Using Podcasts to Teach History and Politics

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By Dr. David Childs, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University


What is a Podcast?
The Oxford English dictionary defines a Podcast asa digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device, typically available as a series, new installments of which can be received by subscribers automatically.”

One way of thinking of a Podcast is a sort “Internet Radio On-Demand.” Further it is “similar in that you can usually listen to it on your computer — but it’s more than that. However, and not to confuse the issue, podcasting isn’t confined to just audio but can be video as well.” Here is a short video that further discusses what a Podcast is. Podcasting: Introduction – What is a Podcast?

As with most new technology, there are many creative ways that Podcast technology can be used in the classroom. Teachers can have students make their own broadcasts in the classroom on a variety of subjects or use existing Podcasts to teach content and integrate into the curriculum. Below we have provided a few lesson plans and resources that demonstrate how teachers can integrate Podcasts into their classroom. There are also a number of links to various history and political podcasts that can be used in the classroom.    

Lesson Plans and Teaching Resources for Teaching Using Podcasts

Great Podcast Episodes for Students and Teachers
Character Education Podcasts
Local History Guided Tour Podcasts
Various Lesson Plans Using Podcasts Resources
Using Podcasts to Teach English Language Arts
Teaching Podcasting: A Curriculum Guide for Educators
Using Podcasts in the Classroom: A Sample Lesson Plan Listening to the Colonial Trades

History Podcasts

The British History Podcast
The British History Podcast is a chronological retelling of the history of Britain with a particular focus upon the lives of the people. You won’t find a dry recounting of dates and battles here, but instead you’ll learn about who these people were and how their desires, fears, and flaws shaped the scope of this island at the edge of the world.

Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History
In “Hardcore History” journalist and broadcaster Dan Carlin takes his “Martian”, unorthodox way of thinking and applies it to the past. Was Alexander the Great as bad a person as Adolf Hitler? What would Apaches with modern weapons be like? Will our modern civilization ever fall like civilizations from past eras? This isn’t academic history (and Carlin isn’t a historian) but the podcast’s unique blend of high drama, masterful narration and Twilight Zone-style twists has entertained millions of listeners.

Footnoting History
Footnoting History is a bi-weekly podcast series dedicated to overlooked, popularly unknown, and exciting stories plucked from the footnotes of history.

The History Chicks
The History Chicks podcast focuses on the social history of various women from time past often from an unconventional perspective.

The Dangerous History Podcast
The Dangerous History Podcast covers the history that the Establishment would rather you not know, helping you learn the past so you can understand the present and prepare for the future.

The History of Rome
A weekly podcast tracing the history of the Roman Empire, beginning with Aeneas’s arrival in Italy and ending with the exile of Romulus Augustulus, last Emperor of the Western Roman Empire.

In Our Time By the BBC

In Our Time is a live BBC radio discussion series exploring the history of ideas, presented by Melvyn Bragg since 1998. It is one of BBC Radio 4’s most successful discussion programs, acknowledged to have “transformed the landscape for serious ideas at peak listening time”.

Lore Podcast
Lore is a podcast about non-fiction scary stories. Each episode examines historical events that show the dark side of human nature (usually through the lens of folklore) and is presented in a style that’s been compared to a campfire experience. The series was created in 2015 by Aaron Mahnke as a marketing experiment[1] and received the iTunes “Best of 2015” Award.[2] The podcast was also given the award for the “Best History Podcast” by the Academy of Podcasters in July 2016.[3] At the end of 2016, the podcast was included in the top lists by The Atlantic[4] and Entertainment Weekly.[5] As of October 2017, the series has 5 million monthly listeners.[1] The podcast airs on a bi-weekly basis, and is usually released on a Monday. The podcast is recorded in a studio in Mahnke’s home office.[1] Mahnke’s voice in the podcast is described as “coolly mesmeric.”

The Memory Palace
The Memory Palace is a monthly historical podcast hosted by Nate DiMeo. The program features historical narratives concerning such subjects as the Cardiff Giant and the CIA project Acoustic Kitty.

The History of Ancient Greece Podcast
A podcast series covering Ancient Greek & Hellenistic political, social, and cultural history from prehistory to the Roman conquest

The History of World War II
A bi-weekly podcast covering the last great war. Join Ray Harris Jr as he explores World War Two in intimate detail.

American History Tellers
American History Tellers is a podcast by Wondery, hosted by Lindsay Graham (not to be confused with Senator Lindsey Graham).[1] The show is known to use POV narration, telling stories through perspectives of average and notable people.

