Sound in History Classes

For Week 2 of “Doing Digital History,” we were asked to reflect on how we might use sound in our history classes.

For me, I can see making increased use of historical podcasts in my classes. Podcasts offer the chance not only to enrich historical understanding but to go into greater depth on topics that I would not have time to cover in class.

One podcast that was mentioned in the large-group discussion was Liz Covart’s podcast “Ben Franklin’s World.” This podcast has several distinctives in its favor. It’s very focused on Early American History–it doesn’t wander. Next, it connects listeners to outstanding scholars in the field, so the information is both very sound and very up-to-date. In listening to the podcast, you can tell that it’s very strategic and organized in how it’s aiming to communicate.

I also appreciate the way Liz has defined her audience, which she described this way:

A “podcast avatar” assists podcasters like an “ideal reader” helps writers. In both cases, a fictional person stands in for the ideal audience member a podcaster or writer wants to reach.

I created an avatar who is hard to please: Janet Watkins. Janet isn’t into history. She’s a 22-year-old pre-med student at SUNY-Buffalo. She wants to fill her schedule with math and science courses, but she ended up in a history course that assigns Ben Franklin’s World episodes because SUNY requires all students to take several Liberal Arts classes before they graduate. Janet is a good student so she decides to brace herself for the inevitable: another boring history course that discusses dead white men. As an African American woman, she long ago grew tired of how her primary and secondary school history courses always seemed to focus on the lives of elite, white men.

My challenge: How do I reach Janet and change her mind about history? How can I show her that the study of history has as much value as the study of science and math?

(From: “How I Select Guests…”)

Setting this fictional Janet as an imagined listener allows Liz to keep the tone of the podcast focused and very accessible to undergraduate students–just the level I am looking for.

Finally, Liz has also provided “6 Podcast Interview Tips That Will Make You Shine“–which should serve all of us well.

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