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Hoover High students recognized in NPR podcast challenge

 August 9, 2023 at 6:11 AM PDT

S1: Welcome back. You're listening to Kpbs Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman , NPR just hosted its fifth annual student podcast Challenge. It's an opportunity for young people across the country to take up the mic and share stories from their classrooms and communities. This year , NPR also gave a special prize to the best student podcast about mental health. One of the finalists came from Hoover High School. The eight minute podcast called Why Are You So Distracted ? Looked at technology addiction , the Endless Scroll , and why it affects so many teens. Joining us today is Ellen Towers , AP US history teacher and director of the Academy of Information Technology at Hoover High School. Ellen , welcome.

S2: Thank you for having me.

S1: Also joining us , rising seniors Jesus Ledesma Hernandez and Huang Long. Dang. Welcome to you both. Hello.

S3: Hello. Hello. Thank you. Yes.

S1: Yes. So I want to start with you , Ellen.

S2: So we decided to do a collaborative project or what we call a PBL , in which we have students look at histories of issues and also look at issues that are important to them and putting it into a practice.

S1: Oh , great. You know , I imagine this is the first time some students have ever produced a podcast.

S2: And then once they get the idea , then we talk to them about kind of organizing it into something of an introduction , interviewing maybe an expert on it , and then coming up with some ideas or solutions. So it's kind of really just starting at the brainstorming idea. Yeah.

S4: Yeah.

S1: All right.

S3: After the pandemic , I knew that I was really attached to online social media. I was really attached to just scrolling and doing all that. And I was I was not in the best health. I was not in the best mental health. I didn't get a lot of sleep by then. And actually getting myself out of that rabbit hole , social media consumption , it really helped me kind of bring purpose into telling others who are along with this problem to , you know , to acknowledge that , yes , we may be distracted in social media and stuff , but we can get out of this. And I really wanted to spark that through my own experience by telling others that they can get out of it.

S1: I mean , because it's really so easy for for teens and really anyone to consume all this content nowadays , you know , with TikTok and Instagram and you actually refer to it as mindlessness.

S3: Let's use Pinterest for an example. I find new ideas like every time I scroll down , very much like TikTok as well. But let's say , for example , I find like , Oh , like how to make silicone molds , right ? I wouldn't deep dive into silicone molding and how to do this and that for hours on end. I would use that to actually execute that , actually execute it in person. You get to actually create a final solution and endpoint to that , but hopefully that answers your question. Yeah. Yeah.

S4: Yeah.

S1: In fact , you both talk about your own experiences with technology and its effects on the brain. Let's take a listen to that.

S5: So why is technology addiction currently an issue ? The issue that technology creates is that of over distraction in today's society. It's very easy to be distracted by the technologies that we have in today's world. It is encouraged to the ease and convenience of new innovations. To quote James Clear in his famous book , Atomic Habits. Technology creates a level of convenience that enables you to act on your smallest whims and desires. All you got to do is keep your eyes open. Things like YouTube's autoplay feature or Doomscrolling encourages mindlessness by allowing us to consume large volumes of content easier without needing to stop and think about it. In turn , we become over distracted and lose the ability to focus because our minds are cluttered with so much information and we get used to it to add on. Dobkin describes the problem of productivity here.

S6: But I think that most of us are addicted to this concept that unless we're doing something productive all day long , that somehow our lives are not worthwhile. And that's an illusion. It's a delusion and it's an addiction.

S5: Essentially , we are addicted to technology because it feels easier and more productive to be on your phone even if you aren't actually doing anything because it feels better than to do nothing. So scrolling through random apps on your phone might feel productive , but it's actually the opposite and it gives us the feeling of being productive.


S5: I'd go home from school and I just like I wanted a distraction. So what I would do was I just go home , just scroll on my phone for like for around like four hours. The scary thing about it is , like , you're not really aware of your addiction. For me , I like prefaced it as like , oh , you know , I just want a break. Like I didn't really see it as a big deal , but like , looking back on it now , it's like four hours every day for a whole year. Like , it really adds up to like , a lot of , like , time. And also it really , like , messes with your brain because when you're like addicted to like , scrolling , your brain isn't active. So having your brain offer that like , like very long periods of time will just like mess with how it functions. And like , sometimes your brain can just like , be inactive for like , random parts of the day. Yeah.

S4: Yeah.

S1: I mean , it's like you look up and where did the time go ? It's a real time suck , you know ? Jesus , you found some solutions like journaling and mindfulness.

S3: Getting to do it in the physical medium as I put my pencil onto paper. That's. That's just really satisfying for me and my personality because I used to write stories online after , after that initial innocence of the online medium , I got into social media. And that's how it kind of crept me into this addiction that I used to have. But. I really enjoyed that. I got to do it in the physical medium to separate technology from actual physical objects. And getting to see these two different worlds contrasting them much more. And having journaling and meditation just really helped me out because it separated the two worlds much more clearly than if I were to , let's say , have like a meditation app. But I do recommend that if you if you ever need that every person is different and how their solutions to their addictions are different. I've learned that from his towers , and I also learned that from even on my friends. Yeah.

