Since the unprecedented success of Serial, podcasts have become a more popular form of mainstream entertainment. Not only are many adults listening for fun, but some teachers are bringing podcasts into their classrooms as a new kind of text. Teachers like Alexa Schlechter, Michael Godsey and Alex Fernandez have found teenagers to be a receptive podcast audience and have even experimented with asking students to make their own podcasts.
While audio has excited teachers of older students who can access the rich variety of content available for adults, teachers and parents of younger children are noticing there isn't a ton of content made specifically for a younger audience. In an article written for The Atlantic, Stephanie Hayes investigates this hole in the podcast market. She was surprised to find that kids will pay attention to a full 15-20 minute podcast and learn from it. Hayes writes:
The absence of images in podcasts seems to be a source of their creative potential. Without visuals, listeners are required to fill the gaps—and when these listeners are children, the results can be powerful. Numerous studies have found that children between the ages of seven and 13 respond more creatively to radio stories than to stories shown on television. Audio stories prompted kids to draw more novel pictures, think up more unique questions, and solve problems in a more imaginative way than did TV tales.
Not only are children listening and responding creatively, observations suggest they’re also learning. When Patterson, one of the producers of the children’s science podcast Tumble, conducted a series of focus groups, she found that kids as young as six focused for the duration of her 15-minute show. Minutes after hearing a podcast about spiders, she saw a group of kids huddled around a dead wasp, examining it and debating what had killed it. When she asked if they normally led backyard investigations, they said no. “They had listened, and they really got it,” she wrote in a recent piece for Current, on the value of podcasts for kids