Podcasts as a gateway for new understandings
This month we hear from Laura Stone and Linda Harrison from ABC Kids Early Education about using podcasts to build and support children’s learning and understanding. ABC Kids Early Education is a source for ABC Kids and ABC Kids Listen digital content aligned to six key areas: creativity and expression, family, community and culture, language and literacy, STEM and sustainability and nature.
When considering the diverse learning styles of young children, listening to podcasts can offer a fascinating new dimension to educator and teacher planning and practice. Children’s developing capacity to focus attention on each of their senses is a technique used in early childhood mindfulness practice. There is now an array of quality podcasts available for young children that encourage ‘purposeful listening’, helping young minds and bodies to learn to listen with intent – thereby resulting in a natural calmness. Most quality children’s podcasts are great co-listening experiences and can be just as soothing and engaging for adult co-listeners as they are for children.
Listening to podcasts can help children develop important skills for ‘efferent’ listening - listening for factual information or ideas. For example, in ABC Kids Listen’s Noisy by Nature, children can hear many of the interesting sounds made by Australian animals and insects, while learning fun facts to help develop their understandings and respect for biodiversity in different natural environments along the way. Just as reading a great storybook or having an in depth ‘picture talk’ will tease out additional understandings from children’s real-life experiences, so to can beautiful podcasts.
In Noisy by Nature, presenter Dr Ann Jones talks to children as if they are old friends – she asks questions, waits for a response, atmosphere builds in a layered soundscape of wind, waves and distant bird calls. We hear something loud or melodic or just plain silly ring out above the rest! What is that wonderfully weird sound of nature? Noisy by Nature is a transportive experience for little listeners.
An amazing podcast can make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. A child’s gaze when listening to a cleverly crafted podcast is quite a special thing to behold. Just like hearing a story from a loved grown-up, you can see the imagining behind their eyes. As adults, we could liken this experience to the emotional journey we go on when reading a real page turner! No pictures, just an evocative narrative to take you to some place new in your mind. You can see yourself there with the characters, with the landscape, in the moment. Great podcasts are exciting!
What is joint media engagement?
According to the ECA Statement on young children and digital technologies, joint media engagement involves children, peers and/ or adults participating in digital activities together such as co-playing games and apps, co-viewing programs or co-listening to digital content together.
Listening to well-chosen appropriate audio content together provides children with the opportunity to ask questions and put forward ideas, which helps build language development through collaborative learning. These shared digital play experiences can also help educators scaffold children’s development of important dispositions for learning such as curiosity, interest, enthusiasm and imagination (Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia (EYLF), Learning Outcome 4.1).
Using the ABC Kids Noisy by Nature podcasts as provocations for learning
After listening to Your babbling birds, children explore bird habitats and create a nest for a Kookaburra using natural & upcycled materials.
Noisy by Nature episodes can be used as provocations to help educators and teachers intentionally engage children in learning. Sparking wonder in Australian animals or animal groups (marsupials, nocturnal animals, insects, amphibians, mammals), these audio resources can be used at any stage of an ongoing inquiry-based investigation. The podcasts allow children to be absorbed and fascinated by natures’ phenomenons, which provides the perfect springboard for meaningful play-based project work.
Aligning with the National Quality Standard (NQS) Element 1.2.2 ‘Responsive teaching and scaffolding’, podcasts can support the co-construction of knowledge about our sometimes weird and always wonderful world. The interesting facts about insects, animals and their natural habitats offer opportunities for educators to link programming to Learning Outcome 2.1 ‘Children become socially responsible and show respect for the environment’ in the EYLF. Thought-provoking follow-up learning experiences can focus on environmentally responsible practices and conservation to foster an appreciation of the earth and animals that inhabit it for future generations.
ABC Kids Early Education has designed a new free online resource with inspiring ideas for ways educators can use Noisy by Nature audio content to engage children in further explorations through hands-on, play-based learning.
These nature-based podcasts can support programming and planning across program areas including:
- Environmental awareness
- Respect for diversity
How can podcasts provoke follow-up outdoor education?
After listening, follow-up learning experiences in outdoor spaces can open-up inquiry and investigations into beach, bush or neighbourhood environments. Real life experiences in nature provide opportunities for children to connect with the landscape and their community, as well as explore nature and scientific concepts. According to the EYLF, including the exploration of nature in early childhood outdoor education programs “fosters an appreciation of the natural environment, develops environmental awareness and provides a platform for ongoing environmental education” (EYLF Principle: Learning environments).
The Noisy by Nature Excursion Early Education Resources could become a useful planning tool for outdoor education experiences in your local community. These free resources suggest ways children can make connections in their learning while out and about - linking to the EYLF and NQS in the following programming areas:
- ‘Before you go…’
- ‘While you are there…’ and
- ‘When you get back…’.
Children as digital audio content creators
Educators and teachers can further support children’s developing digital literacy skills by encouraging them to make their own recordings of different sounds in nature, using a handheld device. This learning experience can help young children become familiar with how the different functions of digital technologies work, through exploratory play in a digital context. These child-created podcasts can be shared with families to support collaborative partnerships.
Share the ways you have engaged with ABC Kids Listen podcasts at your early childhood setting! The ABC would love to see your photos and learning stories in the ABC Kids Early Education Reflective Journal. Email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Australian Children’s Education and Care Authority (ACECQA). (2020). Guide to the National Quality Framework.
- Early Childhood Australia (ECA). (2018). Statement on young children and digital technologies. Canberra, ACT.
- Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR). (2009). Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Canberra, ACT: Commonwealth of Australia.
- Early Childhood Australia (ECA). (2012). Inquiry-based learning. National Quality Standard Professional Learning Program e-Newsletter No.45.
- Edwards, S. (2016) New concepts of play and the problem of technology, digital media and popular-culture integration with play-based learning in early childhood education. Technology, pedagogy and education, Vol 25(4), pp.513-532.