Listen Current: Learning Through the Power of Public Radio

Listen Current Provides a Database of Current Affairs Topics, Crucial for Stimulating Critical Thinking For Teens and Tweens

Water shortages in places like Detroit and Iraq are news items tackled in Listen Current.

For learners who prefer to be active while they learn, auditory sources of information can provide stimulating and engaging educational material. Listening to an audio book, a news story on television, or radio coverage of current events can provide learners with the opportunity to engage with information while also participating in a physically engaging activity, like drawing, note-taking, running, hiking, or otherwise moving their body. The combination of engaging in auditory learning and physical motion simultaneously can help learners whose educational strengths lie in verbal/linguistic and/or bodily/kinesthetic modes of learning.

While local libraries give us access to endless audio books, and radio and television news media fill screens and airwaves with a constant stream of audio and visual explanations of events all around the world, learning from these sources requires a somewhat long-term commitment to a certain topic. Audio books are generally many hours long, and in order to truly understand a news story, it’s generally necessary to have been following the story as it develops for a few days, weeks, or even months.

Luckily for auditory learners, online resource Listen Current offers a database of news stories from public radio stations, designed and curated specifically to teach middle- and high-school-aged students explore topics in social studies, science, and language arts. The audio provided for each story is relatively short (generally just a few minutes), and each featured story comes with its own Twitter hashtag that students can use in order to engage in virtual discussion about the story. Additionally, with a free account, educators can gain access to critical thinking questions, lesson plans, and even web-based tools for tracking the learning that students have done using Listen Current stories.

Designed for teens and tweens, the stories shared in Listen Current’s almost-daily updates often include mature themes (death, violence, etc.), but address them within a context that requires their inclusion – memories of Japanese internment camps, firsthand accounts of life in modern Gaza, and the current Ebola outbreak, for example. In utilizing news stories as educational material, Listen Current exposes learners to powerful truths about the modern world, and provides them with unbiased, factual information designed not to support them in extracting information, but to support them in developing critical thinking skills and broadening their understanding of the complexities of human life all around the world.

Educational possibilities presented by recent posts include:

  • Examining the role of water in communities around the world, looking specifically at water shut-offs in economically challenged Detroit and water politics in war-torn Iraq. In both cases, the importance of water in two very different sociocultural settings is highlighted, and in considering its importance, listeners can learn about the ways in which community upheaval forces humans to become acutely aware of the things upon which they depend.
  • A look at modern medicine and disease control, sparked by consideration of the current Ebola outbreak in Africa and a recent protocol breach at the Center for Disease Control that caused samples of anthrax and the flu to be misplaced. Consideration of the causes for the Ebola outbreak (increased human contact and motion due to deforestation and mining) can help learners gain perspective on how diseases are spread and why preventive measures matter so much, and considering the CDC’s mishap alongside the outbreak serves as a reminder of the importance of the study of illness and its importance in modern society.
  • Consideration of US immigration policy regarding, in particular, the reported recent spike in unaccompanied minors crossing the US-Mexico border, relying mainly on hope and rumors, in addition to the potential for amnesty. While thinking about the concept of the legality of immigration and the ways in which immigrants are or aren’t able to access basic necessities for survival, keep in mind the recent local debate about housing immigrant children at Westover Air Base in Chicopee. Careful consideration of both sides of the story – American taxpayers’ displeasure with providing for immigrants and immigrants’ need to exist within a community in which they can survive – can be incredibly thought provoking and may lead to the development of a new perspective on immigration.

[Photo credit: (cc) Marian Stanton]

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