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Topic: Introduction to Podcasting
Peter Travis gives an introduction to the podcast.
This is adapted from an article that first appeared in the ETP (English Teaching Professional) in September 2007.

Page 1: What are podcasts and why use them
Page 2: Finding and listening to them
Page 3: Using them with your students

Did you know that the basic constituent of aspirin comes from the willow tree and has been used for thousands of years for pain relief? Where did I discover this? On the way to work actually, listening to one of my favourite podcasts published by Warwick University. I’d downloaded this one a few days before and had been waiting for a few spare moments to listen to it.

Podcasts tend to be quite short, anything from five to 15 minutes in most cases, which means you can easily fit them in at various times of the day. The fact that I can remember this piece of trivia speaks volumes for my learning style and points to another great advantage of podcasts. For our auditory learners, listening can be a great help and even learners with no particular learning style will find listening a nice addition to reading. And, of course, for language learners podcasts offer so much extra authentic listening material.

But with so many other things to do, you’re probably thinking ‘I haven’t got time to learn all about podcasting, I’m far too busy to learn all that complicated technical stuff.’ Well, the good news is that podcasting is surprisingly easy to pick up, both as a consumer and a producer: yes, you too – and your students – could join the growing army of independent radio broadcasters!

What exactly is a podcast?
Let’s start by defining a podcast. The term is made up of pod, which comes from iPod, the name of Apple’s popular MP3 player, and cast from broadcast. A podcast is essentially an audio file, often referred to as an MP3 file, MP3 being the file type, in the same way that a ‘doc’ file is a word document and a ‘jpeg’ is an image file. Hence an MP3 player like the iPod plays MP3 files. There are other types of audio file but MP3 is one of the most common. And there are lots of MP3 players, too, including PCs, laptops and mobile phones. Podcasts are often described as ‘radio shows’ and generally speaking will consist of a series of shows published on a regular basis. You can subscribe to the podcast and will then be notified when a new episode is published or you can even have it delivered directly to your computer as it becomes available!

What’s in it for me and my students?
As a language teacher you’ve probably been using audio with your students for years. So what can podcasting offer you that’s new? Let’s imagine you want your students to listen to a recording. Until recently, you’d take the tape or CD into class and play it to your students. But what if your students wanted to listen to it again at home or during a selfaccess period? What about Ana who missed the lesson because she had to return home to Spain on business?

Now imagine a different scenario. You know Ana’s email address, so you email her a web link to a website containing a podcast you’re going to play in class. In class, you play the recording to your students, and after the lesson, during a self-study period, some of them listen again thanks to that web link you gave out. Meanwhile, in Spain, after breakfast, Ana reads your email, goes to the link and has a quick listen. She’s leaving for the office soon, so she downloads the file to her MP3 player to listen to on the way to work.

And there’s more! Once upon a time, if you wanted to produce your own show, you’d need lots of expensive equipment and expertise. But because it’s so cheap and easy to become a podcaster –anyone can do it – there are huge numbers of them appearing on the scene. Which means more choice for us and for our learners. Go to Google and do a search on podcasts and you’ll find millions – literally. Do a search on podcast + “learning English” The result? Over a million hits. (Using double quotes will mean Google searches for pages in which the two words appear together, not simply pages with the words learning and English in them). Do you need a specific subject? Try podcast and travel . In fact the more relevant words you add to the search the more targeted the results will be. (There’s no need for a + sign between words in Goggle). What better way to motivate your learners than to offer them authentic listening material about subjects they’re interested in!

But wait, there’s even more! Supposing your students like a show they’ve found. They might like to listen to further episodes on a regular basis. You’ll often hear people who talk about podcasting using the term RSS, which stands for really simple syndication. An RSS feed is simply a way of subscribing to a podcast or blog. An analogy often used is that of your favourite magazine. If you know of a newsagent where it’s sold, you can always pop in and buy it whenever you have time. However, for convenience sake, you might decide to have the publisher deliver it direct to your house. Well, that’s exactly what an RSS feed does: it notifies you of a new episode so that you can download it yourself or it will even deliver it to your computer automatically, without you having to remember to do a thing. You can then listen to it on your PC or transfer it across to your MP3 player and listen on the way to work, whilst out jogging or whenever it suits you. Finally, if you can’t find what you’re looking for or you’d like to get involved yourself and encourage your students to become podcasters, it couldn’t be easier. There are lots of teachers around the world creating their own podcasts, often featuring their own students.

Page 1: What are podcasts and why use them
Page 2: Finding and listening to them
Page 3: Using them with your students