Teaching Literacy in the Digital Age

Teaching Literacy in the Digital Age (ISTE, 2014) edited by Mark Gura is a compilation of eighteen different technology projects for any classroom. Tech projects include audio, video, blogging, and podcasting using web tools such as Animoto, Evernote, Wordle, and Audacity. All the chapters were written by teachers with the intention of designing classroom learning experiences that would engage students and at the same time require them to use technology tools and skills to create meaningful content.

I contributed a chapter on using podcasting to teach narrative and expository writing in my Speech and Debate class. Below are some highlights from my chapter, “Building Literacy Radiolab Style: Podcasting to Foster Speech and Debate Skills.”


My obsession with NPR’s Radiolab began more than five years ago when I would drive home on Friday afternoon from school and listen to the weekly podcast. Somewhere in the middle of the fifth or sixth podcast I realized there was a formula to the radio show and it mirrored an informational speech. Only, the podcast was enhanced by various sound effects and audio clips to draw my attention to the show and it’s content. I also realized that the majority of the topics presented were science based, and even though science was never my passion, the show’s format helped me to engage, empathize, and reflect on the scientific elements presented. Soon, my listening to the show was not only for enjoyment, but to deconstruct and study the craft of the show and think about how to apply this in my classroom.

I wrote down all the engaging transitions and really paid attention to how support material was weaved into the show to present information and inform the listener. I created an entire handout for my students with all the “moves” I heard the Radiolab hosts, Jad and Robert, say throughout various podcasts. These transitions benefited the listeners by inferring what they needed to do with the information presented.

The end result after having my students listen and study different Radiolab podcasts was for my students to partner up and create their own Radiolab style shows. Students wrote, edited, and recorded their own podcasts with added listening effects. Overall, the project was successful and Radiolab is still is my favorite show on NPR!

For more specifics about the assignment and process of creating the podcasts you can check out Teaching Literacy in the Digital Age: Inspiration for all levels and literacies edited by Mark Gura.


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