I have a confession to make. When I am interested in something, I tend to be a bit obsessed with it. Take Parks and Recreation, for example. I binge watched the entire series in less than a week on Netflix. (Pure talent, am I right?) I just found myself in the mindset of “I can’t stop!” and kept watching. The same thing happens when I read books that I love or online shop; I can become fixated.
So, this is how I found myself in the position I was in yesterday afternoon: sitting in my mom’s recliner, yelling at my laptop and disturbing my sleeping dog. “Are you KIDDING ME?!” I yelled at full volume. “You wrote a letter the day after saying you saw him! Who is really telling the truth?”
(Photo CC: Flickr.com)
If you can’t tell, I listened to the podcast Serial yesterday. This podcast tells the story of Hae Min Lee’s murder and the conviction of her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed, who has been in prison since March of 1999. The podcast was a record hit, setting the iTunes record for the fastest downloaded podcast. The series plays out in episodes and causes listeners to ask hard questions and search for answers through many challenges and issues in the case. Is he guilty? Was he set up? These questions (and many more) ran through my mind as I watched- and I’ve only seen the first episode! Needless to say, I am hooked.
It’s easy to see the advantages and draws that podcasts and digital storytelling have in a classroom. Podcasts have a very conversational feel and often find ways to relate to their listeners. Serial, for example, deals with a murder mystery between high school exes; a recipe for a blockbuster movie, except this happened in real life. The subject matter is appealing due to the setting and, as Mind Shift’s article What Teens are Learning From ‘Serial’ Podcasts explains, it’s novel and new “not only to the kids, but also to the teacher.” Everyone in the room is hearing the events unfold at the same time. Students are able to debate the issues that arise while listening, sparking conversation amongst everyone. Add on top of this that students are enjoying their learning, and you have a recipe for success. Students will try harder and be more engaged if they are enjoying their learning. Classrooms don’t have to be devoid of fun.
To me, the most interesting piece about podcasts is their ability to engage and interest. I’m sure we all remember the days we saw our teachers wheeling in the TV set or firing up the SmartBoard. Think back on the excitement you felt. Yes, finally a day of just listening to something that you’re interested in. Just being able to sit back and listen to a story instead of being lectured to was my definition of the perfect class day. Podcasts hold their audience’s interest and allow listeners to form ideas and opinions to later discuss. I think it’s also great that podcasts don’t necessarily only appeal to one age group. For example, earlier this week, I was telling my mom about needing to watch a podcast for class. She immediately got this crazed, wide-eyed expression on her face (I’m not kidding… I was a little frightened.). “Have you seen Serial?!” she practically shouted at me. Obviously this podcast is special if it can hold the attention of teenagers in a classroom and my mother.
Will podcasts and other forms of digital storytelling pass the threshold of my classroom door someday? Yes. Without a doubt. The ability to engage and captivate any audience while letting students’ learning skills grow is something that I, as a future educator, just can’t bear to pass up. Podcasts will always have a home in my lesson plans.
As for my viewing of Serial? This morning my mom told me a story about my little brother, Kellan, to which I responded, “Are you for Serial?” I then died laughing as my mother walked away, muttering something about her ‘weird child.’ If that doesn’t clue you in, I’m a bit obsessed; you should be, too.