A podcast is a Web 2.0 technology that takes the form of audio or video files. These are obtained through the Internet and can be played on personal media players, such as the iPod, or on a computer. Its potential for educational uses comes from its portability to different devices, ability to be subscribed to and automatically downloaded, ease of creation and relatively low cost for high quality.
Podcasts are available through many web sources. News sites such as NPR, download sites like iTunes and even specialized sites such as The Teacher’s Podcast have prerecorded podcasts available for free downloads. Since these can be created by anyone with the available tools, the variety is limitless.
Some time is necessary to listen to different ones to determine the feasibility of using them in class. Once a good source is found it can be subscribed to so that notification is given any time a new podcast is posted. The benefits include the incorporation of audio and sometimes visual learning styles, integration of technology and potential for students to hear important information from an expert in the field.
Prerecorded podcasts also have uses for distance learning and absent students. When a teacher records a lecture or class discussion, that podcast can be made available to an absent student or to the class as a whole to listen to and critique later. It can also be posted with a podcast source for other students or teachers to use. In all cases, the podcast can be made available through a web site or transferred to mobile listening devices for students and teachers to listen to outside of the classroom.
Creating a podcast does not require many sophisticated tools. For recording you can use a computer and microphone, speakers More complex recordings would also include specialized recorders or mixers to balance the sound inputs. The recording can then be saved as an MP3 file and uploaded to a site where it is made available through an RSS feed.
The creation of a podcast can be used as a learning tool. It is ideal for any situation where a learning activity might be to create a radio broadcast or when recording voices to play back and critique pronunciation or inflection. Students receive the intended benefit of the activity plus the technology experience.
Whether creating or using a prerecorded podcast, a teacher is integrating technology into a lesson. Students are more likely to be engaged with the lesson when using the new format than with a tape recorder and to enjoy the ability to show off their creation to online friends.