Teaching, Learning and Assessments

The Power of a Podcast

retro microphone isolated on color background

Ever wonder what it would be like if sharks had legs? 

How about if it was possible to teach science through silly songs? 

Or where you can hear music from the Jelly of the Month Club and the Boogers? 

Then you need to check out podcasts. From exploring little-known moments in history to discussing questions like “Is it okay to fight bullies?”, podcasts will get you thinking, laughing, and questioning.

Why podcasts should be a part of every classroom:

Podcasts are a great way to give students voice and empower them to creatively share what they’re learning about. They can become a summative performance task for virtually every subject. For example, students can use podcasts to publish their narrative writing stories or explain a hypothesis they tested in science. Or their podcast can connect with social studies standards as students work in small groups to bring to life a moment in history and then explain the cause and effect. Not only can podcasts connect to learning standards, but they are also a great way to build a classroom community and help students practice being part of a team. Consider starting a classroom podcast where students co-author episodes synthesizing what they are learning into bite-size audio segments or have students discuss social topics such as “Is it ever okay to cheat?” or “What is safe information to share online?” By assigning different roles to your students such as hosts, producers, editors, recording technicians, etc. everyone can participate. 

I think podcasts are so alluring because they give students an authentic audience. Matt Miller, the well-known author of Ditch That Textbook, comments that sometimes students do not produce their best work when they know their teacher will be the only person who views it. Podcasts give our students a real audience from all over the world. “What if they (our students) knew that people they knew – and people they’d never meet – were benefitting from their work? (Miller, 2018). They would be more motivated to do their very best. However, before posting student work it is always wise to check what your school’s student privacy policies are. 

Podcasts are a powerful tool to use in our classroom to foster 21st-century skills, such as creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication. “Our world is craving smart, responsible problem solvers and critical thinkers” (Miller, 2018). Matt Miller (2018) argues that we’re missing a piece of the puzzle if we raise children who can problem solve but can’t articulate their vision. We need to spend the time NOW helping our students develop their communication skills. Podcasts are a great opportunity to do just that. The New York Times (2020) also emphasizes podcasts “offer an engaging way for teachers to merge project-based learning with digital media analysis and production skills.” They also provide students with the chance to work on their computational thinking skills. They can work on decomposition by breaking down their podcasts into smaller audio segments to record, edit, or rearrange. They also will use abstraction when writing their scripts and determining what information is needed and what is not. I hope you can see why podcasts are worth your time. 

They… 

  • Give students voice and an authentic audience
  • Encourage creativity, collaborating, critical thinking and communication 
  • Empower students to demonstrate learning in a creative way
  • Foster classroom community 
  • Help students develop digital literacy skills 

Critical Questions:

Some teachers might worry that creating podcasts are too much work and will take up too much classroom time to produce. If you’re feeling that way I would encourage you to check out Anchor, a podcasting recording app below. The app was super easy- even kindergarteners could do it. Plus, remember that you’re giving up classroom time to teach your students other skills and concepts besides just the academic standards – such as being a good teammate and effectively communicating ideas. Those skills are needed to be successful in any job. They are worth our time and our students need guidance in those areas too. 

I also wondered if kids would be engaged? Will they be excited and motivated to make podcasts? Our students are stimulated by screens all day long, so I questioned how they would feel about auditory learning and production. I say try it out and see! Every year you have different students with varying interests. One year the kids might not take to it, and the next year it could be a home-run!  I personally think a change in scenery would do them good. Perhaps by exposing them to podcasts written for children it will peak their interests and get their creative juices flowing (see the end of the blog post for recommended podcasts).

Recording Tools:

So you’re now excited to try podcasting in your classroom, but where do you begin? When looking online, I found a variety of options for recording podcasts. Below are reviews of my top 3. 

Anchor 

  • Created by Spotify.
  • Free mobile app or web tool. 
  • An account is needed to create podcast episodes.
  • You can collaborate with others at the same time or people can send voice messages for you to include in your podcast.
  • Anchor has user-friendly tools that allow you to trim segments and also add transitions, sound effects, and background music.
  • There are no storage limits – that means unlimited student projects!
  • Podcasts can be published to multiple platforms, such as iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, and more. 
  • It is important to note that the terms of use for Anchor are 13+. So younger students will need to be supervised by a teacher. 
  • Another thing teachers should know is that there is a wide variety of content on the Anchor app of other podcasts that have been produced by people around the world. Some of these episodes are inappropriate for the classroom. It is easy to record without listening to other shows, but these boundaries should be explained to the kids. 

Sound Trap 

“Soundtrap is an online, collaborative music workstation that can edit and record vocals and instruments” (NPR, 2020). 

  • Soundtrap is also a great platform for creating podcasts as well.
  • Sound Trap is web-based so there is no installation required.
  • Soundtrap for Education was specifically created for teachers. It allows educators to integrate Soundtrap with the LMS of their choice, create and distribute assignments, and view student projects.
  • Student projects are saved to the cloud which allows students to access their work from different devices or at home.
  • Sound Trap gives students more in-depth audio recording and editing capabilities but is easy to learn on their user-friendly platform.
  • One great capability of Sound Trap is that they will generate a transcription of your podcast. By editing the text, it will also edit the audio. It’s a quick and easy way to delete parts you don’t need or rearrange your recorded audio.
  • The transcripts are published with the podcast which is a great feature for schools so that we can be equitable and support all learners. 
  • They also have a large database of sound effects and background music to choose from. 
  • Another great feature is that Sound Trap is designed for people to collaborate from around the world. Invite people to join your recording session by sending a link- they do not need their own sound trap account. 
  • Podcasts are published to Spotify.
  • First 90 days free for teachers!
  • Soundtrap’s Youtube account has quick tutorial videos for music and podcast creation.

