Podcasts as a gateway for new understandings

Educator and children listening to podcast on table

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.

ABC kids noisy by nature logo bird calling

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.

Educator and children drawing plants outside

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

Educator and children sitting at table making nest out of leaves

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.

View the ABC Kids Noisy by Nature Early Education Resources

These nature-based podcasts can support programming and planning across program areas including:

  • Environmental awareness
  • Respect for diversity
  • Science
  • Mindfulness

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 earlyeducation@abc.net.au.

References

The endless possibilities of using digital devices in OSHC safely

The use of digital devices is prevalent in education today. Smart phones, tablets and laptops are commonplace in classrooms where they are often used to support academic learning and facilitate communication. However, use of these devices is often absent in the planning and implementation of programs in the outside school hours care (OSHC) settings the same children attend.

Excessive screen time is a valid concern and service leaders, educators and families alike may be concerned that the use of digital devices in the service may lead to a culture of unrestricted screen time. However, service leaders and educators are encouraged to reflect on the learning and development opportunities digital devices offer, how they are made available to children, and how they can be used appropriately. It is also important to collaborate with children and families when considering the opportunities.

The benefits for children’s learning

Digital devices offer access to a range of information, programs and software applications. These can provide children with rich, open-ended experiences that nurture creative expression and promote opportunities to extend their learning. The outcomes include school age children developing a host of learning dispositions such as curiosity, perseverance, problem solving and confidence (Framework for School Age Care, Outcome 4, p.33).

Children can enjoy experiences such as:

  • music production – inviting children to compose, record and mix sounds and tracks, or experiment with different sounds
  • photo manipulation – providing children with images to edit
  • animation design – children can use their creativity to tell stories of the day
  • movie editing – educators can support the creation of a film festival where children can script, audition, film and edit short films
  • coding and robotics – workshops and specialised games and activities can be planned to build children’s knowledge of writing scripts and programs.

Many experiences involving the use of digital devices in leisure-based learning can promote a high degree of social interaction, supporting children to collaborate, learn from and help each other (National Quality Standard (NQS), Quality Area 5). When digital devices are used as a basis for collaborative project work, educators can use intentionality in their practices to enhance children’s learning. Quality Area 1 of the NQS refers to intentionality specifically for school age children and how educators can use strategies to extend on children’s learning. This is also explored further in the Framework for School Age Care (Intentionality, p.15). Examples of how educators can be deliberate and purposeful in their practices when children work in groups could include:

  • Facilitating conversations that give children an opportunity to express their ideas in a group setting.
  • Posing challenging questions and assisting children to clarify thinking with each other.
  • Providing support for children to negotiate, compromise and accept different ways of doing and being.
  • Identifying the many ways that children can engage in group decision-making.

Inclusion in processes

As children move through the school age care setting, their capacity for independence and self-direction increases. Educators may observe children’s growing interest in digital devices and may need to respond to requests from children about access to these. Some service leaders and educators may start to look at their own use of technology, and consider ways to include children into some of the processes at the service. Children in OSHC settings may be able to be involved by:

  • recording their own learning and planning experiences using a digital device
  • researching planned experiences
  • assisting with service procedures, such as online grocery shopping or resource purchasing.

Engagement for effective decision-making

Children’s sense of becoming can be further enhanced when educators support children to identify, understand and acknowledge potential risks when using digital devices. Engaging children in this process gives them an opportunity to participate actively in their ongoing learning and make decisions which influence their world. Educators can consider this when initiating open and honest conversations that alert children to potential risks, and provide opportunities to discuss strategies children can use to keep themselves safe online.

Service leaders and educators may wish to consider how they can collaborate with children, families, and their broader school and community connections, to establish guidelines and aspirations that support the use of digital devices both at the service and in the home. This collaboration and consistency will prepare children for their high school years when they frequently engage with these devices, often outside of the supervision of adults.

Reflective questions

Before embracing the use of digital devices, service leaders and educators can thoughtfully consider how they can engage with devices in their unique settings. Some reflective questions to consider may include:

  • How do our philosophy and beliefs about children underpin our leisure-based program? In what ways do our beliefs support the use of digital devices?
  • In what ways can we engage children, families and the broader community regarding the use of digital devices in our service? How can we advocate for the benefit to children’s learning at this time?
  • How can we adjust our practices to make sure the children are given an opportunity to enjoy the learning benefits that come from using digital devices?
  • How can we manage any potential risks associated with the use of these devices?

Additional reading