Classroom Caffeine

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.

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“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.”

“When people interact with each other, they gather information and have more opportunities to learn about the pandemic in an objective way,” Hao said. “They also tend to care about each other and show mutual support. This leads to their behavior of wearing a mask – not only to prevent getting COVID themselves, but also to prevent it from infecting the people around them.”

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Hao said the study’s interdisciplinary approach added to its significance and its potential to inform future virus-related policy. “The pandemic is a very complicated issue and it really requires the knowledge of different disciplines. In this case, it’s an example of how experts in sociology, geography and education came together to study this problem,” he said.

In another article published in May 2021, “Understanding the Effects of Individual and State-Level Factors on American Public Response to COVID-19” in the American Journal of Health Promotion, Hao has expanded the research to a nationwide sample of all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Findings show that people from states with more COVID-19 cases, mandatory face mask policies, and liberal governments are more likely to respond to the pandemic while people from states whose economies have recovered closer to the pre-pandemic level are less likely to do so.