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The Podcast: A Flexible and Authentic Instructional Tool

By Tomeka Wilcher

During my morning commute to campus, I always enjoy listening to the podcast "Coffee and Books." Each week, Marc Lamont Hill interviews authors who are diverse in their genres, experiences, races, beliefs, political views and cultures. Within a 20-minute drive I become immersed in an authentic learning experience that affirms and, at times, challenges my mindset. I become inquisitive and want to learn more.

This is just what we want our students to experience. So why not consider incorporating podcasts in your courses? This multimedia tool can transform the face-to-face, synchronous, asynchronous and hybrid classroom and support the following best practices:

Activating students' prior knowledge: Podcasts can be created to ensure students have access to the information needed to connect them to the material being discussed. Faculty can also recommend and share with students some reputable podcasts that can be used to strengthen students' prior knowledge and support their learning.

Empowering student voice and choice: Students can create their own podcast as an authentic assessment/final project. Through this platform, students can use their voice to engage in critical thinking and reflective opportunities as they explore a topic presented to them in class. Working alone or collaboratively, students can transfer their learning, make it their own, and make connections to the content. Students will feel empowered because their voice and thoughts are being heard.

Building community and relationships within the classroom: Students can use podcasts to explore their identity, community, goals, motivations, journey and passions. If these creations are housed in a central location, students can be tasked with listening to their peers' podcasts throughout the semester. Activities can be created around the podcasts where students can connect and interact with their peers beyond surface-level interactions. When pieces of a person's life are gradually revealed, there is a deeper appreciation and understanding for that person.

Supplementing and complementing the course content: Podcasts do not have to take the place of course lectures, but they can supplement and complement the content of lectures and class discussions. If there is a topic that needs to be explored further, podcasts can be embedded throughout the course to extend learning as well as offer diverse perspectives.

A podcast is a flexible tool that has the potential for global reach. Students can listen to podcasts at their leisure on any device. When strategically embedded within a course, podcasts can expand and extend the classroom.

Podcasts also appeal to aural learners and offer students additional avenues for mastering course content. When used as a research project, student-created podcasts showcase student learning beyond the traditional term paper, expanding their written and oral communication skills.

If you decide to use a podcast as an instructional tool and want to create a podcast or have students create a podcast, consider the following tips:

  • Know the target audience
  • Take the time to prepare and outline your podcast (learners prefer podcasts of 15-30 minutes)
  • Know your hosting style - interviews or solo
  • Know what software you will use to record and edit your podcast
  • Identify where you want to upload and post your podcast
  • Identify campus resources that can support you with this endeavor


Resources

Podcast as an instructional tool: Here is an example of how Matthew Croswhite's (son of Dr. Annette Finley-Croswhite) class at Emory University used podcasts as an authentic learning tool along with a site to feature student work. The title of the course is The History of Skiing and Snow Sports. Dr. Judith A. Miller (associate professor, Department of History) is the instructor.

Day of Teaching session: On Sept. 17, the Center for Faculty Development will host its first "Day of Teaching." Betty Rose Facer, (World Languages and Cultures), Katherine Hammond (Communication and Theatre Arts), and Minori Marken (World Languages and Cultures) will discuss how they use podcasts as a teaching tool. Details about the scheduling of this session will be announced soon.

CFD podcast: During this academic year, the Center for Faculty Development will begin its own podcast series, to give faculty another platform for sharing their research with the ODU community.

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