I have been hearing about podcasts for a long while now and they have always interested me. In fact, I have chosen to begin listening to Welcome to Night Vale as my first personal foray into the world of podcasts. In high school, a few of my friends were obsessed with the podcast which led to me filing the title away in my mental files for safekeeping. Later, after I had begun to use Twitter, I started following the Welcome to Night Vale official account and discovered that I quite enjoyed that particular brand of humor. As such, I think, and hope, that listening to it will be a pleasant way to dip my toe into the proverbial water.
To my mind, there are many benefits to using podcasts in the classroom. Of course there is the obvious benefit: that it aligns with modern technology that students are familiar with and generally interested in. Other benefits include relatable topics, modern storytelling techniques that will keep them engaged, and higher-level thinking and learning. Such tools would, ideally, spark healthy and conscientious debate about contemporary subjects so that not only are students learning in a way that aligns with required standards, but they are also building a solid foundation of knowledgeable citizenship.
Some disadvantages I see are difficulties finding a balance between listening for enjoyment and listening for learning. It is a pitfall for many, myself included, that I sometimes hear something without truly listening. Therefore, it is important that I make sure my students are maintaining their engagement with the material. Another disadvantage is that I would need to make sure to find podcasts that are not only enjoyable but also educational, specifically educational in a way that satisfies my curricular needs.
In regards to students using this technology, I would definitely like to try it. An idea of mine for meeting this goal is to have the students teach lessons about a book or a topic and have them present them as podcasts for their classmates to listen to. Of course, this idea is still in its infancy, but I think it is worth filing away in the mental files for future development.
What surprised me from the reading was that students were engaging so well with Serial. Too often we hear, “Oh, they’re not mature enough for that kind of material,” or, “They aren’t capable of keeping up with the material.” However, the reading kind of took these assumptions and stuffed them in the trash where they belong.
My biggest takeaway is that students, when provided with the right tools and materials, are able to engage at higher levels and connect more deeply with the subject than we as teachers could ever hope to match without those assets.