The Podcast: A Tool for Raising Awareness of Social Issues

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By Mathieu Mercier, Social Studies Teacher 
École secondaire de Rivière-du-Loup
Twitter : @merciermathieu5 

Podcasting is growing in popularity, and many teachers are wondering about its educational potential within the school environment. How can it be integrated into the classroom? How can it be considered evidence of learning? These questions are all the more relevant since podcasting is often used as a complementary teaching tool for teachers, but not necessarily as a new creative option for students…but that is changing.

What’s a podcast?

A podcast is digital audio content that is accessible through streaming platforms and RSS technology. Podcasts are also downloadable, so you can listen to them later on the device of your choice. According to the Media Technology Monitor survey, 46% of Canadian aged 18 to 49 listens to them regularly; 44% of typical weekly listeners (and 49% of women) say they are listening to podcasts more since Marsh 2020.

Why Create a Podcast in the Classroom?

According to Media Technology Monitor, more and more Canadians are listening to podcasts and nearly half of people listen to podcasts while using public transit or walking. Apart from being trendy, or simply part of the modern era, podcasts are aimed at a large audience since they adapt to their audience, depending on the format. The interview makes it possible to analyze and question what is being reported, to exchange points of view, to structure debate and to tell a story. It is therefore not surprising that everyone can find something they enjoy.

Although integrating podcast listening into the classroom environment is possible when based on a specific teaching intention, it is important to understand why getting students to create podcasts can be advantageous for teachers. The Digital Competency Framework and the Quebec Education Program provide some answers.

First, creating a podcast in the classroom involves, in whole or in part, several components of digital competency:

●  Developing and mobilizing technological skills

●  Harnessing digital technology’s potential for learning

●  Collaborating using digital technology

●  Communicating using digital technology

●  Producing content using digital technology

Then, developing these skills through the creation of a podcast promotes learning among students. It helps them reach the Significant Reconfiguration of the Task level stemming from the SAMR model (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition), since the students no longer have to only present their learning in written or oral form. Rather, podcasting enables the students toenrich their production with a planned and organized audio recording created in collaboration with their classmates. Note that it is possible to reach the Redefinition of the Task level if the podcast is broadcasted on platforms such as Anchor or Baladoweb with the objective of sharing the learning acquired with a broad audience.

The International Center for Leadership in Education’s Rigor and Relevance Framework model considers that students are in an adjustment period when creating a podcast. In fact, the students leverage their knowledge and disciplinary skills by planning, reasoning and discussing, by creating and modifying audio extracts and soundtracks as well as by getting some conclusions and promoting them. Thus, a podcast’s creation helps develop useful skills in an ever-changing world while giving added value to the educational task. For more information on this subject, we suggest you consult the Fall 2022 issue of EngagED Learning magazine.

Designing a podcast ultimately makes it possible to assess certain skills related to the Quebec Education Program.

A Podcast about Access to Clean Drinking Water

Here is an actual podcast project that was carried out in March 2022 by Grade 8 students as part of their geography class. The issue to be interpreted was about the lack of access to clean drinking water in Aboriginal communities in Quebec and the rest of Canada.

Here are the main steps of this learning task:

  1. Present the issue of access to clean drinking water and the key players to the students.
  2. Analysis of a research kit containing each key player’s actions (Competency/Skill 1).
  3. Interpret human actions related to the problem of access to clean drinking water for Aboriginal people (Competency/Skill 2).
  4. Create the podcast plan in teams of 3 or 4 students.
  5. Write the podcast outline after receiving teacher feedback.
  6. Introduce the Anchor application and sign up.
  7. Use Anchor to edit the audio.
  8. Teacher feedback is provided.
  9. Upload the podcast to Anchor and share its link with parents.

Completing each of these steps helped the teacher determine the students’ skill levels in the course of learning, then validate what had been achieved until then. Although listening to different podcasts is not present in the stages of this project, Maude Labonté, from the Service national du RÉCIT, domaine de l’univers social, suggests that teachers do this with the students at the beginning of the task in order to familiarize them with this type of content and the kind of production expected.

