Sunday, November 19, 2006

Podcasting: Getting started

Podcasting - yes, another of the new e-learning buzz words. Another buzz word I think that we should be researching and trying to find out how it could be useful to our students.

And just what are these podcasts everybody is talking about? Basically, podcasts are audio files (usually mp3) that are described by a web feed (using RSS or Atom standards) and that can be downloaded and played on personal computers or portable media devices. (Read about podcasts on Wikipedia)

The benefit of having a web feed describing audio files is that applications that understand web feed can alert us when a new audio file is added to a certain channel and even automatically download this file to our computers. Which means that you don't have to manually check for updates on your favorite podcast channels, but you can let your favorite program do the checking and downloading for you. Pretty cool, right?

Now, podcast channels can of course be also used in education. You can record lectures, additional instructions, information or feedback and students can download this content and listen to it at home or on the road using their iPods, Zunes, mobile phones or any other portable device. In this way they can learn whenever they want and at a chosen pace. For example - I always wished I could fast forward parts of the lectures that were already known to me and focus more on parts that were new or particularly interesting to me. Of course that can't be done during traditional lectures, because there is a whole class of students with different needs, knowledge and interests the lecturer must accommodate to. But learning with podcasts is different. You can choose the appropriate time for learning and use the recording of a lecture in any way you want - you can for example review only parts of the lecture that you did not fully understand.

And it is because of the learning flexibility that podcasts offer that I think we should try out this form of delivery and see how students react to it. I also think it's great that we can use our existing e-classroom for this purpose, as there is a simple podcasting module available for our LMS Moodle (the Ipodcast module).

So, I hope we'll be able to test podcasting at our faculty and if and when we do so, I'll surely be posting observations and results on this blog. For now here's a list of articles about podcasts, the process of making podcasts and the uses of podcasting in education that I've used for making a short paper about podcasting for our teachers:

(By the way: if you want a taste of podcasts I suggest listening to the podcast channel 60-Second Science that offers short daily bits of interesting science. If you use iTunes go to Advanced > Subscribe to Podcast... and enter this URL:

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