The interest in podcasting has exploded over the past two years. On December 8, 2005, the New Oxford American Dictionary crowned “podcast” as its 2005 Word of the Year and defines the term as “a digital recording of a radio broadcast or similar program, made available on the Internet for downloading to a personal audio player.” Podcasting is a unique distribution of audio or video files, such as radio programs or music videos, over the internet using RSS or Atom syndication. Users can listen or view these files using a media player program on the computer or easily move them to a mobile device. While earlier podcasters typically distributed syndicated audio files and radio shows, podcasters now routinely deliver many types of digital multimedia content, including video, audio, images and text.
Since the birth of podcasting technology in 2004, podcasts have become a very popular medium for news, information, and entertainment. According to the Pew Internet Project Data Memo released by the Pew Internet and American Life Project in November 2006, approximately 12% of internet users indicate they have downloaded a podcast so they can listen to it or view it at a later time. This latest finding compares to the 7% of internet users who reported podcast downloading in the similar survey given 4 months earlier from February to April 2006. Podcasting has taken the online world by storm, with teachers adopting the RSS-based digital content broadcasting distribution technologies with huge enthusiasm. Beloved by students worldwide, the ubiquitous small MP3 player is now becoming a presence in the classroom as teachers discover its many educational uses.
Today, many colleges and universities have begun podcasting pilots for instructional delivery. Universities such as Duke University, Stanford University, University of Michigan, University of Missouri, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of California-Berkeley are making podcasts of course lectures available for their students. With the new generation video iPods or other portable multimedia players, it is possible to provide both video and audio contents to the students. Students can download the lectures to their iPods or even listen to them using traditional media players on personal computers and laptops. In January 2006, Apple Computer Inc. introduced “iTunes U,” a free, hosted service that makes course lectures and other educational materials accessible via Apple’s iTunes software. Through iTunes U, students can subscribe to iTunes U and remotely download lectures to their Macs or PCs, which later, can either be synchronized to an iPod for listening/viewing on the go or burned to a CD. Instructors can easily post and change content on their own. Also, students can upload their own content to share with professors or with the class.
The uses of podcasting in education are found in the areas of course content dissemination, classroom recording, field recording, study support, and file transfer and storage. In addition, podcasting can be used in the following areas:
- Self-paced distance learning
- Recording lectures for syndication
- Literary reviews
- Digital audio books
- Video demonstrations and presentations from students and teachers
- Class news and updates
- Home/school communication
- Interviews with guest experts or oral history
- Distribution of supplemental information such as speeches or music
- Student-produced podcasts
- Re-mediation for slower learners
- Staff development
- Feedback/evaluation of student work
- Language lessons
I have created podcasts/vocasts for every course I taught for the past year. Overall, my students like the podcasts in the classroom. They use the class podcasts to review my lectures and demonstrations and catch up what they missed when they were absent. I think podcasting has a great potential in teaching and learning. Podcasting allows education to become more portable than ever before. Also, podcasting is a very flexible delivery method for distributing high quality learning materials. The benefits of podcasting in education include: convenience, mobile learning, location-independent access, easy-to-use tool for recording field notes and interviews, requires no special hardware, greater student interest in class discussion, and support for individual learning preferences.