Podcasts have been around since the time of the iPod (2004 marks the first “podcast”) and have a longer history than our smart phones (born in 2007), the way most of us listen to them today. And we do listen to them. Depending on where you get your information (I used HubSpot DemandSage for this article), as of September 2023 there were 70 million episodes created by 5 million podcasters, listened to by more than 467 million people. That many podcasts gives a potential listener plenty to choose from: politics, literature, sports, business, religion, true crime, leadership, arts, marketing a small business . . . the list is endless. Some podcasts are very “niche,” while some are designed for a wide public. The most listened to podcaster? Love him or hate him, it’s Joe Rogan, yes, the Fear Factor guy. Finally, video podcasting is growing exponentially.
Let’s look four angles on podcasts.
PODCASTING AS EDUCATION
Ms. Amanda Triplett approached me last spring about her teaching a podcasting class. Amanda is the originator of the National Podcast Project, which is homegrown in Dalton, GA. You will never find a more passionate advocate of the educational power of podcasting than Amanda. By day Amanda is an English teacher in Dalton. She stated:
As a teacher, podcasting has changed my classroom and my own approach to learning. Though some see podcasting living in the technology world, it is truly a literacy tool that should be used in every classroom regardless of content or ability/age level. Like writing, the process allows us to create an artifact that makes connections between academics and life, drawing in our stories and providing access to stories we may never be able to hear in person.
The power of the human voice and our shared experiences bring learning to life in a way that nothing else can. When I started the National Podcast Project back in 2020 with a regional competition called Speak Up Whitfield, it was in response to the NPR Student Podcast Challenge. Since then, the project has grown to train teachers and students across the country on how to implement podcasting into classrooms, businesses and community organizations. With collaborators like Spotify and PBS, we continue to grow the project by creating panel presentations, mobile podlabs, and competitions/podcast events, all of which help marginalized voices find an audience.
Lauren Holverson, our Director of Government & Alumni Relations and an Adjunct Professor in the Wright School of Business is working with Amanda on bringing the benefits of podcasting to the Dalton community and the campus. She states:
Podcasting is a valuable tool that facilitates the development of creativity and communication skills, which are highly sought-after in the workplace. The stories shared through podcasts have the potential to create a lasting impact on our lives, and as such, podcasting serves as a medium for sharing experiences and collaborating with others. This medium is especially beneficial for educators, students, and employees alike.
So this semester the Department of Communication, Performing Arts, and Foreign Language offered COMM 3900: Special Topics in Podcasting, taught in our MAC Lab in Sequoyah. Of course, Amanda Triplett is the enthusiastic instructor.
PODCASTS AS PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
If you are a podcast fan, you know it’s easy to get default to some favorites. But with over five million podcasts, there is probably a great deal for you to explore. One of those areas is higher education, as well as college teaching and learning. What’s your interest? Teaching online? Using technology? Equity and inclusion? Research in Teaching and Learning? Leading change? There’s a podcast—or several—for that.The beauty of podcasts, which I consider the new radio, is that as long as your smart phone has battery life and a signal, you can listen while driving, exercising, cleaning, walking the dog, or gardening.
SHAMELESS PLUG TIME
I saved the worst, or best, for last. I have a podcast. For a long time I wanted to sit down with creative people and see how they “did” creativity. Thanks to recent graduate Clemencia Villafuerte, an expert in sound design and our producer, I started in March of 2022, and as of this writing I have 40 episodes out. The title of my podcast is Dialogues with Creators, and it is not confined to creators in the typical arts. I have interviewed a guest who started a publishing company, a married couple who turned the church they pastor into a center for the arts in a local community, an anthropologist who works with the storytelling nonprofit Narrative4, a Harvard-trained Biblical archaeologist, and a mom of a son with an autism diagnosis—along with a symphony conductor, writers, filmmakers, and even a couple of visual artists (which doesn’t translate quite as well on an aural medium, but the conversations were fun).
Best of all, I have interviewed twelve full- or part-time faculty members from history, psychology, biology, communication, theatre, and English. It is for that reason I recommend you check out Dialogues with Creators (also on YouTube but harder to find) to hear what your colleagues have to say about creativity and how they use their own in their teaching and research.
PODCASTS ARE WORTH IT
No matter whether you use podcasts for your own learning, for entertainment, or as a tool for student engagement, you can benefit greatly from this aural medium. My most recent go-to podcast is The Revolutions Podcast with Michael Duncan; right now I am listening to him explain the Russian Revolution’s origins in a way I want to keep coming back for more. Recently I listened to one by NPR, White Lies, on what happened to the prisoners from the Mariel Boat Lift (not a story with a happy ending, as some of them languished in American prisons for decades). And let’s not forget Shankar Vedantam and Hidden Brain—he’s the podcaster I aspire to be.
Let podcasts speak to you.
(This is an article I wrote for a campus publication.)