S4: Yeah.


S2: So at first the eight minute seemed to be something they were worried about , and at the end it was really something that was a challenge to get a story told in that amount of time. And so that that's one way that that was probably the biggest challenge for most of the students. Also kind of deciding what to talk about and reaching out to adults to get some outside opinions on. It also was a little challenging for students.

S1: Yeah , that the time constraints are always a challenge , even even with our show here every day.

S2: Yeah , yeah , absolutely. Yeah.

S4: Yeah.

S1: And Elon , you know , podcast producing can also be very collaborative. So did the students also work with each other and help each other with that process ? I mean , you also mentioned having them reach out to outside sources , too.

S2: Yes , it was. I asked them to go out and try to find an interview , either through cold calling , which would mean just emailing people out of the blue , which some of them did. Also , through their connections , through other organizations that are involved with some of them are involved with cardinals Interact and is run by the prize charities. So they had they had adults there to mentor them and help them with that. We also had the advisory board of it. So it's business members that kind of help guide us. They came in and and did a proofreading with the students on all of their scripts. So it would be an adult from , you know , Qualcomm or an adult from Booz Allen who came in and looked at their script and gave them some honest feedback. And so they did that via Zoom. And so the adults were somewhat it was a great experience for both the adults and the students to get good feedback , but also get some direction as well as where their script was heading. So yes.

S3: I really enjoyed that as well. I enjoyed contacting and even networking as well. I got to know more people and I really enjoyed that.

S4: All right.

S1: You're listening to Kpbs Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman. I'm speaking with Ellen Towers , AP US history teacher and director of the Academy of Information Technology at Hoover High School , and Rising seniors Jesus Ledesma Hernandez and Huang Long. Deng You know , NPR recently gave the podcast an honorable mention and recognized it as a finalist for one of the best student podcast about mental health.

S5: I was like , What ? Wait. I think Mr. Harris told us how much like about how none of your podcasts have like won or at least not like the previous podcast , this one. So I was like so shocked. I'm like , Wait , we got close. Yeah , that was my reaction to it.

S1: So surprise.

S3: Wow. I , I got the news by email. And the fact was , I wow. My mind was blown. I got recognition. And I'm so happy that that I did because it's just. I don't know. My gratitude is so immense. I'm so happy. I , I just enjoyed the fact that I got an email from Kpbs and and I'm so happy. I just got so happy after that. Yeah.

S4: Yeah.


S2: I know I have fantastic students. And these these two individuals are fantastic. They worked so hard on this. So I was absolutely super excited about all the especially their they're getting into the honorable mention. So yes , we me and Miss Gastelum who had worked on it together where. Ecstatic about being recognized.

S1: Jesus in Hong.

S3: If Wayne can , if we can collaborate yet again and create more podcasts about not only just mental health , but just our environments and just our thoughts together , that would be awesome. We had those ideas before as well , so maybe it's about time we execute it. Yeah.



S2: Biggest thing with this is when you start out this in September , October time period and you work on it till March , is that you can accomplish anything as long as you just keep working at it in increments. One of my philosophies going into teaching was you can only eat an elephant one bite at a time. So just trying to help students understand anything that seems impossible at the beginning of the year is really , really possible at the end. And I hope that they continue to try to challenge themselves to create projects and assignments going through college and unique and forward thinking ways like podcasts , websites , applications , and so that they become a more engaging to , you know , their audience and to who they're working with. Wow.

S4: Wow.

S1: I have been speaking with Elon Towers , AP US history teacher and director of the Academy of Information Technology at Hoover High School , along with incoming seniors Jesus , Ledesma , Hernandez and Chong. Long Dang , you know. Thank you all for joining us and congratulations.

S3: Thank you so much for just having me here. I really appreciate it.

S5: Thank you for having us.

S2: Yeah , thank you very much for having us interviewed. We appreciate it.

The logo for a podcast produced by Hoover High School students.
Hoover High School
The logo for a podcast produced by Hoover High School students.

NPR just hosted its fifth annual Student Podcast Challenge. It’s an opportunity for young people across the country to take up the mic and share stories from their classrooms and communities. This year, NPR also gave a special prize to the best student podcasts about mental health.

One of the podcasts that got an honorable mention in that category was produced by students at Hoover High School in City Heights. The eight-minute “Why Are You So Distracted?” looked at technology addiction, the endless scroll and why it affects so many teens.


Ellen Towers, advanced placement U.S. history teacher and director of the Academy of Information Technology at Hoover High School

Jesus Ledezma Hernandez and Hoang Long Dang, podcast producers/hosts and rising seniors