Podcasts have a big influence on my personal learning. I listen to multiple podcasts every day and I know that I am a more rounded and informed person because of it. Lots of people I know feel the same way, and maybe you do too. After all, more people are listening to podcasts now than ever before. So, are there podcasts for the students we teach? Can they too benefit from this expansive learning platform? Of course! Here are some podcasts that could be a great addition to your classroom learning library.
Podcasts for Elementary Students
- The Radio Adventures of Eleanor Amplified – Buckle up, kids! This rocket ship’s headed for… adventure! Join our hero, Eleanor Amplified, the world-famous radio reporter, as she foils dastardly plots, outwits crafty villains, and goes after The Big Story. Listen in as Eleanor’s pursuit of truth takes her into orbit, out to sea, through a scary jungle, and even to the halls of Congress! Start with Episode 1 and get ready for a wild ride. From WHYY in Philadelphia. Keep up with Eleanor at http://eleanoramplified.com.
- Brains On! – Brains On is a science podcast for curious kids and adults from MPR News and KPCC. Co-hosted each week by kid scientists and reporters from public radio, we ask questions ranging from the science behind sneezing to how to translate the purr of cats, and go wherever the answers take us.
- Story Nory – Storynory brings you an audio story every week. Each one is beautifully read by Natasha and friends. Let Natasha’s voice beguile you with classic fairy tales, new children’s stories, poems, myths, adventures and romance.
- Short & Curly – SHORT & CURLY is a fast-paced fun-filled ethics podcast for kids and their parents, with questions and ideas to really get you thinking. It asks curly questions like about animals, technology, school, pop culture and the future. Thanks to our two fabulous hosts, there’s lots of time for silliness too. We are also helped out by resident ethicist Matt Beard, a brainstrust of school children and some special high-profile guests like sporting stars and famous musicians. SHORT & CURLY is especially designed to be listened to alone or as a family, with questions to think about and time to discuss it together.
- But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids – But Why is a show led by kids. They ask the questions and we find the answers. It’s a big interesting world out there. On But Why, we tackle topics large and small, about nature, words, even the end of the world. Know a kid with a question? Record it with a smartphone. Be sure to include your kid’s first name, age, and town and send the recording to firstname.lastname@example.org!
- Story Pirates Podcast – Story Pirates is a group of world-class actors, comedians, improvisers and musicians who adapt stories written by kids into sketch comedy and musical theater. Story Pirates Podcast features highlights from our weekly radio show on SiriusXM’s Kids Place Live. Visit www.storypirates.org for more information on Story Pirates and how you can bring our live show to your school or town!
- Tumble Science – Exploring stories of science discovery. Tumble is a science podcast for kids ages 8 – 12, created to be enjoyed by the entire family. Hosted & produced by Lindsay Patterson (science journalist) & Marshall Escamilla (teacher).
Podcasts for Middle/High School
- Serial – Serial is a podcast from the creators of This American Life, hosted by Sarah Koenig. Serial unfolds one story – a true story – over the course of a whole season. The show follows the plot and characters wherever they lead, through many surprising twists and turns. Sarah won’t know what happens at the end of the story until she gets there, not long before you get there with her. Each week she’ll bring you the latest chapter, so it’s important to listen in, starting with Episode 1. New episodes are released on Thursday mornings. (Explicit language)
- Planet Money – Imagine you could call up a friend and say, “Meet me at the bar and tell me what’s going on with the economy.” Now imagine that’s actually a fun evening. That’s what we’re going for at Planet Money. The team produces a twice-weekly show, a blog, and radio stories for NPR’s flagship news programs, Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
- Dan Carlan’s Hardcore History – In “Hardcore History” journalist and broadcaster Dan Carlin takes his “Martian”, unorthodox way of thinking and applies it to the past. Was Alexander the Great as bad a person as Adolf Hitler? What would Apaches with modern weapons be like? Will our modern civilization ever fall like civilizations from past eras? This isn’t academic history (and Carlin isn’t a historian) but the podcast’s unique blend of high drama, masterful narration and Twilight Zone-style twists has entertained millions of listeners.
- TED Radio Hour – The TED Radio Hour is a journey through fascinating ideas: astonishing inventions, fresh approaches to old problems, new ways to think and create. Based on Talks given by riveting speakers on the world-renowned TED stage, each show is centered on a common theme – such as the source of happiness, crowd-sourcing innovation, power shifts, or inexplicable connections.
- Freakonomics – Have fun discovering the hidden side of everything with host Stephen J. Dubner, co-author of the best-selling “Freakonomics” books. Each week, hear surprising conversations that explore the riddles of everyday life and the weird wrinkles of human nature—from cheating and crime to parenting and sports. Dubner talks with Nobel laureates and provocateurs, social scientists and entrepreneurs — and his “Freakonomics” co-author Steve Levitt.
- Radiolab – Radiolab is a show about wonder, curiosity and big ideas. Hailed by critics as “best radio show,” Radiolab presents a potent elixir of science and philosophy, first-person storytelling and radio theatre, all woven together with the most innovative sound design to ever spill out of the radio. Hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich and produced by WNYC, the show is heard on more than 300 public radio stations around the country.
- 99% Invisible – Design is everywhere in our lives, perhaps most importantly in the places where we’ve just stopped noticing. 99% Invisible is a weekly exploration of the process and power of design and architecture. From award winning producer Roman Mars.
Using Podcasts in the Classroom
As with any publicly available media I would absolutely screen any podcasts that you are wanting to share with students. Listen to more than just one episode. Get a feel for the kind of content that is typical for this show before you recommend or share it with students. Make sure that they fit the values you hold true for your classroom and that they have the content or relevance you need for your curriculum goals. Some of the podcasts above may address adult themes or use language you may not be comfortable with, but for the most part, they all have some serious potential for the classroom and are already being used in innovative ways as listening centers, to meet speaking and listening goals, as writing prompts, and more.
How Can Students Listen to Podcasts?
Jane Martellino (@JaneMartellino) asked me on Twitter about the best ways for student to listen to podcasts. That is going to vary according to the devices that the students have access to, but if you are looking for some ideas, check out one of my previous articles, How to Download, Listen & Subscribe to Podcasts. Jane’s students were 1:1 with Chromebooks, so she was looking for something that was web based. I told her that many podcasts have their own website that includes an embedded media player for their podcast. Today these are often HTML5 players so they should work on all devices. You can see an example of this type of player if you visit the website for the EdTech Take Out, a podcast I co-host with Mindy Cairney. However, another option I came across was a website called podbay.fm. It lets you stream any podcast for free from their website. Their web player uses Flash, but at least for now, it should work fine on Chromebooks.
Submit Podcasts for K-12 Students
Do you have podcasts that you like to use with your students? Which ones are your favorites? Many of the podcasts above were crowd sourced via this Google Form. Feel free to submit your own, and check out the spreadsheet of results as new podcasts are added.
Further Reading & Podcast Resources
- Meaningful Stories: How Teens Connect with StoryCorps and Podcasts
- The 5 Best iPad Podcasting Apps for Students
- The Value of Using Podcasts like Serial in Class
- High School Teachers Tune In Students With Podcasts
- Record, Edit & Share Student Podcasts on Windows
- Podcasts Designed for Kids Can Be a Fun Way to Ignite Imagination
- Kids love listening to stories. So why aren’t public media podcasts telling them any?