History of Pirates Podcasts
A podcast exploring the fascinating history of pirates.

The Pirate History Podcast
A podcast about the Golden Age of Piracy in the Caribbean, the real men and women that threatened the trade and stability of the Old World empires, the forces that led them to piracy and the myths and stories they inspired. Listeners will learn about famous names like Captain Henry Morgan, Henry Avery, Charles Vane, Mary Reed, Anne Bonny, Black Bart Roberts, Ned Low, and Edward ‘Blackbeard.’ The podcasts will explore famous Queens, Kings, Popes, rebellious monks, Caribbean Natives, African Slaves and notorious governors like Woodes Rogers.

Revisionist History- By Malcolm Gladwell
Revisionist History is Malcolm Gladwell’s journey through the overlooked and the misunderstood. Every episode re-examines something from the past—an event, a person, an idea, even a song—and asks whether we got it right the first time. From Pushkin Industries. Because sometimes the past deserves a second chance.

A weekly podcast exploring great political revolutions

The Thomas Jefferson Hour
The Thomas Jefferson Hour is a syndicated public radio program and podcast produced in Bismarck, North Dakota. It features author-historian Clay S. Jenkinson in a first-person portrayal of Thomas Jefferson, the third US President, and is co-hosted by David Swenson.

The Way I Heard It
All good stories have a twist, and all great storytellers are just a little twisted. This podcasts offers a different take on the people and events that you thought you knew, from pop culture to politics, Hollywood to history… The Way I Heard It is a series of short mysteries for the curious mind with a short attention span.

Political Podcasts

Common Sense
Common Sense with Dan Carlin is an independent look at politics and current events from popular New Media personality Dan Carlin.

The Drop Out
Money. Romance. Tragedy. Deception. The story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos is an unbelievable tale of ambition and fame gone terribly wrong. How did the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire lose it all in the blink of an eye?

The Gist
The Gist is an American podcast produced by Slate magazine that covers a wide variety of current news and issues. The show first aired in May 2014, and is hosted by Mike Pesca

The Daily- A Podcast by the New York Times
The Daily is a daily news podcast and radio show by the American newspaper The New York Times. Hosted by Times political journalist Michael Barbaro, its 20-minute episodes are based on the Times’ reporting of the day.

He Can Do That? A Podcast by the Washington Post?
Donald Trump’s historic presidency will look unlike any other that’s come before it. From his outsider status in Washington to his family’s continued residence in New York to his complicated business empire, each episode of this podcast will focus on one aspect of Trump’s time in the White House that defies conventions and ask the question, “Can he do that?

Intelligence Squared
America feels divided. From the most salient questions about our national identity and place in the world, to fundamental concerns about technology, religion, the economy, and public policy, Intelligence Squared U.S. is here to help. A respite from polarized discussions, we bring together the smartest minds to debate and dissect issues in depth, restoring civility and bringing intelligence to the public square in the process.

Politics and More Podcast
Politics and More Podcast is a weekly discussion about politics, hosted by The New Yorker’s executive editor, Dorothy Wickenden.

Pod Save the World
Pod Save the World is a weekly foreign policy podcast produced and distributed by Crooked Media, and hosted by former White House National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor. In each episode, Vietor is joined by a guest to discuss foreign policy and international relations.

Politically Re-Active
Politically Re-Active is a political comedy podcast from First Look Media and Panoply hosted by comedians W. Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu.

The NPR Politics Podcast
The NPR Politics Podcast is where NPR’s political reporters talk to you like they talk to each other. With weekly roundups and quick takes on news of the day, you don’t have to keep up with politics to know what’s happening. You just have to keep up with us.

The Slate Political Gabfest
The Slate Political Gabfest is an American political podcast by Slate magazine that covers topics on current politics and issues. The shows are usually hosted by David Plotz. It is reportedly Slate’s most popular podcast.

Serial is an investigative journalism podcast hosted by Sarah Koenig, narrating a nonfiction story over multiple episodes. The series was co-created and is co-produced by Koenig and Julie Snyder and developed by This American Life.

The Tom Woods Show
America feels divided. From the most salient questions about our national identity and place in the world, to fundamental concerns about technology, religion, the economy, and public policy, Intelligence Squared U.S. is here to help. A respite from polarized discussions, we bring together the smartest minds to debate and dissect issues in depth, restoring civility and bringing intelligence to the public square in the process.

White Lies
In 1965, Rev. James Reeb was murdered in Selma, Alabama. Three men were tried and acquitted, but no one was ever held to account.

NPR Podcast Directory
The site contains links to various popular Podcasts on a variety of topics.


