A Podcast Born Through The Pandemic Helps Connect Educators With Experts In Their Field Of Research
By Rich Shopes
Access to research isn’t always easy for teachers and many miss out on important studies affecting their profession, says Lindsay Persohn, an assistant professor of literacy studies in the College of Education on the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus.
The volume of materials – articles, journals, books, websites and social media sites – can be crushing. Then there are the subscription fees. It can all be too much, says Persohn, which is why she’s offering a less-daunting alternative.
Last fall, she launched a podcast series with internationally known experts to discuss the latest and biggest findings to emerge from educational research.
The series, “Classroom Caffeine,” is available at www.classroomcaffeine.com and on Apple and Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify and other hosting sites. The segments run from 20 minutes to an hour, making them ideal for busy teachers.
“It really can take a lot of time searching through journals to find the right research article or study, and teachers are busy,” she says. “The podcast series allows teachers to hear directly from top researchers in their field in a format that lends itself well to multitasking.”
Persohn debuted Classroom Caffeine in late 2020. The first season featured interviews with the researchers, summaries of their findings and relatable advice. Most of the podcasts focused on literacy studies, Persohn’s specialty, and featured experts in the field. Among them were 2008 Reading Hall of Fame inductee David Reinking of the University of Georgia, USF literacy studies Professor and Fulbright scholar Jenifer Jasinski Schneider, renowned reading fluency expert Tim Rasinksi of Kent State University and Patricia A. Edwards, a Reading Hall of Fame inductee and the first African American president of the Literacy Research Association.
Profiles of all guests can be found on the show’s website. Persohn’s interviews are usually conducted over Zoom and minimally edited to maintain the conversational feel. They focus on the researchers’ key takeaways and how their work can translate to the classroom level. So far, she’s created 30 programs.
“When I talk with expert guests, I try to put myself back in the role of a classroom teacher and think about the kinds of questions I would have liked to ask and what I would have wanted to hear when it comes to applying a particular research topic to the classroom,” Persohn said. “I want the conversation to be natural and for it to really represent the guest as they are really are, offering actionable ideas and questions for big-thinking teachers.”
Persohn believes that literacy vastly influences our daily lives, and while the topic
remains the focus of her podcasts, her interviews will sometimes turn to current events,
such as the pandemic and issues of social and racial equality, and how teachers can
better support each student and understand viewpoints different from their own.
“A lot of guests have talked about how our responses to the pandemic have affected education,” she said. “We also spent time talking about the current political and social contexts of education and what this era means for education going forward, even after we emerge from the pandemic. “While this has been a particularly challenging time, a lot of growth has come out of these challenges. The show’s guests often highlight opportunities to positively shape the field of education and explore educational research. In total, it aims to get at what’s most important to education and research.” For now, the podcasts are distributed in an audio-only format. Eventually, Persohn wants to add videos, transcripts of the conversations and a special-focus series if she can acquire government grants or foundational support. Looking ahead to season two, she plans to showcase diverse voices in education and examine racism and its impact on learning. “I think it’s important to not only explore topics that involve literacy and the latest research, but also to take a look at how changes in society affect the classroom and their long-term implications,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to many more interesting and engaging discussions.”