Using Podcasts to Teach History and Politics

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

Introduction

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.

Revolutions
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
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.

References

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

10 Comments

  1. As a long lover of history and politics the podcast boom has been a great period of my life with countless experts and enthusiasts creating hours upon hours of informative content for me to consume and enjoy. As a future history teacher I am thrilled to be able to share these resources with my students in the hopes that they can gain as much from them as I have. Thank you for this great list of podcasts, I will be sure to put them to use personally and professionally!

  2. As a high school student, my science teacher always has us listen to podcast about scientific studies or research. I remember it being very helpful when understanding certain lessons. When students are able to listen to the perspectives of others, it can open up so many more doors for ideas.

  3. Podcasts are a great way to learn and be informed on different issues. I never knew what a podcast was until recently, but from listening to some I could see the importance in them. I think that they are a great learning device and should be used in classrooms to help students to receive some valuable information. By incorporating these into classrooms I can see the benefit that they will give to children. They can be a great learning tool and can also make them use their creativity. I love that you included different history podcast stations.

  4. I remember being a student in a history class and I always thought it was so boring sitting and listening to the teacher talk for 50 minutes. With that being said I think it is a great idea for students to learn through listening to podcasts. I don’t think it needs to happen everyday but once or twice a week would be a good way for students to learn in a different way. Since technology is advancing more and more everyday we need to learn how to incorporate that into every day learning for students.

  5. I remember being a student in a history class and I always thought it was so boring sitting and listening to the teacher talk for 50 minutes. With that being said I think it is a great idea for students to learn through listening to podcasts. I don’t think it needs to happen everyday but once or twice a week would be a good way for students to learn in a different way. Since technology is advancing more and more everyday we need to learn how to incorporate that into every day learning for students.

  6. I enjoyed reading this article though I don’t think it will help me very much. I plan on teaching Kindergarten so not much history is taught. I have always thought about using podcasts for teacher seminars though. This would be really helpful and save a lot of time.

  7. I’m not so sure I’m a subscriber to this idea. In a separate article, regarding the use as video games as teaching aids, I expressed similar concerns about social interaction being effected. Kids need social interaction throughout their developmental years and already we see this diminishing in our society as tech continues to invade our everyday lives. On the subject of Pocasts, my concerns are different. Teaches educate via the use of peer reviewed, researched, material. I am concerned about the possible subjectivity of some of these Podcasts. Until such time as I can have guarantees that my children will be taught facts, rather than opinion, I’ll not subscribe.

  8. I think podcasts could be extremely helpful in schools. My school issued laptops and had a decent amount of online homework. Typically teachers lectured in class then the online homework would be done hours later. Podcasts could be helpful because you can play them and do the work simultaneously. Additionally, you can pause and speed them up to fit any students speed. Audio, and video, can be a lot more stimulating to students than only having reading in the curriculum.

  9. I think that inegrating the use of podcasts in education is a great idea. Assigning podcasts for students to listen to will allow them to gain more education on new subjects and it may yield a higher participation rate than assigning reading materials. Also, assignments that have students make their own podcasts could be helpful in allowing the students to reinforce the knowledge they already hold. These podcasts could be done in a group setting, perhaps with the goal of listening to other peers’ podcasts, too. I have a very hard time reading long chapters and I find podcasts to be more interesting and easier to pay attention to. The use of podcasts also lets the listener to hear how other people discuss topics so that they may deepen their own knowledge of the subject.

  10. A podcast would be exciting. If I were to text a question in the middle of a podcast, it would be read aloud and answered so that anyone else with the same question could hear it. It would be like being in the classroom but without having the anxiety of embarrassing yourself. You can even listen while you are anywhere. I’m always going place to place, so it would be nice to listen to it in the car, or at the grocery store, or even at work while I’m doing dishes.

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