Audacity 

  • A free and popular recording and editing tool. You will need to download the software onto your laptop.
  • Audacity allows audio recording and editing on your laptop (Windows and Mac users). With Audacity, students can record directly with their laptop’s microphone or use an external one. 
  • Audacity has basic tools for beginners but also more advanced features for those students who have some experience creating podcasts. 
  • You can export files in various formats
  • However, I did not find it as user-friendly or visually appealing as Anchor or Sound Trap. I think students would need to watch tutorial videos like this one, or be trained on the software before using it. 

Podcasts For Kids:

Before sitting down to create podcasts with your students, I encourage you to check out some examples from the links below. There are so many creative, whacky, and thought-provoking podcasts out there for kids. By listening, students can study common characteristics and also determine what styles they want to recreate.

Other Resources For Teachers:

I’d love to hear how you have used podcasts in your classroom. What is your favorite platform or tool? Comment below!

Resources

Anchor. (2018, August 16). Anchor: The Easiest Way to Start a Podcast [Video]. YouTube.

Common Sense Education. (n. d.). 10 Must-Listen Podcasts for Tweens and Teens. Common Sense Education. Retrieved from 

Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/10-must-listen-podcasts-for-tweens-and-teens 

Common Sense Education. (n. d.). Best Podcast Apps and Websites for Students. Common Sense Education. Retrieved from https://www.commonsense.org/education/top-picks/best-podcast-apps-and-websites-for-students

Fatherly. (2020, April 23). The Best Podcasts for Kids That Adults Will Like Too. Fatherly. Retrieved from https://www.fatherly.com/play/the-best-podcasts-for-kids/

Gonchar, M., Hicks, J., & Winnick, L. (2020, April 14). Project Audio: Teaching Students How to Produce Their Own Podcasts. NY Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/19/learning/lesson-plans/project-audio-teaching-students-how-to-produce-their-own-podcasts.html

Kokias, M. (n. d.). 26 Best Podcasts for Students in Elementary, Middle, and High School. We Are Teachers. Retrieved from https://www.weareteachers.com/best-podcasts-for-kids/ 

Miller, M. (2018, February 28). Why your students need a podcast: How to do it fast and free. Ditch That Textbook. Retrieved from https://ditchthattextbook.com/why-your-students-need-a-podcast-how-to-do-it-fast-and-free/

NPR. (2020, February 21). A Studio At Your Fingertips: 5 Apps Teachers Are Using To Make Student Podcasts. NPR. Retreived from https://www.npr.org/2020/02/21/807372536/a-studio-at-your-fingertips-5-apps-teachers-are-using-to-make-student-podcasts 

Soundtrap for Education. (2019, May 14). Storytelling in your classroom with Soundtrap [Video]. YouTube. 

Transverse Audio. (2018, April 11). How To Use Audacity For Beginners (2018) – V 2.1.2 [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAMAmeWMr7I

5 Comments

  • Megan H

    I love this idea, “Consider starting a classroom podcast where students co-author episodes synthesizing what they are learning into bite-size audio segments or have students discuss social topics such as “Is it ever okay to cheat?” or “What is safe information to share online?” By assigning different roles to your students such as hosts, producers, editors, recording technicians, etc. everyone can participate.” What a great way to build in 21st century skills and SEL at the same time. I also like that you addressed the need to build in roles, routines, and structures. Like you mentioned it is so important for teachers to realize that they are going to need to take time to teach some of this so they need to plan for this.

    I am also curious how you felt Soundtrap compared to Anchor? I have used Sountrap before and found it very user friendly. I’ve heard great things about Anchor though and was just curious how you see the two comparing?

    Great post, thanks for sharing!

    • admin

      Hi Megan,
      Thanks so much for your comment. I was also impressed with SoundTrap. It was user-friendly and seemed to be a bit more advanced than Anchor. An extra bonus was that it could work with an LMS and assign/collect student projects. However, I think Anchor is my favorite platform because of its simplicity. I thought it would be a great spot for elementary or middle school students to start when publishing their podcasts, but I can see Soundtrap being a better fit for high school.

  • Jan White

    I am so excited to start podcasting in my English class. I have always been wary of podcasting because I’ve never understood where and how secure the podcast is hosted. It seems like the school would need a secure YouTube Channel or Spotify account. You wonder if students would be motivated to make podcasts since they are so screen bound. I think they would, not only because podcasting is still a novelty, but also because it offers a different way of self-expression.

  • Cory M Cummings

    What a great blog post Kaelynn! I loved the way you discussed podcasting, presented those critical thinking questions, shared your top three podcasting platforms, and then provided additional resources for students and teachers. Your post was captivating all the way through, and I appreciated the thorough overview you provided about each of the three platforms. I also loved your suggestion to explore social issues in podcasting like “Is it ever okay to cheat?” or “What is safe information to share online?” and your advice to assign roles to enhance ownership and participation. Thanks so much for sharing! Well done!!

  • Sarah Straume

    What a fun topic! I absolutely love the idea of having students use podcasts to talk about social topics. What a great way for students to hear other students’ thoughts instead of reading opinion articles, or hearing their teacher lecture on and on about topics.

    The videos you posted were extremely helpful. I imagine my students using these to explain their learnings for me, their classmates, and even being able to easily share with their teachers. Thank you so much for posting!

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