Checking out Podcasting in Education

by Kelly Walsh on March 15, 2009

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This post was last modified on January 2 2012.

While learning about TeacherTube and other education-focused video hosting sites over the last two weeks, I came across various mentions of podcasting. I also frequently see mention of podcasting in articles and ads in education industry magazines, but haven’t really checked it out yet.

This week and next I am going to try to get up to speed about the state of podcasting in education, starting with the basics (just what is podcasting again?), and then looking into how it is being used in Education, and how one goes about accessing and using a podcast. I hope you’ll come along for the ride, and provide some feedback – do you know any educators that are creating or frequently listening to podcasts? I’d love to hear more about it, so please comment.

What is Podcasting?
It’s nice to start with the basics first. The word “podcasting” sounds like, and in fact is, a portmanteau of “iPod” and “broadcasting”, leading to the assumption that it is about broadcasting to iPods and similar devices. A quick check at Wikipedia proves this to be a pretty accurate assumption. Wikipedia defines a podcast as being, “like a radio program except people can download a podcast to a portable media player (such as an iPod or other mp3 player) and listen to it at their convenience”. Anyone can create a podcast with a computer, internet connection, and recording device. Podcasting uses RSS feeds (the same mechanism used to distribute blog postings) for distribution/publication. Podcasts can also incorporate video (podcasts incorporating video are also referred to as “vidcasts” or “vodcasts”). So, a podcast is an audio or audio-video recording you can listen to live or on demand, and access via the Internet. This leads us to the next question – how are podcasts being used in education?

Potential uses for podcasting in education
I found this great article about podcasting in education from the Office of Information Technology at the University of Minnesota (it’s a couple years old, but provides some great general insight into the topic). The article explains that “one obvious use of podcasting in education is to create an archive of class lectures that students can listen to at their convenience. However, given the distinctive features of podcasting, its potential goes far beyond [that].” The article mentions more uses for podcasting in educational settings, including: news/updates; guest lectures; student-produced podcasts; interviews; short language lessons or other lessons focused on developing listening and speaking skills, and supplementary material such as speeches or music. The article also discusses how podcasting is a sort of time and space shifting technology – that is, with it’s on demand and mobile nature, people can listen to podcasts anytime they want (once the podcast becomes available for streaming), and anywhere they want (assuming they upload them to a mobile device).

How extensive is the use of podcasting in education today?
A Google search for “who is using podcasting in education”, or any similarly worded query, produces page after page of links to a wide variety of articles and other materials focused on this topic, so it would be logical to conclude that there are many educators interested in using this technology.  Unfortunately, a more thorough quantitative assessment of this was not easily arrived at. I did come across sites like Findpodcasts.com, which included rankings of podcasts by popularity, organized into groups like “Education and Learning”, and providing “hit counts” (for example, 1381 hits on a podcast about “SAT, ACT, GRE Test Prep Vocabulary”), but it was not clear what time frame those hit counts applied to, and if they were in fact “hits” or subscriptions. Hopefully, as I learn more over the next week while looking into how to actually use the technology, I may come across some better quantitative information.

Next Week: Finding and using education oriented podcasts
Please come back next week and learn about where and how to download and subscribe to your own podcasts. One interesting thing I have learned as I have been researching this topic is that podcasts typically get downloaded to a computer before they can be uploaded to an iPod or other mobile device, and it appears that they actually often get listened to right on the computer (and do not, in fact, get uploaded to a mobile device). For example, a January, 2008 article I found, focused on podcast users in the U.K., cited survey results that indicated that 4 out 5 podcasts are listened to on a home computer rather than on a portable media player.

More information
If you really can’t wait until next week’s post for more information on this topic, here are a couple of links you might want to check out:

In the meanwhile, I welcome any comments about experiences you may have had with podcasting,  questions you have, or any other related feedback.

About 

Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer and a faculty member at The College of Westchester in White Plains, NY and is the founder and author of EmergingEdTech.com. As an education technology advocate, he frequently delivers presentations on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. Walsh is also an author, and online educator, periodically running Flipped Class Workshops online. His latest eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book was published in September, 2013 and is available here. In his spare time Walsh also writes, records, and performs original (and cover) songs (look for "K. Walsh" on iTunes or Amazon.com or check out his original song videos on here on YouTube ).

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