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Podcasts As Learning Tools: A History of the World in 100 Objects

Though podcasts pre-date Apple’s iPod (introduced in 2004), they’ve remained a staple with niche audiences and have seen a resurgence due to the wildly popular murder-mystery, Serial. But it’s just one of more than 100,000 of these audio series that sometimes include visual elements and can be found on iTunes, YouTube, NPR, and other online sources. Many of these podcasts can serve as engaging learning tools for families. (Note: Serial is equivalent to an R rating.) A History of the World in 100 Objects is among the best I’ve found:

A History of the World in 100 Objects

A few years ago, London’s British Museum developed a series for young people called “A History of the World in 100 Objects.” Objects were selected from the Museum’s vast collection for their significance, and each podcast lasts under 15 minutes. Just long enough to get you grounded in the importance of the object. (Recommended: ages 12 and up.) For a quick overview of the 100 objects, have a look at this five-minute video.

Ways to Explore the 100 Objects

The BBC site that houses these podcasts gives you multiple ways to explore the 100 Objects. A useful one is in groups of five related historical objects, such as “The First Cities and States” where you might be interested, as I was, in a 5,000 year-old Clay Writing Tablet discovered in Southern Iraq. It is one of the earliest known examples of writing, and the podcast explains how it relates to the rise of state control and state power.

For more educational podcasts, here’s a full list to download or stream one or more of these. Scroll around and you’ll find such diverse objects as an Egyptian Mummy, a Greek Parthenon Sculpture, the famous Rosetta Stone, a Chinese Ming Banknote from 1375, a 19th century Chronometer that guided Darwin on his voyages, a Sudanese Drum, and even a credit card!

Image Credit – Patrick Breitenbach / CC by 2.0

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Michael Solow

Michael Solow has worked as a teacher, journalist, and commercial writer/creative director. Michael has also taught high school English and junior high math, gaining his teaching certification from Vassar College and a master's degree in the teaching of writing and literature from George Mason University. His writing has been published in the New York Times, the San Francisco Review of Books,, and the Hemingway Review. He is the proud dad of two grown daughters and the happy husband of an elementary school librarian.

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