Leveraging Podcasts to Boost Active Listening in the Classroom

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Classroom Application
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UNESCO recognized World Radio Day on behalf of its member nations in 2011; then, in 2013, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the day internationally. This annual recognition focuses on raising awareness of radio as a means of communication, information, and entertainment.

In many respects, podcasts are like radio broadcasts. Both deliver audio content to listeners. However, podcasts are a distinct form of digital media that offer more flexibility and accessibility than radio. For example, podcast users can listen to content of their choice on demand and access broadcasts through various devices and platforms, making podcasts more appealing to a broader range of listeners.

Lindsay Patterson at the Cult of Pedagogy blog discusses the many reasons Why You Should Bring Podcasts Into Your Classroom based on key components of the science of listening. She mentions several benefits of listening in education, including facts that support the theory that better listeners are better readers. Listening also improves social-emotion well-being and supports multilingual learning. 

Podcasts require focused attention and concentration to follow the discussion and ideas presented, which builds active listening skills. Take advantage of this medium to teach and enhance active listening skills, which are crucial to success in all areas of the curriculum. The benefits of incorporating active listening skills with podcasts include:

  • Increased Comprehension – Following a podcast dialogue and extracting meaningful information, main ideas, and details requires strong listening comprehension abilities.
  • Critical thinking – Analyzing the arguments and viewpoints in a podcast, evaluating the evidence provided, and considering different perspectives promote critical thinking and listening skills.
  • Open-mindedness – Exposure to podcasts on diverse topics and viewpoints presents opportunities to develop open-mindedness and appreciation of different ideas and positions.
  • Note-taking – Taking notes while listening to identify key takeaways in podcasts fosters essential listening and comprehension competencies.
  • Focus – Since podcasts are audio-only, they require focus on listening without visual aids, and this strengthens attentive listening abilities.
  • Summarization – Summarizing the main discussion points and insights after listening to a podcast relies on listening comprehension and synthesis skills.
  • Memory – Retaining important information presented throughout a long podcast tests and builds memory capacity.

Consider using an artificial intelligence (AI) tool to extend learning, assess students’ understanding of podcast content, and promote awareness of how to participate as an active listener. Many AI tools may be unable to access the transcript when provided with a link to a podcast episode. In such cases, consider checking YouTube for recordings of the episode, as several AI resources generate questions and activities based on content extracted from YouTube videos.

Many podcasts found on this Educational Podcasts for Students special topics collection have YouTube Channels that include podcast episodes, including Brains On! (reviewed here), But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids (reviewed here), and A Way with Words (reviewed here). 

Let’s look at extending learning from a YouTube podcast episode using questions created with Diffit (reviewed here).

  1. Copy the URL from the YouTube episode of the podcast from your browser address bar. Diffit works best using this method, not the share link.
  2. Log into your free Diffit account, and select the option to get resources for an article or video (URL).
  3. Paste the URL and select a reading level and language. This option provides many opportunities for differentiating information by student ability levels and providing resources for multilanguage learners in their native language.
  4. After clicking the link to generate resources, Diffit creates a reading passage with a transcript of the podcast (or a grade-level adjusted version), summary, vocabulary terms, and questions in different formats. Use the edit button in any area to change and personalize the content as needed.
  5. Select the link to get student activities to view activities as a PDF or Word Document or export them into a Google Forms quiz.
  6. You’ll notice that Diffit produces several types of questions, including multiple-choice, short answer, and opportunities for students to reflect upon the podcast content and how it applies to their circumstances. The reflection questions encourage students to engage in critical thinking activities. When discussed with peers, those questions provide students with different perspectives that help to develop open-mindedness and appreciation of different values and opinions, as discussed earlier.

Additional AI resources to create questions from YouTube videos include:

  • Quizziz (reviewed here) – allows students to answer questions while “watching” a video. Some podcasts include video, while others have a static screen and include only audio. This example is from the But Why Kids Don’t Swallow Gum Episode.
  • QuestionWell (reviewed here) – quickly create questions in different formats, then export the results to Schoology, Kahoot, Forms, Google Slides, and many other tools. QuestionWell works best when retrieving the URL from the browser address bar, not the share link. 
  • Other tools, such as MagicSchool (reviewed here), also generate questions from YouTube videos; however, the free plan only includes five minutes per video.

Podcasts engage students by using attention-grabbing topics and speakers. The conversational and accessible nature of podcasts mirrors real-world communication, which encourages comprehension and retention of information. Additionally, incorporating activities that encourage active listening skills helps students become immersed in the learning process and go beyond passive listening.

What do you do to promote active listening of podcasts? We always enjoy hearing suggestions from our readers as we learn together. 

About the author: Sharon Hall

Sharon Hall was a recipient of the Presidential Award of Excellence in Math teaching. With over 15 years of classroom experience as a National Board Certified teacher, Sharon shares her content knowledge and reflections on ideas for basic classroom technology integration with us.

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