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Technology in the Classroom: Teaching Through Podcasts

Jordan Catapano

Podcasts are serial audio recordings, like radio shows, published on a regular or semi-regular basis online. Some have said that podcasts are like audio versions of blogs. Others have said podcasts are the Netflix of radio, featuring an endless variety of uniquely produced audio content. Whatever you know of podcasts, think of them as prime opportunities to expand the technology in the classroom learning experience for your students. Podcasts, like other online content, offer a unique and flexible way for teachers to share technology in the classroom information with students. There is a wide, wide world of knowledge and perspectives out there, and fortunately the teacher does not need to be the single conduit of information to students. Teachers can instead serve as a chief facilitator of learning, helping to lead students to the sources and mediums – like podcasts – that provide access to more information than any single person could ever have. If you’d like to use podcasts in your classes, it might be the most beneficial if your school is a one-to-one school, or at least make sure that each student has their own electronic device. Podcasts are dependent on students having online access, usually on a tablet or smartphone. Here are some ideas for integrating podcasts into your rotation of technology in the classroom.

Students Can Individually Identify Technology in the Classroom Podcasts

First and foremost, treat podcasts like a library. While there are plenty of lessons, activities, projects, and assignments you could include with podcasts, first focus on simply introducing the wide spectrum of possibilities to your students. Introduce students to podcasts via one of the podcast download mediums – my favorite is Apple’s Podcast app. Allow them to search for topics that interest them, such as “Baseball,” “Politics,” or “Video games.” Also direct them to items like the “Top charts” or have them explore different categories. Above all, give students time to explore the wide range of podcasts that are out there, just like you’d allow students to slowly take in the shelves of a library.

Once students identify specific series they like – or even specific episodes they’re interested in – then you have helped lead them to something that will likely boost their learning and engagement. Well done! Your next step is to give students recommendations for when and how to listen to their podcasts. Students can listen to podcasts when they have free time during class or at homes. They can listen to podcasts on their commutes in their car or bus. Or perhaps you’ll allow them time to listen to their podcasts during class. When do you listen to podcasts? This is the perfect opportunity to share with students your own personal example of how you utilize podcasts.

If you’d like to facilitate podcast-related learning beyond merely encouraging students to listen, then consider how you’d like students to respond to what they’re learning via their podcasts. Students can:

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  • Present to classmates what they’ve learned.
  • Participate in small group sharing circles.
  • Compose a response, documenting their reactions and feelings towards what they’ve heard.
  • Compose a recommendation to peers regarding how valuable (or not) they found their podcast.
  • Find other supplemental materials that relate to or oppose the content on their podcast.

When encouraging students to listen to podcasts they have individually found, it is similar to facilitating independent reading. With independent reading, students are encouraged to find a book that interests them and to read it, perhaps with discussions or work built required as well. One way to think of podcasts in your classroom is like “Independent listening” – students have found content that uniquely interests them, and as the teacher you facilitate the time and encouragement for students to engage with it.

Integrating Podcasts Into Your Curriculum

While the wide world of podcasts makes it easy for students to find podcasts that personally interest them, you can also use specific podcasts to supplement your course’s curriculum. Teachers don’t have to be the sole source of information, so don’t try to be! Instead, you can help students access more information by leveraging podcasts. Remember that in addition to the excellent insights that podcast episodes can contain, they can also be listened to at any time and place, can be listened to multiple times or rewound, and can be shared!

First, consider how you might utilize podcasts right there within your classrooms. Sometimes there might be an idea or experience that someone else just explains better. I’ve had teachers say to me, “This person can explain the concept way better than I can – take a listen to what they have to say.” Or consider how you might begin a thought-provoking discussion, challenge students’ myths or preconceptions, or supplement your day-to-day content with podcasts you listen to together!

Next, look at how you might integrate podcasts as part of your flipped classroom. Since podcasts are generally easy to access (as long as you confirm students have devices on which to download and retrieve episodes), then you might be able to ask students to listen to certain episodes in preparation for class the next day. Instead of going through content together in class, use podcasts like at-home lectures or textbooks from which students can gain initial information; then use class time to discuss and build off of that content.

Of course, listening to podcasts doesn’t have to be a requirement. Get creative with how you share podcast episodes with your students. Give them options, such as, “If you are curious about today’s lesson and want to learn more, check out ____________” and link them to an episode. You can even offer a small range of episodes and ask students to listen to a minimum number of them. Or give students more ownership and ask them to find and recommend podcasts to their peers that have to do with their mutual course!

Podcast Creation Amplifies Learning

So far we’ve discussed student’s listening to others’ podcasts, but students can also create their own as well. When we’re talking about podcasts for your classroom, we’re really talking about audio recordings – you may or may not choose to publish these recordings as official podcasts. Fortunately, there are a variety of easy-to-access audio recording apps available for you and your students to leverage. We won’t go into detail here, but you may want to use an app like GarageBand or take advantage of your computer’s audio recording software. There will doubtlessly need to be some time given to students to learn the basics of recording and editing their audio.

Just like the how the person who teaches ends up learning the most, the same is true podcast creation: When students are the ones recording the podcast content they end up amplifying their learning. There’s something magical that happens when that “Record” button is pressed and students begin to formally create something of value. Take advantage of it! Students can:

  • Record themselves reading out loud.
  • Read and have a discussion with a partner about what was read. This is a podcast where the conversation is about course content, rather than just a recording of the course content.
  • Conduct an interview with a peer or an “Expert” on a topic.
  • Go through the entire production process, including scripting, editing, recording, producing, and publishing.

Like so many tools and mediums, podcasts represent an easy-to-use and too-good-to-pass-up option for amplifying student learning. Next time you’re considering creative ways to reinforce quality content, get students interested in independent learning, or boosting student ownership and creation, then turn to podcasts as one of your best tools for the job!