We are currently experiencing a renaissance of audio-only content not seen since the dawn of radio. Thanks to the ubiquity of mobile devices, we can bring amazing shows to our ears anywhere, anytime -- and resourceful educators are finding ways to use these podcasts in the classroom to engage their students. Below is a small selection of my favorites. As with all materials, please preview anything you plan to share with students -- these were produced for a general audience and may contain adult-oriented language or content. But I believe there is rich fodder for powerful learning experiences to be found here.
Video Playlist: Podcasts for the Classroom
Watch the player below to see the whole playlist, or view it on YouTube.
- RadioLab (10:22)
Definitely one of my very favorite listening experiences, RadioLab defies categorization as hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich take on questions of science, philosophy, and human nature with endlessly curious beginner's minds. This lovely video portrait is from the American Hipster series, and contains a swear word at 09:39.
- StoryCorps, MacArthur Award Recipient (03:42)
There's a reason the StoryCorps project won both a MacArthur Award (in 2013) and this year's TED Prize: they are attempting to build an archive of human experience through recorded stories, especially with the recent release of a new app intended to take their model global. Check out StoryCorps education resources here.
- Invisibilia: "You're Moving Wrong" (03:23)
A newcomer to the NPR scene, this podcast absolutely captured my heart with hosts Alix Spiegel and Lulu Miller's fanciful explorations into the unseen forces that affect human behavior. This video was made as an April Fool's Day joke, but it gives you a feel for the playful tone of the show.
- Freakonomics (Trailer) (02:32)
If I had access to the Freakonomics podcast in high school, Econ would not have been my least favorite subject. This brilliant show explores "the hidden side of everything" from an economist's perspective -- and it's riveting. This trailer is for a 2010 documentary based on the original book (which then spun off into the podcast). Here are PDFs of an instructor's guide and a student guide for the book, and you can also find a compilation of lesson plans.
- Erin Barker & Ben Lillie at TEDMED 2013 (12:05)
Story Collider shows begin their life as live events, where people tell stories on stage about being affected by science. This talk by the co-founder and a producer of the show explains why personal stories are so valuable for science communication. Caution for language at 09:49 and 11:18.
- Serial: The Podcast Everyone's Talking About (05:27)
Serial, the most popular podcast of all time, hooked a large swathe of the population last fall, and despite some very intense and disturbing content, educators have been bringing it into the classroom to teach problem-solving skills and news literacy. Check out these inexpensive standards-based lesson plans for the entire series by ELA teacher Mike Godsey.
- Roman Mars — This is Radio (04:58)
Started as a collaboration between a radio station and an architectural association, 99% Invisible provides a wonderful lens through which to look at the power of design. Most episodes are less than 20 minutes, and the eclectic range of topics presented by host Roman Mars makes it easy to connect to almost any subject.
- Julian Treasure: 5 Ways To Listen Better | TED Radio Hour (07:47)
The TED empire continues to expand with the TED Radio Hour, as TEDTalks are reimagined for radio through excerpted clips and new interviews with TED speakers. This video helps us explore how to become better listeners, from the TED Radio Hour episode "Extrasensory".
More Resources on Podcasts for Learning
This list above contains just a few of my favorites; I have to give honorable mentions to Stuff You Missed in History Class, The Moth, and This American Life (of course!) for more excellent audio content. There are lots more resources to be found around using podcasts for learning -- I was pleased to find a website called ListenWise that offers lesson plans to accompany segments from public radio. And, if you're interested in actually producing podcasts with your students, there's a treasure trove of resources for that online, as well. I've included a little of each in the following lists. What's your favorite podcast for classroom use? Or do you make your own? Tell us more in the comments below.
Listening to Podcasts in the Classroom
- "What Teens are Learning From ‘Serial’ and Other Podcasts," by Linda Flanagan via MindShift
- "5 Reasons to Use Public Radio in the Classroom," by Monica Brady-Myerov via EdSurge
- "51 Education Podcasts For The 21st Century Teacher" via TeachThought
- Using Podcasts in the Classroom: A Sample History Lesson Plan [PDF] via History.org
- "9 Podcasts for Teachers and Kids," by Emily Richards via Scholastic Teachers
- Podcasting: Sharing Your Ideas Lesson Plan via PBS Newshour Extra
- "Radiolab: Media Literacy and Listening Skills," by Aubrey and Emily via Where the Classroom Ends
- "Inside the Podcast Brain: Why Do Audio Stories Captivate?" by Tiffanie Wen via The Atlantic
Making Podcasts in the Classroom
- Podcasts: The Nuts and Bolts of Creating Podcasts via ReadWriteThink
- "Creating Podcasts with Your Students," by Tony Vincent via Reading Rockets
- "10 Podcasting Projects Teachers Should Try in The Classroom," by Erin Macpherson via WeAreTeachers
- "A Teacher's Guide to Podcasting" via EducatorsTechnology.com