Edpuzzle Blog

Illustration by Edpuzzle Staff

When it comes to education, we’re always looking for the latest and greatest thing to engage our students. But what if beyond being a fad, the latest and greatest thing were actually a powerful educational tool and not just a passing trend?

Welcome to podcasts. Where podcasts are concerned, the majority of people usually fall into two camps: the ones who eagerly pop in their earbuds every time a new episode of their favorite pod is released, and those who’ve never made it through an episode (or who still aren’t quite sure just what a podcast is).

Right now, the podcast stats show that there are over 700,000 active podcasts with more than 29 million available episodes – that’s a lot of content!

In terms of your students, just 10% of monthly podcast listeners are in the 12-17 age range, so it’s still a somewhat undiscovered medium you can use to capture their attention. Adding something unexpected is the perfect way to supercharge your class!

Even if you’re a total newbie, getting started with podcasts in the classroom is an easy skill to add to your teaching toolbag. Whether you’re using them to listen together or individually, or you’re having your students record their own podcasts, there’s space for podcasts in any syllabus.

Why Podcasts Are so Effective in Engaging Students

Students’ attention spans are famously short, and there are more distractions competing for their attention today than ever before. How do podcasts cut through the noise?

First of all, if you’re assigning a podcast for homework, your students can listen anywhere: on the school bus or driving home, walking around their neighborhood, while they’re working out or just in the comfort of their own bedrooms.

This means that students will listen to podcasts longer than they’d do traditional homework because it allows them the freedom to multitask.

Then there’s the imagination element. Just like with reading a good book, a podcast allows students to picture what they’re listening to and create their own visual images in their minds.

Finally, podcasts come in a format that’s attractive to them. By being able to pull up a podcast on their smartphones, they’re engaging with a medium that they already know and use more than any other. It’s going with the trend rather than fighting it!

Using Podcasts as Part of Your Curriculum

There are a million different ways to incorporate podcasts into your curriculum. For every age group, subject and language, there’s a podcast, so it’s just a matter of finding the one that’s right for your class and what you’re trying to teach.

Using podcasts in the classroom is a great way to really bring your lessons to life. Once you’ve found a podcast episode that aligns with your lesson, you have two options for listening:

  1. Ask students to listen individually on their smartphones or tablets with their headphones, either in class or for homework.
  2. Listen as a group in class.

For option number one, you can go one step further by uploading the podcast of your choice to Edpuzzle and embedding comprehension questions to keep your students engaged. You’ll just need to download your podcast, run it through an online MP3>MP4 converter (a quick Google search will turn up plenty of options) and upload it into Edpuzzle.

That way you’ll ensure that your students are actively listening and not spacing out!

If you decide to go with option number two, consider projecting the transcript for the podcast episode (if available) as you listen. Some great podcasts with transcripts include StoryCorps, This American Life and Serial.

In a fantastic article on podcasts in the classroom from The Atlantic, high school English teacher Michael Godsey stated:

“I asked each of my own students to write down what they’d honestly like to do for the rest of the semester: read a good book together, listen to another podcast, or listen to a podcast with the words on the screen. Sixty-two voted for the latter, while just two voted for podcasts alone, and one for reading alone.”

That’s some powerful proof for using transcripts with your podcasts!

Great Podcasts for Students by Age Group

Now that you’ve got some ideas for how to use podcasts in your class, it’s time for the fun part. Here are some examples of great educational podcasts broken down by age group:

Podcasts for Elementary Students:

  • Tumble (science)
  • But Why? (various topics)
  • Storynory (language arts)
  • The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian (language arts)
  • Eleanor Amplified (language arts)

Podcasts for Middle School Students:

  • The Past and the Curious (history)
  • Brains On (science)
  • KidNuz (current events)
  • Youth Radio (current events)
  • Welcome to Night Vale (language arts)

Podcasts for High School Students:

  • Star Talk with Neil DeGrasse Tyson (science)
  • Serial (criminal justice)
  • Radiolab (science)
  • StoryCorps (language arts)
  • Stuff You Missed in History Class (history)

… and this is just a taste! Now all you have to do is start listening and planning your lessons. If you need any help in that department, check out all the podcast resources on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Have Students Create Their Own Podcasts

After you’ve introduced podcasts in the classroom and have your students hooked (and trust us, they will be!), it might be time to turn the tables and have them create their own podcasts.

Just look at the success of the student podcasts contests held by The New York Times and NPR – the quality of the content is astounding! (And make sure you check out last year’s winning entry in the NPR contest, “Murderous Mary and the Rise of Erwin.”)

A fantastic alternative to a research paper, a podcast will inspire your students and bring their research to life. By using some simple free software or the built-in microphones in their smartphones or laptops, your students can become podcast hosts in no time.

So, what have you got to lose? A new technology, a spike in student engagement and a break from lecturing for you… there’s a lot to love about using podcasts in the classroom.

Start using podcasts with Edpuzzle