When I was a teenager I generally couldn’t sleep until late, or what my parents defined as late. Unsurprisingly my parents didn’t agree with my suggestion that I could stay up and watch TV until I felt tired and also thought that reading, or more specifically the light being on, might keep me awake. Their suggestion? Listening to plays on the radio. This was a great option as I was immediately transported to a different world, and therefore stopped thinking about my to-do-list; now years later I’m revisiting this bedtime option with podcasts and audiobooks.
I’m always curious how teachers, adults and children use technology to fill a need. Below are five uses for podcasts and audiobooks that might be helpful and enjoyable for you or your students in your professional or personal life.
1. As a bedtime or classroom story:
Do you remember the joy of being read to? A friend of mine loves audiobooks and podcasts for this reason. ‘I hop into bed and get told a fantastic story by someone famous who is talking just to me – or so it feels like.’
Because I look at a screen all day I often end up not wanting to watch TV or a movie at night and sometimes even looking at a book can feel like more words to look at. On nights like these I listen to an audio book (Miranda Hart: Is it Just Me ; Ruby Wax, Sane New World: Taming the Mind) or a series of podcasts that I subscribe to via iTunes and Soundcloud (This American Life ; Funny or die; Saturday Morning with Kim Hill – especially enjoyable now that Saturday morning sport has taken over my mornings with Kim). I also play podcasts for my children on a Sunday morning (Sparkle stories; Catch it by the tail) where we listen to them together. Video and audio podcasts can also be used in a classroom as another option to reading aloud or books. The idea is not for audio or video podcasts to replace reading aloud or for them to be ‘babysitters’ but as another way of presenting information and adding variety for the teacher and students.
2. As a fitness companion:
In order to exercise I need to be in a class with others and pay someone. My sister-in-law however often exercises by herself at home. In response to my bewildered admiration she told me she downloads Yoga Today podcasts and exercises along with them. She has been doing yoga for so many years she could do it herself but these podcasts excite and motivate her and she can choose one that suits what she feels like on the day: intense workout, relaxation, etc. Other friends have replaced listening to music when they run, walk or do housework with podcast listening: Wireless nights with Jarvis Cocker; A History of the World in 100 objects; The Moth.
3. As an alternative to websites:
I live in the country and when I drive in to the city I often listen to a series of work related podcasts. A lot of people I know say they listen to podcasts in the car or on the bus or train. They enjoy such podcasts as: Tech Weekly: The Guardian; The Comedian’s Comedian; TEDTalks; 99% Invisible; The Boagworld Web Design Show. A colleague of mine mentioned that he used to read a huge amount of websites and blogs to do with work at his computer. Now, he has trimmed the list down and instead will listen to podcasts on the same topics as he drives for several hours to a meeting. It has the added bonus of giving his eyes a rest from the screen.
4. As a quick example:
There are a lot of audio and video podcasts that I watch and listen to that are under 15 minutes including CORE Education’s EDTalks and Podcasts that explain concepts that a book might take a chapter to do. In the 2013 EMPOWER: BYOD course, teachers taking the course were asked to ‘Press Pause’ and listen to a podcast on Weaving inquiry into your teaching practice. Several of the participants asked to share the podcast at their staff meeting as a time effective option to update their colleagues on their study.
I also filmed a series of parenting videos for a parenting publication that I work for. One of the presenters, Nathan Mikaere-Wallis, mentioned that several of the ECEs and Kindergartens he works with have been showing them to parents or staff members to explain concepts that they are working on with the children. As helpful as reading a book by Magda Gerber would be for ECE teachers or parents, a more realistic or achievable option might be watching a 5 – 10 minute podcast.
5. As a gap filler:
When my children were young I permanently kept a book in my bag in case we arrived somewhere and they had fallen asleep (bonus reading time!). I think it’s important to have what my previous boss called ‘staring out the window time’, where you allow yourself enough time for your subconscious to work through problems and therefore to have eureka moments. However there are also times when you arrive somewhere early with an undefined but probably 10 – 15 minutes of extra time (hairdressers, doctor or dentist appointment) and you feel like being occupied, but with not enough time to start on work. This is a perfect length of time to listen to a podcast and definitely more enjoyable than reading a Woman’s Weekly from 1998.
I encourage you to download three podcasts from either iTunes or Soundcloud to your smartphone or other device. Take your earphones when you go out, and try to listen to them next week. What to download? Search under your interests (work or personal) or have a look at the podcasts mentioned here for inspiration.
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