Let's Discuss Teaching and Podcasts

Yelena Kalinsky's picture

Good afternoon, H-Podcasters,

Two podcasts I came across recently made me wonder who and how are people incorporating podcasts into their teaching practice? What do podcasts bring to a course, and what are things teachers who want to incorporate them need to consider?

The two podcasts that got me thinking are HipHop African, a student-generated podcast, conceived by Msia Kibona Clark, assistant professor of African Studies at Howard University, for a course called "Hip Hop and Popular Culture in Africa." In an interview with Liz Timbs for Africa Is a Country, Clark talks about how having students produce podcasts to present their research about African hip hop that will be heard out in the world automatically raises the stakes and leads to higher quality student work. The challenge is teaching the skills, which takes lots of in-class demonstrations.

The other podcast I've been listening to is Office Hours by Dr. Marcia Chatelain, which is not exactly a classroom use, but engages students deeply. Chatelain uses each episode to hold a conversation with a single student about "things we don't talk about in class." She amplifies student experiences, especially students of color, by formalizing these conversations in podcasts, and in turn, listeners are given the opportunity to hear a lot of impressive, reflective conversations about higher education in the US.

Do you teach with podcasts? What have you learned from doing so?


Yelena Kalinsky
H-Podcast editor

Hi Yelena,

I am an archaeologist who also teaches contemporary material culture courses. I've used podcasts as outside class assignments to prepare for class. I assign "listenings" as well as "readings". I've read about using class time to have students listen to podcasts together, and may try this with a shorter segment of a program but haven't to date. I'd love to hear from people who have tried this and hear about their experiences.

My first attempt at assigning listenings was the This American Life episode Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory- which was all about the manufacture of iPhones in China and the conditions of the factory. Of course, the entire episode turned out to be fake and I also had the students listen to the hour-long retraction episode that explained just how a group of NPR producers and the majority of Americans fell for a completely fake story on manufacturing in China. The students have consistently LOVED this approach. They do the listenings because it's easy for them to work into their day. They also are able to really think critically about the content and engage with the kinds of larger questions I am interested in them talking about (American attitudes towards production in capitalism). It also helps them think about "fake news" - even before "fake news" was a widely discussed concept.

Based on this success, I've added listenings to many of my courses. i think it helps students prepare for class even with very busy schedules- they want to, but the average student at my University works 27 hours a week- the average. I need to find ways to meet them where they are rather than criticizing them for not being where many people think they should be. This has been one way. I also think it is a way of addressing different learning styles outside of class. In class, I work hard to diversify content to address learning styles, but readings are a singular way of preparing for class. I like the mix. I've found students also do the readings more because they can connect them to the podcasts and the readings don't seem as overwhelming or detached as an out of class exercise.

I hope this is helpful. I'm happy to chat more, too as this is something I am doing but would love to do better!

Good question, Yelena.
I have assigned students research projects that include creating a podcast, and have posted a few of the student podcasts here:
I'd be happy to discuss details with anyone interested.

I'm biased, because I run the New Books Network (http://newbooksnetwork.com). I use it (and I've heard from other teachers that they use it) to introduce students to the world of monographs. Pretty much all we do on the NBN is interview monograph authors about their books. Most of my students don't even know monographs exist and they certainly aren't going to read them (at least until they write a senior thesis or some such bit of "deep-dive" research). So I sometimes say to them that if they want to know more about topic X, a quick way to do so is to listen to an expert talk about it. Since the NBN has a catalogue (I think of it as a "library") of over 3,600 interviews on every imaginable subject, they can almost always find something. This exercise also impresses on the students that actual people do the research that they are learning about, and that those people don't always agree. As others have said, they actually listen to the podcasts because it's convenient (unlike, say, reading, which is not).

I've also taught students to make serious podcasts, but that's another story.

I have had students work in small groups to create short podcasts for their final project in my course on Oral History and Women's Activism in the South. They find it to be a challenging but also very rewarding way to engage with historical research. I also co-host a podcast that is meant, in part, for use in oral history classrooms. Press Record, from the Southern Oral History Program, looks not only at topical issues through the use of oral history, but digs into the ethical and methodological challenges of oral history research. I use it in my class, and I also have students listen to a wide variety of other podcasts in order to prepare for making their own. You can find Press Record at www.sohp.org/podcast.

I allow students to write a review of a podcast as an extra credit option. Usually, I provide a menu of podcasts to guide them to an appropriate (and vetted) episode.

Greg Dehler
Front Range Community College

I will be presenting a poster session at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga on teaching with podcasts and will keep the group informed as to the responses to my research/methods.

I use academic podcasts as a replacement for a few reading assignments. I had a colleague joke that podcasts were the new "cliff notes" - funny, yes, but the reality? They will listen before combing through abstracts of journal articles that pertain to a specific topic/theme. I think what I incorporate is along the line of Marshall Poe's post- students have a chance to listen to top scholars.

Dana Brown
Producer, Heartland History, the podcast of the Midwestern History Association
Adjunct History Instructor
Chattanooga State Community College
University of Tennessee, Chattanooga

Hi folks! I also use podcasts as "listening" assignments in a number of my courses, but try to only assign those with transcripts, because some learners find paying attention to a podcast more difficult than reading. I also am in a bit of a unique position in that I have my own podcast - the History Buffs, historybuffs.org - for which I regularly take topics that I would lecture on (ie, Mormons in the Pacific, and Cabeza de Vaca) and turn them into episodes so we can do a flipped classroom, and discuss the material / do in-class activities instead of me lecturing during class time. It's very handy. I do find that, as with a novel or longer monograph, assigning podcasts is more effective if I include a listening guide for students to complete. This also kick starts discussions in class.

I have also done some test-runs with assigning podcast projects. I am teaching a project-driven Digital History: Storytelling course this spring, and the first assignment (of 3) was a podcast. Students picked a topic the first week of classes, started the research that same night, and had to turn in a bibliography the second week of classes. In total that project was allotted about 5 weeks for research, script writing, editing, and peer critique. Those are available at hurstories.podbean.com - and I am going to keep building up that library every time I teach this class, every other year. It's garnered a lot of interest around my University and community, with features in the school newspaper and local paper, because the project was local history, and produced some interesting results.

I'd be happy to share any of my syllabi or chat more about my experiences as well - and if you have a lecture topic that you'd like to be turned into a History Buffs-style podcast, let me know! We're always taking ideas from listeners. I'm also running a podcasting workshop on Thursday June 1 during the Big Berks at Hofstra U - so if any of you will be there, stop in!