Podcasts in the Classroom

Kate Bishop-Williams, Doug Parsons, Sarah Hensen, Ali Versluis, Curt Newton and Randy Van Hoose

Podcasts are episodic audio programs that share everything from stories to interviews to scholarly content, and everything in between. As a form of media, podcasts are growing steadily in popularity, and have been for more than a decade, to over 550,000 shows and 18.5 million episodes in 2018 (Podcast Insights, 2018). And this number seems to keep on rising.

Open education is a branch of the Open movement that focuses on removing financial and access barriers to educational materials, as well as their options for use and re-use (SPARC, 2018). These materials are called Open Educational Resources (OER) and can take the shape of textbooks, streaming video, simulations, podcasts, courseware, software, and much more. No matter their format type, the important thing to remember about OER is that they are freely available, modifiable resources that can be retained, reused, revised, remixed, and redistributed (with attribution) for use in the context of formal education and self-learning.

However, the application of podcasts to the world of OER and education more broadly is fairly limited. This presents a great opportunity for further use of these freely available materials, full of information and packed with interesting anecdotes to capture a student’s attention. In fact, scholarly evidence suggests that podcasts are a great way to engage students more deeply (Popova and Edirisingha, 2010). While there have been a few examples of podcasts being used in the classroom (see: Colonial Williamsburg, 2012 and PBS Newshour, 2013), they are sorely underused in educational settings.

That is where these tools can be useful! We aim to fill a gap in the use of freely available, educational podcasts in classrooms in a wide array of contexts by providing discussion guides that will facilitate use and uptake of these materials. We believe that America Adapts: The Climate Change Podcast is a great jumping off point for integrating podcasts into classrooms of all sorts. And we hope that you will test and use these discussion guides and provide your feedback on how they worked and how they can be improved.

Our plan is simple: We have provided three exemplar classroom discussion guides and one exemplar assignment outline that we hope instructors in high school, college, and university classrooms will utilize over the comings weeks and months. We will systematically collect your feedback and seek strategies to modify and improve the drafts and future discussion guides. Please see the instructions below for how to share your feedback with us.

The links to the exemplar Discussion Guides and Assignment Outline are available here:

1.   Deconstructing a Climate Skeptic: The Marc Morano Podcast. Episode available here. Exemplar guide available here. Exemplar assignment outline available here.

2.   You Can’t Handle the Truth: Rising Sea Levels and the Law. Episode available here. Exemplar guide available here.

3.   Adaptation Checkup: Public Health and Climate Change - A Podcast with Dr. Natasha DeJarnett. Episode available here. Exemplar guide available here.

4.   For a list of general questions that we believe are useful for classroom discussions about podcast more generally, see the exemplar guide available here.

Interested in knowing more about what inspired this exciting journey we are on? You can read a blog post about it here, and listen to an episode of America Adapts that discusses the very beginning of our story here.

We believe in the value of this wealth of exciting, interesting, and broad and deep, source of knowledge. We are excited to share these exemplars with you and to use your feedback to improve future iterations and to create discussion guides for future episodes.

Instructions for sharing your feedback on the exemplar discussion guides:

We are excited to hear your feedback on the exemplar discussion guides and to integrate it into future iterations of the tools. To do that, we are providing a variety of options for sharing your feedback. Options to submit feedback are:

1. Directly to any of the Podcasts Discussion Guides Team Members: Kate Bishop-Williams, Doug Parsons, Sarah Hensen, Ali Versluis, Curt Newton, or Randy Van Hoose.

2. By email to Kate Bishop-Williams (kbishop@uoguelph.ca) or Doug Parsons (americaadapts@gmail.com).

3. On Twitter to Kate (@kbishopwilliams), Doug (@usaadapts), or Ali (@aliversluis) using the hashtag #PodcastsInTheClassroom .

4. Via a more detailed survey, available here.


Colonial Williamsburg, 2012. Available here: http://www.history.org/history/teaching/images/Past&Present_Lesson_CWFv2.pdf

PBS Newshour, 2013. Available here: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/extra/lessons-plans/podcasting-sharing-your-ideas-about-freatured-topics-and-issues/

Podcast Insights, 2018. Available her: https://www.podcastinsights.com/podcast-statistics/

Popova,, and Edirisingha. "How can podcasts support engaging students in learning activities?." Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences 2.2 (2010): 5034-5038. Available here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877042810008566

SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), 2018. Available here: https://sparcopen.org/open-education/

This work is licensed under aCreative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.