Teaching with Podcasts!

By Gwyneth Manser, Rubicon International

One of the most exciting parts of being a teacher is finding ways to bring innovative technology and teaching into the classroom. One great way of doing this is by teaching with podcasts!

Not familiar with Podcasts? Podcasts are original audio recordings, or recorded broadcasts of  radio programs, lectures, or events. Most of these are free, and are available from a wide variety of sources. From Jane Austin and Game Theory to connecting Game of Thrones to historical trends, you can find just about anything!

Podcasts and other media are a great way to engage students with current events and hot topics in a fun, dynamic way. Like TedTalks and graphic novels, podcasts can also serve as a gateway to more complex inquiry by providing a “hook” that inspires students to engage more with a topic. They can also serve to jumpstart homework assignments, as they can provide a “preview” of material that gets covered more in-depth in the classroom. Podcasts can also be a great tool for hybrid or flipped classrooms.

You could even encourage students to produce their own podcasts using this strategy guide from Read Write Think that includes sample lesson plans and student interactives developed by the National Council of Teachers of English.

Podcast Roundup! 18 Podcasts for the Classroom:

Below is a roundup of science, language arts, geography, and other podcasts that are great for the classroom. While they are mostly geared towards high school students, some of them work well for the middle school classroom, as well. Put your headphones on and dive in!

Economics 101

Economics can be a tricky topic to tackle in the classroom in a way that actively engages students. NPR’s Planet Money is a great way to address this subject using fun examples that are relevant to today’s world. A few episode suggestions include The Oil Kingdom, which explores the impact of oil prices on the counties that produce crude, and Buy This Passport, which looks into the economics of citizenship.

Still looking for more? Check out FreakonomicsThis episode on the politics of restaurant tipping and this episode on the gender pay gap could both be used to spark a fantastic classroom debate!

Atoms, climate, and the universe – oh my!

Calling all science teachers! StarTalk Radio, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, covers all things astronomy, and Science Friday looks into just about everything wonderful, wacky, and science related. This episode, which explores GPS’s impact on our cognitive maps, would make a great addition to a geography or psychology lesson. The Naked Scientists, which is produced by scientists at Cambridge University, also covers an eclectic mix of science topics (from telepathy to swine flu!). Finally, Radiolab is a personal favorite of mine; the hosts tackle a wide range of topics, from science to popular culture. This episode on the elements offers a unique look at the periodic table, and this episode about the spread of disease is a good ways to spark classroom discussion about things like Zika and Ebola.

Finally, climate change can be a good way to explore the intersection between science, media, and politics. The University of Oxford has a slew of podcasts that deal with the topic, including this episode that discusses the ethics of geoengineering. Looking for information on climate change and health? Check out this podcast by the Center for Disease Control.

Unconventional History

Want to put a fun spin on history? These Radiolab episodes (American Football, Fu-Go, and Nazi Summer Camp) might help you navigate the discussion of alternate histories and narratives.

Hardcore History is also a fun (and dramatic!) way to take a unique look at history while providing a valuable opportunity to discuss with students about the potential for bias in history. For more current events, Slate’s Political Gabfest is a fantastic way to incorporate contemporary politics in the classroom.

Shakespeare, Poetry, and Storytelling

Looking to add podcasts to the English classroom? The Stanford Storytelling Project explores how we live through topics as diverse as losing and secret keeping. This is a great way to teach students about the power of a well-crafted tale, while also stretching their minds. Another option is The Moth, where people tell true stores live on stage. With titles like Zimbabwe, Camping, Goths and Grace and Bathtub Sailor, Seamstress, Spy, these will engage students with personal stories of pain, struggle, triumph – and will perhaps launch a storytelling assignment in your own classroom!

The Poetry Foundation offers students a fun way to engage with both poetry and history. One of their podcasts, Poetry off the Shelf, explores poetry through interviews that unpack both poetry and the poets themselves. They also have a Poem of the Day podcast which offers daily poems that are read by actors and poets.

Looking for help with Shakespeare? Clear Shakespeare is a read-along Shakespeare podcast that guides listeners through a reading that provides helpful hints about the meaning of the text. Chop Bard also unpacks Shakespeare in an accessible and exciting way by tackling the works scene-by-scene. Looking for more of a critical perspective on the history and context of Shakespeare’s work? Visit the Shakespeare Underground, which explores the work and life of the man himself.

Geographer for a Day

Finally, while it doesn’t fit neatly into any one core subject, 99% Invisible blends history, architecture, and urban planning to offer a unique look at the “constructed” world we live in. Wonders of the Urban Wilderness tackles urban wildlife, and Supertall 101 explores the evolution of skyscrapers in the modern skyline. These are rich topics to cover in classes like history, science, and geography.

Have any podcasts to add to our list? Send us your suggestions at pd@rubicon.com!

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