Podcasts are by no means the newest trend in education technology but, combined with traditional pedagogies, using a digital tool like a podcast enables students to develop what some educators consider one of the most underdeveloped skills in the modern era – research skills.
How often do teachers assign a task like writing an information report, only to have students use Google (or sometimes even Siri) and then at best regurgitate the first website found or at worst simply copy and paste it?
In a world of fake news and questionable sources, students now more than ever need to revive the dying art of research and critical evaluation. Librarians have been saying this for years. Being able to cast an evaluative eye over a piece of text is a skill that will serve students well, not only during their education; it is a crucial literacy skill that they will employ well into their adult years.
Accessibility of technology has seen, in many cases (not all), research tasks and report writing evolve from a long arduous task where students pored over books to collect valuable information which led to student discovery to a fast-paced task where students Google enough facts to complete the work set by the teacher.
Both teachers and parents would generally agree that while technology has provided instant access to immense amounts of human knowledge, it has become increasingly difficult for students to find credible sources of information and harder for them to process ‘Google-able facts’ into deep, rich reports that go beyond surface-level learning.
If students can Google a series of facts in five minutes, is that a task that is genuinely deepening students’ experiences as learners? Do students know how to evaluate sources? Do teachers provide tasks that force students to evaluate the research they have collected? These are often the types of arguments that those opposed to teaching with technology often use. The truth is, however, that the Internet is part of everyone’s life and it is not going anywhere. In fact, the Internet of Things (IoT) is only going to become more invasive as time goes by.
The solution is not to shun away from technology, but to leverage it and maximise student learning. A powerful way to do this is through podcasting. Once upon a time, a complex kit-out was needed to create a quality podcast, but with the creation of cloud-based podcasts, it is all too easy for even young students to create quality podcasts.
Imagine a series of short podcast episodes where students evaluate different components of a topic, or critically review a piece of literature. Having students articulate what they have learnt about a topic and then reflect on that creates opportunities for students to develop their critical literacy and learn their topic in an effective yet very personal way.
Podcasts can be used to:
- replace written information reports
- allow students to take on other characters and develop empathy by seeing something through someone else’s eyes
- interview experts
- practise articulation and oral presentations without the stress of doing it in front of peers
- evaluate texts and situations
- review and summarise
Teachers can even respond with direct feedback by leaving comments or create their own podcasts to highlight crucial content.
Tips for Podcasting Success
- Keep it simple. Avoid high-tech expensive gadgets. Some apps and online tools make basic podcasting seriously easy. The easier something is, the more likely people will use it.
- To err is human. Leaving in a few coughs or ‘umms’ will not destroy the quality of the learning that is taking place for students. That said, the more they focus on their notes and getting things accurate the more they learn and are likely to remember what they have learnt.
- Vary the task. Set up tasks where students podcast in different formats. Instead of simply delivering one person reading a written speech, have students interview experts in mock (or real) scenarios; perhaps have students combine for Q&A-style interviews while taking on alter egos. The interaction between two people makes podcasts more interesting.
Do not be afraid to post podcasts live to the Internet or an enclosed intranet. Having an authentic audience where peers and parents, for example, can access their work gives students an incentive to produce quality products.