, that leaves you with a single point of failure. To address this we also have a portable WiFi device in our remote kit. Which one to get is often up to your location, the coverage available from the providers and how congested the network could get during the remote.

Imagine running your show on an AT&T network at the Meadowlands with 90,000 people uploading YouTube videos, pictures to Facebook and all sorts of other traffic. That could impact your ability to get a consistent network connection. We have found that in major metropolitan area where Sprint has WiMax coverage it is a great solution. Longer term you may want to find a solution for where you find you are running the most remotes.

As the telecom networks are built out further I expect it will become easier to get a reliable network connection. Something to track going forward. We have put together a page of devices and items that we have used along with those of some of our customers. If you use something different and it works great please let us know. Happy broadcasting.

RadioWorld Spotlights Remote Broadcast Technology @ Boston’s JP Music Fest

Backbone remote radio broadcast from JP Music Fest

Ben Maitland-Lewis interviews Boston-area recording studio owner Dan Cardinal at the Jamaica Plain Music Festival. The Backbone Network’s control panel is on the computer screen.

There’s something about a nationwide snowstorm that makes us wax nostalgic about what we did last summer. Sure, we were busy last summer developing sports and talk radio, as well as getting one of the country’s top newspapers broadcasting live online.  But we also took time to smell the roses and listen to the music.

The first week of September we again helped Boston’s Jamaica Plain Music Fest showcase local musical talent to an audience that now spans the globe.  One of the coordinators of the event, Charles McEnerney, wrote up a user report for RadioWorld Magazine, describing how he was able to do this “smoothly and professionally” on a limited budget, and what equipment he used to broadcast the two-stage event.  McEnerney, a respected media consultant at Layers Marketing, also compares the broadcast with what he did for the Future of Music Coalition (futureofmusic.org), at their annual Future of Music Summit.

And while we have the opportunity, we would like to thank the on-air talent who turned a great event into great radio: Boston TV and radio personality Melissa Gaudette and Ben Maitland-Lewis, CEO of Presskit.to.

See the tech report at User Report: Backbone Brings Music Festival to the Masses