Sunday, November 11, 2012


What is a Podcast?

Podcasts are downloadable audio files (sometimes with video) usually as part of a series on a given topic. They have sometimes been described as radio shows on the internet. Sometimes they are by organizations such as NPR and the BBC, sometimes by individual experts, and even everyday people. Podcast topics cover a wide range; from unabridged and dramatized readings of books, history lessons, tips on video games, reviews of movies, interviews and others. 

Where Can I Get Podcasts and the Software to Make My Own?

Thousands of podcasts are available for free through the iTunes store on iTunes. ITunes is automatically downloaded to your computer when you install a new iPod to your computer or you can just download iTunes to your computer via Apple’s website found here. Other podcasts can be found on other websites through simple Google searches.

If you are interested in creating your own podcasts, there are many audio editing software available online that are free, such as audacity. Apple also produces a program named Garage Band which allows users to edit audio files. This program is preinstalled on all Mac computers, but can also be downloaded for the iPhone or iPad for five dollars.

Why Should I Use Podcasts in my Classroom?

LIstening to podcasts, can be beneficial in a few ways. By listening to podcasts of books they are reading, students who may be struggling readers will have good examples of fluent reading and correct pronunciation of the words, along with improving their listening skills by listening for key pieces of information. Also podcasts are available that cover many topics found in the school curriculum and students can listen to these podcasts to be exposed to or review this information.

Having students make their own podcasts also has benefits. By scripting their podcasts, students practice and grow in their writing skills along with their speaking skills by hearing their performances and redoing takes. 

Aside from just the students, there are many podcasts for teachers which provide tips and information on hundreds of professional development topics.

Are There Any Problems With Using Podcasts in Class?

While listening and creating podcasts are great activities for building engagement and accessibility in the classroom, they involve classrooms or individual students possessing different technologies available to them including computers, microphones, mp3 players, headphones, and the correct software. Some of these tools may not be available at home or in individual classrooms, so you should try to work with the school computer labs to see if they have these and might lend them out. 

Also with so many podcasts out there and with anybody able make and post their own, teachers may have to take time to search for the best and reviewing podcasts before using them in their classroom. 

I Want to Use Podcasts in My Classroom, Any Ideas How I Can?

There are many websites that have put together lists of the best podcasts to use with students to cover differ subjects, including this one and this. With so many out there, I suggest using Google or the search function in the iTunes store to look for podcasts on the topic you'd like to cover. There are even more lists when it comes to professional development podcasts, including this and that, covering many topics from teach a certain language to building technology skills. 

Teachers can use podcasts to create their own audiobooks for the books, articles and other texts used in the classroom. These could be used to help students who may be visually impaired or have other special needs that struggle gaining access to texts in written form.

Students can record their book talks and turn them into podcasts which can be stored on the classroom website. This would create a great library of book talks for students to learn about new books they might want to read about. 

There is an entertaining podcast for adults I listen to called The Dead Author’s Podcast, where Paul F. Tompkins as H.G. Wells interviews other comedians pretending to be famous dead authors with hilarious results. Although that particular podcast is not appropriate for younger audiences and often strays from the facts, this can be used as a model for fun student biography projects. Partners or groups can research famous leaders, authors, or other individuals and can perform and record a fake interview with one of the partners pretending to be the person they researched.

Concluding Thoughts

Podcasts are very versatile tools, that can be helpful in covering topics and giving students access to information they may not be able to or interested in before. Not only are they helpful when students are listeners, but they can also serve as tools for students to demonstrate and have fun with the information they learn by presenting it in creative ways. Why not give them a shot in your room?

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