Podcasts, to me, are these intimate experiences that emanate from disembodied voices directly into my ear. I have been investigating podcasts, trying to unmask the reasoning behind their cultural rise. The partial answer that I have discovered is that, as in oral cultures from whence they came (ultimately), podcasts offer a very pure form of storytelling. They are unadorned, mesmerizing and usually designed to illuminate humanity.
Look at This American Life, one of the most popular radio series in the US with over 5 million listeners and an exemplar of the genre. This is how they describe what they do:
Mostly we do journalism, but an entertaining kind of journalism that’s built around plot. In other words, stories! Our favorite sorts of stories have compelling people at the center of them, funny moments, big feelings, surprising plot twists, and interesting ideas. Like little movies for radio.
Creating ‘little movies for radio’ about ‘compelling people’ around ‘interesting ideas’ – these are the stories that we want our students to tell. At this moment, I can’t fathom a more educationally rewarding experience. The podcast strips content down to pure sound, as embodied by the intricacies of the human voice. It’s raw, but warm and uniquely human.
And it’s about sound. Creating in students a higher and more nuanced sensitivity to the sounds around them will yield, in my view, a sharper awareness of their surroundings. We live in such a visual culture. It’s refreshing to take that all away in favor of the simplified complexities and beauties of sound, beginning with the human voice and expanding through to ambient and natural audio.
Create a podcast challenge and watch your students soar.