So, I’ve been doing some thinking about Podcasting in the Classroom. Some of you may already be listening to podcasts on your own free time. There are quite a number of them that cover probably every topic in existence, from Physics to Literature to Video Games and just about everything in between. And some of you may be asking, “What the heck is a podcast?”
So, let’s start from the beginning.
What’s a podcast?
One good way to think about a podcast is as an on demand radio show. Think to NPR or talk radio here. You have access to a myriad of topics of interest, along with experts in the area, and instead of having to wait to match your schedule up with the broadcast times of the radio show, it’s available on your schedule.
Podcast shows originated on Apple’s iPod platform, thus the “pod” portion of the name, but they’re not limited to Apple platform. These days, podcasts are available on every platform, mobile phone, tablet, PC, Mac… If something can connect to the internet, and play audio files, you can usually listen to a podcast on it. Large radio stations all the way down to kids looking for something to do produce podcasts, that are hosted on a variety of platforms around the web.
How podcasts can be useful in the classroom
So you might be asking yourself how one can use this in the classroom. There are two ways to think about this topic. In the first, the student is the consumer, the listener. The producer or the podcast could be a teacher or a teacher could find one of the many podcasts already available that address the topic at hand.
In this case, the student is responsible for consuming the podcast and learning something from it. Much like a flipped classroom where lessons are taught via video, lessons in this case are taught via audio. It has similar advantages to flipping a classroom, in that students have access to the material at their convenience and are free to go back and listen as many times as needed to grasp the material. Students who miss a class can easily catch up on their own time. It can be a little less intimidating for some teachers than video, and the files can be downloaded to the student’s personal devices for access even when there isn’t access to the internet.
The second method involves the student as producer. Students can record a podcast as easily as an a teacher. This could easily be a method of assessment. Having students script, record and share a podcast with their classmates turns the students into the teachers and provides the student an opportunity to become the teacher. Podcasts in this instance don’t even have to be shared to the public, and can be saved on a platform that only students and teacher have access to (such as a class web page or cloud sharing platform).
Podcasting is applicable to any subject, and a wide variety of educational podcasts as well as podcasts for educators already exist. Possible topics for podcasts include but are certainly not limited to:
- Book talks
- Science topics
- History podcasts
- School-wide podcasts with news and announcements for parents and students
- Public-service announcements with information about pertinent topics for students
One of the great things about a student-led and centered podcast is that the topics are chosen and presented by students to their peers, leading to topics that interest students and are pertinent to their lives and a group of students more likely to listen to someone their own age, rather than the adults they are forced to listen to on a daily basis in the classroom.
What do I need to podcast?
In it’s purest form, a podcast is simply an audio recording. There are a variety of microphones and types of recording software available for those who would like to make it a full-time endeavor or to spend money on it, but there are a wide variety of free options that exist as well. Student devices can already record audio, most cell phones have recording software built in, and a lot of open-source (read FREE) software is available for recording and audio editing if you’d like to get into that portion of the process.
Editing is not always necessary, especially for student podcasts that are done as a sumative assessment. It may be necessary for teachers producing podcasts for their students, but there are plenty of tutorials available. Careful scripting and good recording habits can all but eliminate the need for this in the end product.
If you’re planning to share your podcast with the world, you will need a platform to host your work. This essentially acts as the place where the file that is your podcast will be held and available for download. There are a number of servers that offer free plans or paid plans depending on your needs. You can also have your podcast listed on iTunes, Google Play, and a whole myriad of other places where listeners can search for and listen to your work, if you choose.
I plan to go into a more detail about the production and posting of podcasts in the future. For now, there are a vast amount of resources for learning. One of my favorites is Buzzsprout’s Podcasting 101 if you’re interested in learning more.
Until next time,