A. What is a podcast?
If you’ve never listened to a podcast before, try it out! Here’s a link to a podcast for beginners’ Spanish from a well-known provider. Just click on the link below, which will open a new window, and then click on the triangular play button: http://radiolingua.com/2010/10/lesson-01-one-minute-lam-spanish/
A podcast is a series of regularly-updated audio or video files that can be played on a number of devices (either portable, such as mp3 players or mobile phones, but also static, such as desktop computers) and are distributed over the internet via a subscription service.
B. Why would I want to use podcasts in my teaching?
You can use podcasting to find interesting and up to date resources for your classes, to encourage learners to listen to audio materials on topics they are interested in, and you can even make your own podcasts, or ask your class to make some.
For instance, to see what there is available in English, go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts and find a podcast on a topic you are interested in. If you want, you can subscribe to it.
In the last few years portable media players and podcasting have become very popular. Some researchers were quick to identify the potential uses and benefits of podcasting for language learning:
Podcasting can support principles advocated by several theories of learning, such as the use of authentic materials, informal and lifelong learning, the use of learning objects for the provision of learning materials and just in time teaching (Rosell-Aguilar, 2007).
Podcasting also fits with mobile learning, which takes place “when the learner is not at a fixed, predetermined location, or when the learner ‘takes advantage of the learning opportunities offered by mobile technologies’” (Kukulska-Hulme, 2005, p. 1).
Podcasting offers many potential benefits: for instance, the materials are delivered in a format that is portable, convenient and easy to use, and easy to access. The user can control the pace at which the information is delivered to them – using the pause button, for example. The format is also motivating and attractive: short, often professionally made resources on a whole range of topics. And they are free!
Some researchers also mention the potential to allow contact time with students in the classroom to focus on interaction, shifting preparatory work to outside times and locations (Blaisdell, 2006) as well as integrating in-class and out-of-class activities and materials (Thorne & Payne, 2005). For example, students can be asked to watch or listen to material as preparation work for discussion during a class, allowing the instructor to make the most of their contact time with students. The delivery medium, format, portability, and the fact that the materials can be subscribed to and do not have to be sourced from a library make this quite a different proposition to reading a chapter or article as homework.
One of the ways you can use podcasts is by uploading them to environments such as VLEs or your school or college website. You can use podcasts together with other tools, such as forums (see the DOTS Forum activity or visit http://moodle.dots.ecml.at/), to enable students to listen to a piece of audio at their own pace, and then to respond to it and comment on it with other learners using a forum, for instance, or you can ask them to write a collaborative piece about it in a wiki (see the DOTS wiki activity or visit http://moodle.dots.ecml.at/).