Press Release- Podcast Novel helps students learn English

Hey everybody, wanted to share the press release I sent out this morning about Collin’s trip to Valley HS to visit Hilary and her class.  You should see the story pop up in Google and Yahoo news, on, and  Here’s a direct link to download the pdf.  Enjoy!

Las Vegas, NV  March 19 2009 –  If today’s youth are already equipped and able to listen to their iPod’s while riding the bus to school, doing their homework, and even while talking on the phone or to their friends, it seems like a small step for educators to take to supplement those downloads with schoolwork. And in light of the current economy, using free podcast novels seem like an even smarter choice for the already financially stretched education system.

In the hopes of creating a ripple effect of progress among today’s high school English students, author Collin Earl stopped by Valley High School in Las Vegas, NV recently and shared fresh ideas about new media, specifically about podcasting and podcast novels.

Earl spoke to the students about how new media, like the podcast of his novel, The House of Grey, opens up a new world for students who find it hard to get into reading. “Using podcast novels in a classroom gives you the sense that you are being told a story, not merely reading one,” Earl told the students. “It becomes so much more than just a homework assignment or something to do for a grade. Hearing someone read to you, like when your parents read you a bedtime story, takes a lot of the anxiety and monotony out of reading and helps you experience the story, not just read the words.”

Hilary Moskowitz, an English teacher at Valley High School, is currently using the podcast of The House of Grey in her 11th grade English III class. She discovered Earl’s podcast novel through the Zune podcast website and reports that she was hooked on it at first listen.

Her students utilize the traditional English class methods such as vocabulary, literary terms, note taking, writing, and analysis and apply them to what they hear each week. “I liked the idea of incorporating podcast media in order to bring the classroom further into the 21st century,” said Moskowitz. “By doing this, students can hear and visualize the story rather than worrying about reading the words and not comprehending.”

Using the general idea of podcasts, podcast novels are like the serialized radio shows of the 1940’s. Instead of gathering around the squawk box, each week a new chapter of the novel is broadcast through the internet for fans to listen to. Once the weekly run of the novel is complete, listeners can download the entire book at once.

While thousands of podcasts are available all over the web and range from topics like the MuggleCast, a podcast that discusses the famed Harry Potter series, to Grammar Girl, a podcast focused the mechanics and skills of being a good writer, very few schools seem to have incorporated this powerful tool into their classrooms.

Taking the Web 2.0 experience a little further, Moskowitz has included ‘forum interaction’ as part of the students’ grade. Working closely with podcast’s producer, Chris Snelgrove, the 11th grade class has been integrated into the book’s forum and is required to interact with other forum members. The students can then offer their thoughts and reactions about the plot, character developments, and theories about how the book will end directly to the author, creating a truly interactive relationship between author and reader, or in this case, listener.

Helping teens read more

Moskowitz reports that Valley has a large ESL (English as a Second Language) population. Numerous studies have shown that comprehension is one of the toughest challenges facing ESL students. “By [listening to podcast novels], students can hear and visualize the story. I feel that hearing a beautiful interpretation of the story will help those students, along with other students, with their comprehension.”

One of her students, Cody M., has already seen the benefits of this method. “Being able to hear the words helps me to understand the story. The podcasts are helpful with learning English because [I] tend to learn better when [I] hear stories rather than reading them.”

The idea of helping students learn to love reading through new media is near and dear to Earl’s heart. “I hated to read when I was in high school. I totally believe that I would have been into books much earlier in life if I had someone read them to me.”

Earl was thrilled when Moskowitz approached him about using the podcast of The House of Grey in her curriculum. “I thought it was a brilliant idea and was glad to be able to provide it to the school for free. As a new author, it’s great to see so many people enjoying my work.”

New media in the old classroom

A quick search of research on new media in schools shows that there are number of budding links between the use of audiobooks in the classroom and improved student comprehension, especially among those students with reading disabilities. Gene Wolfson, an Associate Professor in the Education Department of Iona College in New Rochelle, NY, stated in his article, Using Audiobooks to Meet the Need of Adolescent Readers, “Audiobooks can model reading, teach critical listening, build on prior knowledge, improve vocabulary, encourage oral language usage, and increase comprehension.”

He goes on to say, “With current technology, teachers have the ability to utilize this literacy strategy to offer their adolescent students another medium to read and experience literature in their classrooms.”

Other studies done in 2000 and 2001 show that while the majority of teachers sampled were reluctant to use audiobooks in their classrooms, citing a perception that it was lazy, utilizing audiobooks in conjunction with written text only added to a student’s ability to comprehend what they were reading.

Wolfson concludes, “With the availability of iPods and similar audio devices, bringing the audiobook into the classroom becomes very simple and inexpensive. Today, it is hard to find an adolescent who does not own some type of player. They are already spending hours listening to downloaded music and … podcasts.”

Today’s high schools currently filled with technology brought in by the students themselves. By combining that technology with the school’s educational needs, students have the opportunity to use something common and familiar to tackle anything from Shakespeare to French II. As podcasts, podcast novels, and even newer media like Amazon’s Kindle reach critical mass, educators would do well to embrace these advances rather than locking them away in drawers like the yo-yo’s and bouncy balls of days past. Using podcast novels, like The House of Grey, is second nature to students, free to the school, and promotes better education, not to mention innovative thinking.

Collin Earl’s podcast novel, The House of Grey, is available as a free download from or from the iTunes Music Store by searching, The House of Grey Podcast. It will be available in print starting in the summer of 2009.

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