WNYC Radio Lab

As I think I've mentioned before, I have a twenty five minute commute to work. For the past year or so, I've been exploring free podcasts from iTunes to help keep me awake while driving (which is really, really important). I've hit upon a couple of great podcasts, one of which I'd like to focus on right now.

I know you know about This American Life, the great NPR radio show (and podcast available for free at iTunes) hosted by Ira Glass. Each week they present a theme, and share a couple of stories that are variations on that theme. This is a great podcast and it's 10-20 minute segments make great resources for the classroom. But this isn't the podcast I want to talk about today.

Today I want to talk about WNYC's Radio Lab. The concept is simple. Every week they define a topic (deception, laughter, space, mortality, zoos, detective stories most recently) and then do a scientific/social inquiry into the topic. It is hosted by Robert Krulwich and Jad Abumrad. It's a great 55 minutes and routinely has me shaking my head at the revelations/facts/interviews.

The reason why I am sharing this today is because I just finished listening to their War of the Worlds podcast (this one is live, usually they are in studio). It's an analysis/inquiry into the H.G. Wells/Orson Welles radio drama. They talk about technique, the impact of the drama, and look into other instances of this happening. Well, I'm too young to remember this, but one instance they discuss was done on Buffalo radio in like 1968, which caused mass panicked calls to local police stations and a mass of Canadian troops at the Peace and Rainbow bridges. Wikipedia has this to say:
Perhaps the most famous remake was by WKBW in Buffalo, NY, which aired a modernized update in 1968, produced by the station's news department. In this version, which was revised for airing in 1971 and 1975, Martians invaded the Niagara Falls area. Like the original, this realistic version also inspired listener panic, despite reassurances throughout the broadcast that it was only a dramatization.
Anyway, it was a great show and all, but more importantly I think that a teacher could get a lot of mileage out of this one. It would work great across disciplines, as the program finally meanders into a discussion of more common and prevalent examples of the media inducing fear in the populace (like the 11 o'clock news or today's Buffalo News coverage of H. McCarthy Gipson's announcement about gangs rear ending drivers.) Plus, there's the literature connection (H.G. Wells), the scientific connnection (physiological effects of fear). Seems like there's a wealth of stuff there.


Alison L said...

Although i have never read War of the Worlds, i listened to some of the podcast and it was very interesting! I have been obsevring in a classroom that is working with podcasts by having students create audio-visual ones. By using a program called garageband for Macs, students can create a short presentation on a subject and then the presentation becomes public for all other students to view through iTunes. Podcasts are definilty a new and exicitng way to education!

Mr. Malley said...

Alison, interesting stuff. I went through an inservice on enhanced podcasts through Buffalo. I left feeling that enhanced podcasts are kind of a wee bit questionable. I'm not sure about the pragmatism of watching while listening to an iPod seems like a kid would be more likely to do listen or watch something with constant video (and iMovie works better in that regard).

However, I'm completely interested in regular old podcasts. I'm just trying to figure out a way to use them in my classroom. I've got garage band, but am unsure about capturing the audio. What does your classroom use? Do you have a link to any of the stuff that class put together? I'd love to take a look.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I would definitely be interested in seeing how podcasts can be used in different disciplines. I don't know nearly enough about them, but I am familiar with garageband, so it would be interesting to see what they did with it. I am sure that podcasts would be a very useful tool for teaching students literature and for getting them engaged with different texts and would love to learn more about it.

Mo Donnell said...

That was a cool podcast. It was fun to listen to. I've never listened to podcasts before but it would interesting to see what can be used with them in a classroom.