Podcast Adventures in Learning and Teaching

By Lois E. Huffman, Ph.D.

I often listen to podcasts while working around the house. Among my favorites are Grammar Girl, Happier with Gretchen Rubin, The People’s Pharmacy, Stuff You Should Know, and This American Life. For me, the various episodes are sources of information, insight, and inspiration.

A podcast is “a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or portable media player, typically available as a series, new installments of which can be received by subscribers automatically.” (google.com) Podcasts can be music, news, or talk. Most are free to listeners because programming costs are covered by business sponsorships or audience donations.

In literacy education, podcasts can help develop receptive oral language skills, build background knowledge for comprehension and writing, and keep students and teachers informed (Huffman, 2016). Podcasts that convey real-people’s stories can increase students’ empathy (ww2.kqed.org/mindshift). One high-school English teacher has found that displaying the episode transcript while students listen to the Serial podcast encourages their reading.

Here are podcasts that may be useful to K-12 educators:

Best Education Podcasts

Edutopia blogger Betty Ray suggests seven “sanity-saving” podcasts by and for educators. She compiled the list in 2015. What series would you add?

Listenwise (formerly Listen Current)

This site’s tagline is “Listening that sparks learning.” Teachers can access public radio stories along with lesson plans for ELA, science, and social studies. Many stories are appropriate for English learners.

36 Podcasts to Energize Your Teaching

I was pleased to see that many of my professional “must-listens” made the list, including Conversation Currents from the National Council of Teachers of English and The Cult of Pedagogy with Jennifer Gonzalez. Which of your favorites are listed?

60 Podcasts You Should Check Out

This is a follow up to an earlier post on 50 educational podcasts to check out. In the introduction to that list, Julie DeNeen points out that podcasts don’t force busy teachers to find more time to read professional materials or education blogs. Instead, podcasts give you “the opportunity to capitalize on any dead time that already exists in your day.”

How Audiobooks Can Help Kids Who Struggle With Reading

earbudsAlthough this piece discusses audiobooks, it suggests that in bringing stories to children, podcasts have the advantage of being shorter. The recommended podcasts are organized by grade levels—PreK-3, Grades 4-8, and Grades 9-12.

11 Podcasts the Whole Family Can Enjoy 

Here is a compilation to share with parents. (Students might even enjoy some of the podcasts during indoor recess or while waiting at school.) All of the series are family friendly, but there may be content that does not suit your community norms or is inappropriate for younger children. As with any media, teachers and parents must preview podcasts before use.

Teachers can also create informative podcasts or employ existing ones for flipped instruction. More and more schools are promoting student movement and learning via listening through The Walking Classroom. In a recent School Library Journal article, librarian Robin Brenner offers questions to guide podcast selection:

  • Are [the students] already listeners?
  • How much time do they have?
  • Are they restless listeners?
  • Do they want to start with something with a definite finish, or dive into an ongoing podcast?
  • Do they want to keep up with new episodes?
  • What kind of content are they (and their parents) comfortable with?

Many educators are likewise involving students in podcasting. According to PodcastMe, this technology can serve as assessment in the same way as brief reports or journal entries. In writer’s workshop, student teams can produce podcasts that are in essence a research paper in an audio story form.

If you aren’t already taking advantage of podcasts, I hope you’ll investigate resources included in this post or the linked lists. 

*This post was inspired by my colleagues in the Raleigh-Wake Reading Council. During a recent Saturday morning professional development workshop, podcasts were mentioned as a type of nonfiction text to use with the Idea Circles discussion strategy.

Image Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/earbuds-headphones-audio-983069/