1. Podcasts are fun! Podcasts are a really fun way to get your students to listen to lectures, oral history interviews, conversations between historians, and analytical discussions of sources. [Kera Lovell: Believe me, I have more students that choose assignments with podcasts than assigned readings. It is odd that by calling it a “podcast” you can convince a student to enthusiastically listen to and analyze a lecture outside of class. Odd, but I will take it!]
2. Podcasts can help engage non-traditional students in the US. Assigning reflective exercises that ask students to analyze podcasts can help students improve their listening comprehension skills. Non-native English speakers, working students on the go, students with disabilities, and everyone else can benefit from the ability to slow down, speed up, or rewind podcasts. Some series offer transcripts as well.
3. Podcasts are different than textbooks. Podcasts differ in style, organization, and method. Podcasts offer an alternative learning format that can complement visual methods of learning. While many textbooks are often written chronologically, podcasts have the ability to shift in ways that encourage a thematic critical analysis.
4. Podcasts reveal a historical world beyond the classroom. Podcasts can also help break down barriers between the classroom and the outside world, connecting students with other scholars and sources of knowledge. Many podcasts feature historians or specific scholars in the field. Some podcasts are designed as a listening party to a group of professional scholars discussing a topic, while others feature edited interviews with scholars. Both can offer opportunities to hear the scholar summarizing their main ideas and discussing its complexity in a real life conversation.
5. Podcasts can encourage creativity. Podcasts about and hosted by historians teach students that there are multiple ways to learn and teach a subject in ways that can reach both academic and popular audiences. Listening to podcasts can provide a foundation for having students record their own podcasts as class projects.
6. Podcasts are currently a fresh medium. I always assign reflective papers for assigned sources, and many students often first flock to the internet in search of the “correct” answers on those sources. Students are able to find and paraphrase copious papers on famous films, textbooks, and notorious primary sources common to the classroom. Podcasts as a new genre offer an opportunity to require that students generate new ideas. Tip: Including specific discussion questions as a guide for your student reflective papers can encourage students to think even more independently on the subject. [Kera Lovell: I have had several students generate a nearly paraphrased paper analyzing the film Salt of the Earth, and I have yet to have students plagiarize a podcast response. Fingers crossed.]
Don’t take my word for it. Here Kristi Kaeppel & Emma Bjorngard-Basayne explain the “pedagogy of podcasts.”