Teaching the Art of Listening: How to Use Podcasts in the Classroom
Podcast Defined- Wikipedia
Podcast Defined- Oxford English Dictionary
What is a Podcast?
How Podcasting Works


  1. This article brings to light another avenue of technology that is benefiting our students today. Podcasts could certainly be beneficial in helping with listening skills, social skills and just be a fun learning tool in general. As a student myself, I’m not crazy about putting myself out there whether it be in audio or video form but I’ll do it if it’s required and hopefully will be better for doing so in the long run. I think Podcasts would encourage students to get out there and learn and possibly teach others. Podcasts are part of our popular culture therefore I can see it being received well by our society. Overall, podcasts would be another technological encouragement for learning.

  2. This was forsure a very interesting article to read. I think that podcasts would be a great and fun way to get the kids more active/ involved in the class.I remember being a student a student in a history class and hated it when my teachers just lecture the whole time. People remember things more by doing not listening. Make the kids want to learn. Get down on their level and get them active with things they are interested in. Education is suppose to be about learning and growing. That is not just for the students but also the teachers.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this article especially as a future teacher it helps to show the many ways that technology can be used in the classroom not just for fun but as for learning purposes. This would also help some of the students to kind of relax because they won’t really see it as schoolwork because it would be something that’s interesting and help them learn in a different way. This would also be a great idea for students who are audio learners and it’s gives them a break from having to listen to the teacher teach all the time. Teachers can also use this as a project after that or use it as a teaching lesson, students could create their own broadcast and this would help them to engage more with the podcast that they’re listening to.

  4. These podcasts sound like a great resource for teaching children in schools. Many people are auditory learners, and listening to an educational podcast would probably appeal to them more than simply reading a textbook. Of course, it would be wise to make sure the podcast is factually accurate before presenting it to your students. If the podcast has credible sources and is appropriate for the age group, then it can be used to teach material in an unusual, but perhaps more efficient, manner. As a future teacher, I may be inclined to use podcasts as a different method of teaching whenever I have difficulty explaining a specific topic.

  5. This article was very interesting! I’ve heard of podcasts, but I’ve never listened or interacted with one before. My goal is to eventually be a teacher and I think it is very interesting to think of how much technology will grow by the time I get into the classroom. I think that this could be a great learning source for students and as technology grows more, students could make their own podcasts in the classroom based on a topic. I learned from this article and I’m excited to see what else happens in classrooms as technology continues to expand.

  6. we have advanced so much in technology today no wonder we have so many things that can help us teach our students. these activities seem very use full and we have many resources that can be used. the only issues that i might see come up is that some schools cant afford a lot of technology which can limit what activities we do with the podcast. also even though this could be a good way to have the students do assignment at home not everyone is able to do such things. as long as we take in consideration that even thought technology is everywhere but some still don’t receive these things. once we consider those facts podcasting is a great way to get information out to students in a fun way.

  7. Technology is such a wonderful thing. There are so many different ways to reach out to students in today’s time. Being the tech savvy’s they are, podcasts are the perfect way to get on the student’s level without having to sacrifice the content of the subject in order to do so. Keeping up with what kids are into will definitely help with their learning, as they think technology is cool. This would make the kids more apt to do their work, as they aren’t seeing it as actual school work.

  8. I think that podcasts would be a fun and interactive way to teach students and for them to do assignments. For example, a student could act out a scene from Macbeth and record it or do an oral report on the dangers of smoking. A teacher could also pre-record a lesson for her students using this tool. There are a lot of great podcast resources that were listed in this article. Common Sense and Revolutions are two podcasts that I am interested in.

  9. I enjoyed reading this article. As a future teacher it is interesting to think about how technology could be integrated into the classroom. As a middle grades’ social studies major i also find it interesting that there are already lesson plans that incorporate podcasts. The article also lists several podcasts which is interesting to me because I love learning about history and these podcasts could be a valuable resource to learn more about history. This article does provide a valuable perspective that future teachers need when it comes to the future incorporation of technology into the field of education.

  10. I loved this article! Since I plan on teaching sixth grade history, I think that I will definitely be able to use this resource to my advantage. With technology taking over in classrooms, encouraging the use of technology will help the students learn how to use their devices to research and learn the correct way. Using podcasts is the first step. Through high school and college, I have personally used podcasts to help explain certain subjects to me, as I am an auditory learner. As a future sixth grade teacher, my overall goal would be to easy them into finding correct and credible podcasts and learning from those instead of a strictly opinion based podcast without credible sources.

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