There is a 1979 song made popular by British band The Buggles called “Video Killed the Radio Star.” It spoke of the advent of modern technology, specifically video, and its effects on radio. One repeated line goes “We can't rewind we've gone too far,” but just like fashion, radio stars have resurfaced in a new digital form: podcasters.
For those of you that still remember, one of the major features of radio broadcasting was the radio shows, which are like the soap operas of today. They were on a regular schedule and episodic, basically the definition of podcasts. Podcasts are usually audio files, although you may occasionally get video (vodcast), or a PDF file.
Podcasts have enjoyed moderate popularity since they first started appearing in 2004, but their popularity soared in 2015, partly because of much better podcast quality, and partly because most people could now afford smart phones. With the rise of podcasting, it presents a great opportunity for teachers to create a unique approach in mentoring their students. Here are some ways podcasts can leverage technology in their profession:
1. Creative source of information
Traditional teaching methods rely heavily on the lecture format, which continues to be the standard in many classrooms. However, not all teachers have the gift of gab, and some students often zone out after a few minutes. A well-constructed podcast is informative, fast-paced and entertaining, capturing the listener’s attention and imagination, so it is an appropriate source of information. It does not mean teachers need to produce podcasts themselves – they can look at existing available podcasts. From History and Astronomy to Mathematics and Poetry, here’s a list of informED’s top 50 educational podcasts.
2. Means of enhanced comprehension
The role of podcasts for future learning lies in improving the listening comprehension skills of students at any level. Many students are able to absorb more information when they listen than if they read content, in some cases up to three grade levels higher. This stimulates discussion, which in turn encourages creative thinking and open communication between and among teachers and students.
3. Instrument for second language acquisition
Another advantage of podcasts as a learning tool is in honing the language skills of non-native English speakers. Listening to unfamiliar words spoken aloud helps them learn proper pronunciation and contextual meaning, especially if they can follow along with a transcript.
4. Unique storytelling medium for better engagement
Perhaps more importantly, contemporary podcasts are timely and relevant to students. They deal with situations with which students are familiar, such as high school life as depicted in “Serial,” a popular murder-mystery podcast.
They can relate to the events as they unfold, which engages them more effectively than reading “The Great Gatsby” or “The Old Man and the Sea.” Even non-fiction podcasts reflect the concerns and issues of today’s society, so students understand that what they are learning applies to real life.
5. Learning on the go and on demand
Since podcasts are free and available any time, students can go back to it whenever they want, either as a downloaded file on their device, or as streaming audio. This encourages students to take a more active and responsible role to their learning. Furthermore, since podcasts were originally intended to be accessed using a mobile device (the iPod), students can learn on the go. They can be in a coffee shop, in transit, or simply hanging around in the garden and still get their work done.
6. Establish closer ties and relate better with students
With the growing use of technology comes a growing gap between some teachers and students. Students may feel that their teachers don’t understand or relate to their world. Using podcasts in the classroom can create a connection that taps into the tech-savvy nature of many of our young students.
7. Stimulate creative thinking
Finally, podcasts put some of the control over learning in the student’s hands, which encourages them to become more critical and creative in their thinking and develop their artistic talents. Instead of the usual lesson, teachers can assign students to listen to different podcasts on creative thinking and let students implement a project of choice. Here are some interesting podcasts to check out:
Chris Oatley’s ArtCast is great for illustration projects. There are interesting features and discussions from the field including pros from Pixar and Dreamworks that will surely inspire students. There are also practical and actionable tips on how to break it into the industry and remain relevant in the field once you already have your foot inside the door.
Peta Pixel is designed for the photography enthusiasts. Students are treated to news, opinions and real world experiences so that they can learn and stay up to date with the world of photography.
8. Channel for learning teaching strategies
The discussion has been mostly about using podcasts for students, but the value of podcast in the education profession does not stop there. Teachers may use podcasts to tell stories, and to encourage students to listen and learn. However, there is the other side to the story and it is in mentoring teachers to become better at what they do. In fact, teachers can look into various podcast teaching strategies to help them improve their approaches and do better in their profession.
The Podcast Challenge
For many educators, the main challenge of using podcasts in the classroom is making sure that students still participate actively in the non-podcast parts of the class. They have to emphasize that podcasts are a learning tool, and not the only source of information. Assigned reading, written reports, and standard tests are still an integral part of their education, and students should understand this.
The role of podcasts in future learning is to augment learning. They can have numerous benefits for both teachers and students, not the least of which is developing improving listening and comprehension skills. Of course, teachers realize that this is just one tool in their arsenal. It can be an effective tool, but it has its limitations in terms of comprehensive learning. Yet when used properly, podcasts can make be a powerful and positive addition to your classrooms and courses!