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Podcasting Provides a Creative Outlet at Marist

For the past few years, Marist School faculty, staff, and students alike have enjoyed a new creative outlet on campus: podcasting. From the creation of a popular elective to the establishment of a new student club, podcasting has swept the soundwaves at Marist.
At the helm of this effort is Dr. Nic Hoffmann ’03, a social studies teacher and self-professed “podcast and audiobook addict.” When he first brought podcasting to Marist, all the equipment fit into a blue tote bag that he carried from one location to another. With the receipt of an innovation grant from the Marist Parents Club for equipment and the opening of the Goizueta Center for Immersive Experience and Design in 2020, podcasting now has its own home with a four-microphone set up near the music technology lab and broadcasting studio.  
 
Dr. Hoffmann’s Podcasts and Critical Thinking course is a one-term elective designed to teach the importance of critical thinking and research. Students address conspiratorial and controversial thought through research, then develop the skills necessary to communicate facts gathered using podcasting streams. Students leave the class with improved writing, research, and public speaking skills and those drawn to podcasting are able to develop their own podcasts. Dr. Hoffmann said that in the student-driven class, they learn not only these skills but also how to stay motivated and plan ahead as they produce podcasts spanning multiple episodes.

Describing what led him to teach podcasting, Dr. Hoffmann said, "I teach kids to think differently. As a lecturer, I am a storyteller, and I want to teach them storytelling and outside thinking. Secondly, if we tell our stories in this way, we can share what we’re doing with the world."
 
Since its inception in 2019, approximately 50 students have taken the Podcasting and Critical Thinking class. In Term 2 of this year, students produced six podcasts, three of which hit the iTunes Comedy Podcast charts top 100 and one that hit the iTunes Film Review Podcast top 100. Marist currently maintains about 20 podcasts, which you can hear samples of on the Marist Podcasting Experiment podcast (iTunes, Spotify, Google).
 
Along with these podcasts, the Honors American Experiment class, which is co-taught by Dr. Hoffmann and English teacher Mr. Mike Burns, has assembled the first six episodes of what will be an American Experiment Podcast coming out later this year. This podcast will address topics of 20th century history, culture, and literature reflecting the subject matter of this interdisciplinary course which fulfills both the American Literature and U.S. History graduation requirements for students.
 
Now in its second season, the Required Reading podcast (iTunes, Spotify, Google) features Mr. Burns and Dr. Hoffmann discussing books they love in an academic setting. Dr. Hoffmann said, "Part of the inspiration for the concept was the pedagogical approach. We talk about books we assign, were assigned, and wish we could assign. We then talk about their themes, their academic value, and their utility. With this in mind, I can tell what the English Department is assigning based on download numbers. The other major reason is people aren’t reading books anymore, and we hope that our podcast might encourage people to pick up a good book (and talk about it with someone or at least listen to people talk about it)."
 
Mr. Burns said, "I can’t speak to the student experience since I’m not involved with the class or the Podcasting Club, but I can say that working with him on Required Reading has only reinforced my knowledge of what a wonderful community of learners and teachers we have here."
 
He added, "Everyone has a book that is a favorite or has moved them in some way and using the podcast as a forum for people to share works they are passionate about has been a blast. Whether it’s Betsy Holcomb talking about Flannery O’Connor, Shannon Hipp talking about If Beale Street Could Talk, Marist grad (turned Mt. Vernon English teacher) Meg Brooks ’07 talking about Sylvia Plath, or Principal Kevin Mullally talking about Death of a Salesman, it’s only reaffirmed that we have a wonderful community of smart and curious people. I love getting to talk about books with all the members of the Marist community we’ve had on the show: teachers, administrators, parents, and alumni. I honestly don’t know who listens to us or why they might, but I hope those who do listen get a sense of Marist as a place of curiosity, reflection, and collegiality through our conversations. I hope that we can continue to have great conversations over great books and strengthen that sense of Marist as a community of lifelong learners."
 
For Grayson Seib ’22, one of the leaders of the Podcasting Club, his experience with the club has helped inform his intended career path. He said, "The Marist Podcasting Club is a unique experience where a student is offered the chance to choose exactly what they want to do while having the guidance of an expert every step of the way. Dr. Hoffmann allowed us to choose whatever topic we wanted and whatever format we desired when creating our podcasts, and then set us loose. He was always available when we needed his help or guidance, but he let us discover the tips and tricks of the trade for ourselves. He provided the equipment we needed, showed us exactly how to use it, showed us how to best market and advertise our podcasts, and then let us run wild. Without this class, I never would have discovered just how fun it is to write out a script for a story and how to tell these stories to the world in a format almost anyone can listen to. It was a truly inspiring experience and a defining factor in my decision to pursue talk radio as a future career path."
 
Another Podcasting Club leader is Madison Roberts ’22, who shared a similar sentiment and described how podcasting has been an essential part of her Marist experience. She said, "I love having a platform to share my knowledge with the world, and I love having to think creatively to attract an audience base. I learned how to make my own podcast during the class and got to continue doing that in the club. Dr. Hoffmann is a wonderful teacher, and it's thanks to him that my plant advice podcast, Plant Mom, has been on the charts in the Home and Garden category in several different countries. I've learned a lot about project management and how to collaborate with others to make a finished podcast, especially with my story podcast, Vesta. My Marist experience would be incomplete without podcasting."
 
At this year’s St. Peter Chanel Day, the Podcasting Club ran a Story Corps-like recording booth for seniors to save and collect their memories before graduation. Head varsity boys soccer coach and social studies teacher Mr. Brendan Murphy also hosts a podcast called Marist Boys Soccer.
 
What’s next for podcasting at Marist? Dr. Hoffmann is having blue and gold soundproofing installed. In May, the Social Studies Department will put together a podcast that has years’ worth of programming. Other departments and offices on campus interested in podcasting include the English Department, Admissions, and the Marist Way. Dr. Hoffmann also is working with Marist School President Fr. Bill Rowland, S.M. and School Chaplain Fr. David Musso, S.M. on a podcast where they will have the opportunity to respond to students’ theological questions.  
 
Be sure to check out Marist School-affiliated podcasts, which you can find here:
Marist Podcasting Experiment podcast — iTunes, Spotify, Google
The Required Reading Podcast iTunes, Spotify, Google
 

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Marist School

3790 Ashford Dunwoody Road, NE
Atlanta, GA 30319-1899
(770) 457-7201
An Independent Catholic School of the Marist Fathers and Brothers