Throughout the progress of this collaborative project, the students demonstrated greater commitment than when carrying out another type of task. When the project was announced, many students easily found articles and videos presenting the realities of Aboriginal peoples regarding access to drinking water. Therefore, they, partly participated in developing the resource kit from the news, which enabled them to better understand a social reality that was unknown to them before the project.

The most complex part for the students was writing the plan—how should the podcast be structured? Who should say what? When should someone intervene? Nevertheless, the students created the first version of the plan and, with the teacher’s feedback, were able to improve their version so that they could be satisfied withf it before recording.

Although reluctance to hear one’s own voice dampened a few of the shyer students’ enthusiasm, sharing the podcasts with parents helped students receive congratulations and praise, which answers to an increasingly growing desire to include the family in the students’ educational progress.

The Podcast as Evidence of Learning

In a teaching context, the podcast’s design must enable the teacher to render an assessment on their students’ learning, whether during the phase of skill development or when it is a question of determining how well they mastered those skills.

This assessment serves to:

1. Validate and consolidate what is acquired by the students.

2. Lead the students to test the limits of this knowledge or skill so that they question it and can then go further.

The podcast plan is the main component used to assess the current evidence of learning. In fact, it becomes the student’s preparation. The completion of the plan serves to organize and structure the podcast’s content prior to recording.

Reading the plan enables the teacher to:

●  Validate the knowledge contained therein.

●  Observe the students’ level of self-discipline.

●  Provide personalized feedback for which purpose is to improve or consolidate the work completed.

It is recommended that this feedback be provided in the form of an audio recording. Once preserved, this oral evidence can be consulted when evaluating the final production.

The podcast, evaluated at the end of the design process, also overcomes certain challenges related to the students’ oral expression. Among the most important advantages for students, it helps reduce the nervousness associated with public speaking, since students can do as many takes as they wantduring the recording process. They do not have the stress or the urgency to express themselves properly in one take. The gain in confidence in oral expression as well as the adoption of a critical and constructive stance about their audio recording helps them deliver a recorded version with which they’re satisfied, thanks to editing! Thus, the teacher benefits from an accurate, objective look at the level of mastery related to the subject-specific competency, while reducing the factors that can influence it.

When carrying out a podcast project with students, it is  safe to assume that not everything will go as planned. There will probably be issues like technical problems with the hardware or improper navigation. Nevertheless, creating an educational podcast with students is stimulating and engaging.

Tips and Tricks

●  Schedule a realistic length of time. Finding and analyzing information takes time, as does recording and editing. In particular, schedule the following components: research and analysis, preparation of verbatim, recording and editing. This could range between 3 and 4 periods of 75 minutes.

●  Record the podcast in a quiet environment free from stimuli to reduce noise pollution and ambient noise. Reserve several rooms, if possible.

●  Choose the equipment and software according to your teaching intention and according to your digital skills. Choose equipment and softwares with which you are   already comfortable. Some teachers prefer to have a physical console and a suitable recording space. Others will opt for microphones specially designed for recording podcasts as well as digital consoles. For others, built-in microphones in a desktop computer, tablet, or cell phone work just fine.

●  Do not strive for professional quality editing. Some platforms, such as Anchor, Soundtrap, Garage Band and Audacity, facilitate quick and easy audio editing. Plus, they are free.

●  Think about involving the family and the community in the project. Sharing podcasts strengthens the ties between the school, the family and the community, since you can publish the students’ productions on various streaming platforms. It is also a great opportunity for parents to encourage their children. But remember, parental consent is required for students if you want to broadcast the podcast publicly.

●  Exploit the RSS feed. An RSS feed is provided when hosting a podcast on an online platform. This feed links your podcast episode to other streaming platforms such as QUB radio, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, etc. This maximizes listening and thus reaches more people.

Source: Infographic (in French)


Recording and editing software:

●  Soundtrap

●  Anchor (now Spotify for Podcasters)

●  Bandland for Education

Uploading tools:

●  Baladoweb

●  Anchor

Loup, J. (2022, january). Podcast listening in Canada: who’s doing it and how often?, nlogic,

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