podcasting in the classroom

by Stephanie Chasteen on June 16, 2007

podcastI’ve recently been teaching workshops to teachers about how they might use podcasts in the classroom. I just taught one yesterday to a wonderfully enthusiastic bunch at CCSF.

There are always those tech-happy teachers who know about the latest things and host beautiful webpage highlighting class work. But most teachers aren’t them. Many teachers are a little older, and podcasting is a very new idea. Most come to my workshops asking, “is this a good workshop for someone who has no idea what this is all about?”

Listening to podcasts is one of the most powerful things that I think educators can get from podcasting. This can be a great professional development tool. Teachers have such busy lives, it is hard to stay on top of, say, recent developments in educational research or technology, or the latest in science news. The key thing about podcasts is that they are so specialized — unlike broadcast radio, they don’t have to appeal to a general audience, so there are podcasts out there that are as specific as educational technology news. So I spend much of the workshop listening to podcasts, and showing how to download them.

Or kids can listen to podcasts. But one teacher mentioned that it is hard to get kids (especially elementary kids) to sit still and listen to anything for longer than a minute. One teacher suggested that they be given a simple task to do with their hands while listening, which helps with fidgety-ness. I’d be interested in any other suggestions.

Making podcasts can also be extremely rewarding — kids love hearing themselves, and can get more enthusiastic about this than writing a book report. Plus, this is a chance to use writing in a science class (“writing across the cirriculum” in ed-speak), since they have to write a script to go along with it. There are many tools that make it extremely easy to publish simple podcasts. That said, it takes a good amount of time to develop and record a podcast.

If you’d like more information on podcasting in the classroom, please download the handouts from my workshops. I list great podcasts for science and educators, tools for making podcasts, and ideas for class podcasts, as well as tell you how to use Audacity as an editing tool.


pannlife June 19, 2007 at 3:22 am

The kids in my daughter’s class (K-1) seem to enjoy very much to listen to books on tape / CD (not so different from listening to a podcast) and they do this in small groups of 2 to 4 kids, by having headsets on and being able to plug in and listen to a story in their small group.
I think having the big earphones on their heads keeps them listening, since they are kind of tied to the tape player. But genuinely, this seems like no problem for them to sit and listen for 10 – 15 minutes at a time.

sciencegeekgirl June 19, 2007 at 4:51 am

This reminds me of a really neat project I heard of, where soldiers in Iraq can read a bedtime story to their children. They put it on tape and send it along. What a nice use of digital technology. The same could (is?) be used for prisoners with children.

I think perhaps the key is that there be some sort of narrative element, not just information. If the story is geared to the right age level, you can get all sorts of science in there. I wonder if there are good science stories for K-5 grades on podcast/mp3. Or grades 5-12!

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