When I was young, my parents read to me all the time. Whether it was a bedtime story or at any other time during the day, I was read to constantly, and I LOVED it. Since I have learned to read to myself, I have not had nearly as many stories told to me, and I didn’t realize that I missed it until I began exploring the world of podcasts and digital storytelling. Everyone loves a good story, and these are the perfect tools for incorporating interesting grade level material while in the classroom.
As I began looking into how podcasts and digital storytelling can be used in an educational setting, I was surprised that I had never really thought about them being something that I could or should be using as a teaching tool. According to KQED News‘ “What Teens Are Learning From Serial And Other Podcasts“, podcasts in the classroom can have some serious benefits. When students listen to information rather than read it, they can work with material up to two or three grade levels higher than their normal ability might allow. This encourages students expansion of vocabulary, listening, and critical thinking skills.
Digital storytelling also comes with its perks, as it truly gives students an opportunity to create their own unique material on a platform that they are probably more well-versed in than we are as the teachers. The vast majority of students are extremely familiar with most basic forms of technology, which makes creating text, stories, photography, audio, and video clips a very achievable task. Furthermore, the skills learned though the creative act of digital storytelling transfer to the tasks asked of them by state standards and tests. By learning to tell stories digitally, students will be better able to write essays, speak in front of an audience, listen to both their peers and teachers, and communicate more effectively.
It is clear that both podcasts and digital storytelling are things we should consider incorporating into our lessons. The only drawback that I could foresee would be time constraints. As explained by Michael Godsey, a high school English teacher in California, some podcasts can be extremely lengthy. Serial, the podcast he has shared with his students, spans across class periods for several weeks. For some, it may be difficult to wiggle a unit this large into an already tight schedule.
Initially, I thought that having students create podcasts or digital stories might be a little too difficult for students at the elementary level. The more I think about it though, I think you could get creative and find ways to work it into your classroom. I might look for material that is shorter in length, however, since attention spans are much shorter in younger students. Edudemic is a fantastic resource, providing many creative ideas for digital storytelling lessons in the classroom.
If I end up teaching upper elementary, I would love to have my students use StoryCorps to conduct short interviews. I absolutely loved that the purpose of this movement was to emphasize personal connections in our growing digital world, without completely rejecting the use of technology. I have not seen many other programs like this that promote such a balance. I have downloaded the StoryCorps app and I hope to try it out soon!