What is a podcast?
We will keep to the original notion of a podcast as a simple audio recording. You can think of a podcast as similar to a radio show; however, unlike a radio show that is broadcasted live, a podcast is recorded and thereafter made available on the Internet. Podcasts can be downloaded to personal computers or mobile devices (generally in MP3 or MP4 formats) and played on demand. They are cheap and easy to make with no expensive technologies needed. You might see other names used for this phenomenon such as webcasting, screen casting or vodcasting. These will generally include en element of video in the finished product.
Podcasts open up many opportunities for learning. They give students a flexibility to access the material where and when they choose. Learning materials with the added modality of audio benefit as it conveys a tone of voice as well as words. This will help increase student motivation and engagement. Asking the students themselves to make a podcast about their work and experiences will also help sharpen communication skills.
For a good introduction to podcasting, watch this video from Commoncraft, Podcasting in Plain English.
To hear a variety of different podcasts, you can go to podbean.com. (You can also publish your podcasts here free of charge)
Educational Use of Podcasting
A great advantage of podcasts is that they are based on the technology that students use in their everyday lives. They are accustomed to receiving information from multiple multimedia sources, so introducing educational podcasts to a course might be a good approach to making best use of their native knowledge of technology to engage them in the learning process.
Students may also use podcasts as a vehicle to demonstrate their knowledge of a particular subject as part of their course assignments, thus playing a more creative role in the teacher-student-student interaction rather than their conventional role of knowledge receivers. Improvement of student’s individual learning skills, team work skills, work planning skills, knowledge of ICT, oral presentation & dissertation skills, etc. are just some of the benefits that podcasting may result in.
For guidance purposes, a list of some of the main types of educational podcasts that higher education organisations are nowadays using is provided below:
- Recorded lectures.
- Talks by industry/research experts that illustrate a key topic or learning goal of the course (case stories are widely used).
- Interviews with experts about specific topics of relevance to the course..
- Discussions with experts (maybe featuring opposing viewpoints to stimulate further thought amongst the audience).
- Introductions to complex contents of a course.
- Instructions for practical experiments, assignments, etc.
- Student assignments (short presentations, audio essays, etc.).
Here is a schematic presentation of the different uses of podcasting:
Figure 1: Educational uses of podcasting in supporting/enhancing the lecture (McGarr, 2009)
Make your own podcast
We have all experienced a radio program where one person talks endlessly i a monotone voice. We quickly lose interest in what is being said. Delivering long monologues – such as lectures - is generally not good radio and the same holds true for podcasts. Best results are achieved by adding several sound elements – multiple voices (engaged and informal) and/or music and other appropriate sound effects. Consider, for example, to use podcasts for interviews, debates or panel discussions within a ’news show’ or ’report from the field’ format.
To get started:
1. We recommend that you use the open source (free) program Audacity to record and edit sound. Audacity can be downloaded here: http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/
2. While you are at the Audacity site, download the Lame MP3 encoder, the small program that allows you to export MP3 files.
3. You can publish your podcasts on a LMS, a blog or free sites such as www.podbean.com
4. If you want to add music or other sounds to your podcast you could try the following sites that have music and/or sounds that can be used free of charge, Jamendo http://www.jamendo.com/en/ for music and freeSFX http://www.freesfx.co.uk/ for sounds. Be sure to respect the Creative Commons copyrights.
Using Audacity. Audacity is fairly simple to use, but like all computer programs there a few settings and program specific tools you should know about before you go too far. Take a look at the following video tutorials to help you get started with Audacity: