How One K-12 Startup Is Harnessing the Podcasting Wave

According to research from ratings company Nielsen, 51 percent of all American homes contain podcast fans. That’s more than 60 million homes! 

I’ts a hot trend in education too–more than 6,000 classrooms the NPR Student Podcast Challenge. That’s an amazing number of aspiring podcasters. 

It really made me think about how Listenwise can harness all this interest by using the expertise we have in podcasting. 

I started Listenwise after a 20-year career in public radio. I have a lot of experience in creating good audio stories, and now a good number of years’ experience creating engaging teacher supports for using audio in the classroom. 

But up until recently, Listenwise has focused on curating podcasts and public radio for middle and high school classrooms, not on helping teachers and their students create great podcasts. 

I have presented at conferences like ISTE and SXSWedu describing how to make podcasts. Those are always sold out sessions. Our team created the Teacher’s Guide to Podcasting in the Classroom and it’s a popularly downloaded resource. And I’ve been invited into classrooms to help local teachers on podcast projects. 

To move these podcasting efforts forward, our team brainstormed ways to bring our knowledge and passion around podcasting quickly to the wider market.

A Fresh Take on Podcasting

First, we thought, “let’s start showcasing student podcasts and the teachers who make it happen.” With so many teachers and students podcasting, we knew there would be stories to tell around the process and lessons to learn. With my reporting experience, we decided that a quick and easy way to do this was to create our own podcast highlighting students’ work.

And so, the Student Podcast Podcast was launched!

I love the “meta” name: We are a podcast about student podcasts that celebrates student work, demystifies the creation process by interviewing teachers and inspires others to try podcasting. 

I interview teachers about their podcasting tips (breaking down the process into stages) and their surprising moments (students really love helping each other create great work, students aren’t afraid).

And I’ve heard many teachers say how much impact a podcasting project has on learning. 

“When they were working together, they were laughing, they were having a good time but they were also having these conversations about their books,” Laura Isenhour, a 10th grade English teacher told me. 

The podcast topics range from dissecting the etymology of a word to interviewing family members about their immigrant journey. The styles are as different as the classrooms. Some episodes have student conversations around topics like math, others have one student narrating their thoughts about the constitution. 

All of the podcasts give students the opportunity to deeply explore a topic and share their learning. 

“Using podcasts in the classroom enhances the student experience because it allows them to listen to and engage with the people who have these lived experiences that are similar to them or different to them,” says Yolanda Wilcox González, a 6-12 history teacher. 

We just kicked off another season of the Student Podcast Podcast and we invite you to submit your students’ podcasts for inclusion in the show.

We’ve learned as a company that meeting a need in the market doesn’t always require product changes, marketing plans and sales strategies. It’s OK to dip your toe into a new area with a low-budget approach.

Yes, it’s easy for me to do a podcast that harnesses the power of great student podcasts because that’s my expertise. But I encourage others to look for their expertise and see what else they could be offering their customers or the market that doesn’t require tech investment and a new product.

What I’ve learned from the Student Podcast Podcast is that there is something else the market needs, and in my next blog I’ll share what I’ve learned and how we are meeting that need.

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