Got Podcasts?

Although the concept of streaming media has been around almost as long as the Internet itself, and Podcasts specifically since 2000, the use of Podcasts in education has recently experienced a growth spurt around the world.

Podcasting is a way to distribute multimedia files such as music or speech over the Internet for playback on mobile devices and personal computers. The term podcast, a word created by Apple's IPod and broadcast, can mean both the content and method of delivery. The host or author of a podcast is often called a podcaster. Podcaster's web sites may offer direct download or streaming audio, and a podcast is distinguished by its ability to be downloaded automatically using software capable of reading RSS (Rich Site Syndication) feeds.

In the classroom, a Podcast can be a lecture, presentation, announcement, audio book, or any kind of supplemental material facilitating the educational goals of the teacher and students. It can be created by an outside entity, the teacher, the students or any combination thereof.

Podcasts are making the classroom a truly collaborative and dynamic learning environment. This technology is not a fanasty, but a potential reality in your classroom.

Podcasting Tips for Teachers:
  • Any educator interested in using Podcasts in the classroom should begin by watching a few of them. There are Podcasts for every subject area and for a variety of grade levels. At the post-secondary level it is not uncommon to find entire lectures available for download. A quick search through the iTunes Music Store will return results on almost any topic you are interested in. If you are new to Podcasts, you can familiarize yourself with the general concept by subscribing to a few that are of interest to you, regardless of their applicability in the classroom. This allows you to experience the asynchronous nature of the medium.

  • Podcasts should have a planned presence in your classroom. They should not be included with little or no planning. Consider the approach you’ll be taking and match the use of Podcasts to that approach, not the other way around. Careful preparation and planning are necessary to succeed with new tools, and Podcasts are no exception. If you’re expecting to download and play some Podcasts and gain student interest and increase performance, you will be disappointed. Planning a Podcast as a resource to enhance your classroom is a better, and more professional, approach. For example, it is very likely that you will want to use just snippets of some Podcasts to highlight concepts and support the curriculum, so you will not be playing the entire file. You can skip ahead to specific parts and play only those pieces that are pertinent to your class objectives. Compared to the fast forward and rewind of the filmstrip, film projector and VHS days, Podcasts make selective presentation of material exceedingly simple and powerful. However, this requires that you listen to the entire Podcast and select those portions you wish to use. The time invested in this process now will pay off when your lessons are focused and appropriate.

  • Podcasts are similar to e-mail messages in regards to their creation and consumption. They are built around the idea of ‘convenient for me, convenient for you’. This means that I can create a Podcast when I want and on a topic I want. You can then listen to that Podcast if you wish, and you can choose the time to do so. You are not required to be online at a given time. You can choose to listen a week, month, or even year after the Podcast has been created. In the classroom this is valuable for repeated use of material, from day to day or semester to semester, and it allows you to match the timing of the presentation to the content of your curriculum. You are also not forced to listen to the entire episode. You may want to be selective regarding what you present to your classes. Once downloaded to your computer or MP3 player, the Podcast can be started anywhere, as well as paused, restarted and stopped at your discretion. The Podcast can also be made available to each student individually if they have Internet access, either from school or from home.

Educational Benfits/Classroom Applications:

Podcasts provide several advantages to teachers, students and parents. The list of advantages below, which is certainly not all inclusive, is growing as Podcasts become more prevalent in our educational systems.

  • Meet the needs of more students with varying learning styles and aptitudes.
  • Provide make up lectures’ to students who were absent.
  • Supplement existing material and resources with a portable and remotely accessible source of information.
  • Audio benefits visually impaired students and non-native speakers
  • Ability to replay and review information helps to embed lessons in memory.
  • Asynchronous consumption allows for convenient access and multi-tasking (riding the bus, walking, working out, etc.)
  • Flexible curriculum pathways encourage student participation and facilitation of success.
  • Provides appropriate presentation of spoken/audio material for native language, foreign language, speech therapy, music and reading assistance.

Check out my very first podcast to learn more about how I actually created it!

Real-world Examples of Classroom Podcasts:

Additional Resources: