Sunday, July 22, 2007

Learning out Loud: Podcasts

Most of our students have grown up in a very visual environment. As teachers we are in a constant struggle to entertain our students as we teach them. As a history teacher I have heard many a times "why do we have to learn this?", "this is so boring", and probably have even heard the snore of a disinterested student. With that I thought of one of the documents that I have to teach to not only my AP students but also my comprehensive students, The Federalist # 51. This letter written by James Madison explains how the structure of the proposed government makes liberty possible through the idea of checks & balances. Not the most exciting reading that a government class has to offer a 16 year old.

This is where Podcasting can come in. I came across a website called Learn out Loud which provides podcasts (most are free) that are organized into topics where either teachers or students can download or stream audio podcasts. The reason this site caught my attention was specifically a result of the Founding Documents Podcast section that includes The Federalist #51, The Bill or Rights, The Constitution, and The Articles of Confederation. Each one of these is a core topic in the understanding of American Government and an alternate way for students to learn.

In teaching The Federalist #51, I would use the podcast in class while students are listening to the podcast, they can follow along in their textbooks. This gives the teacher an opportunity to reach two different types of learners. Students can also use this or any of the other podcasts to reinforce their understanding of the any of the founding documents.

The only difficulty I see in using the podcasts in the classroom is actually being able to download the podcast on school computers, as most music players are not supported by the computers, and the administration blocks what we can and can not download. However, if it was downloaded to my iPod it could be played through the stereo I have in my classroom.

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