Podcasts in Education

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This page originally authored by Sean McMinn (2009). This page was edited by Ritwa Smith, March 2010 and Michael Rae, March 2014.

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What is Podcasting?

The acronym Podcasting means Portable-On-Demand Broadcasts. It refers to broadcasting programs that are in the form of a digital media file, or a series of such files. These files are distributed over the Internet using syndication feeds, allowing people to subscribe, download and listen to these files on their laptops, desktop computers, iPods, and MP3 players. There are numerous genres in podcasting, including music, documentary, storytelling, and educational. Podcasting refers to the creation and regular distribution of podcasts through the Internet. Podcasts, which can include audio, video, PDF, and ePub files, can be subscribed to and downloaded through web syndication or streamed online to a computer or mobile device. Subscribers are then able to view, listen to, and transfer the episodes to a variety of media players (Hew, 2009). Users can find podcasts that may interest them at numerous online directories, such as Podcast Pickle and Podcast Alley, or through Apple's iTunes Store. A user can have constant access to podcasts by subscribing through RSS feeds. An example of how to subscribe to a podcast can be accessed at Podcasting Workshop.

Growth of Podcasting

Podcasts have increasingly become more prominent in the way people consume information. As of 2013, there were over 250,000 unique podcasts in the world, with more and more of them geared towards the mainstream (Wolf, 2013). In iTunes podacsts, listeners have them organized into sub catergories ranging from sports, to business, to education. Listeners have the ability to rank podcasts, search for the most popular and share them. According to the market intelligence firm Edison Research, the percentage of Americans 12 and older who have listened to a podcast has steadily increased from 10% in 2006 to 26% today, while one in six Americans has listened to a podcast within the past six months (Matthews, 2013). Further the Edison Research also stated that awareness of Podcasting has grown 105% since 2006, from 22% in 2006 to 45% in 2012. Likewise, the percentage of consumers indicating they have listened to an audio podcast has grown 163%, from 11% in 2006 to 29% in 2012.

Perhaps one of the reasons for the growth of podcasts is the attractiveness for the producer and the consumer. A wide variety of programs are distributed as podcasts, as iTunes states, because the protocol offers compelling characteristics for publishers:

  • The cost of distribution is limited to the cost of data transfer.
  • The XML document that ties the podcast together is simpler to create and maintain than most web pages.
  • The RSS protocol helps facilitate an ongoing, opt-in, and highly convenient relationship with the subscriber.
  • The size of the channel is effectively unlimited and therefore can’t be dominated by any other publisher or provider.

And podcasts are attractive to subscribers, too:

  • Podcasts are free.
  • Thousands of podcasts are available from all over the world.
  • New podcast episodes appear automatically and can be enjoyed anywhere, anytime.

Another factor in podcast growth is the explosion of smartphone ownership and usage. According to Rob Walch, Vice President of Podcast Relations at podcast hosting company Libsyn, the biggest reason for the growth of podcast consumption is today’s smartphones. And it’s those apps, the easy to use software on mobile phones, combined with instant streaming, that’s really made a difference. Early on if you wanted to listen to a podcast in your car, “you had to sync your iPod to your computer in the morning,” says Walch. “Today, 50 percent of the downloads are on smartphone devices. There is no longer a need to sync; you just open up an app. I think that’s really helped change the consumption of podcasting” (Wolf, 2013).

Educational Uses Of Podcasts

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Educators are finding creative ways to implement podcasting into curriculums. Types of podcasts that can be used in a classroom include, authentic (meaning the podcast was produced for an audience other than the teacher or students), teacher produced, and student produced podcasts. One huge benefit of podcasting is that it can overcome normal space/time constraints of the traditional classroom. As podcasting in education grows, networks, such as The Education Podcast Network are quickly appearing. In his Educator's Podcast Guide Bard Williams scribes a "part user manual, part curriculum planning tool, part implementation survival guide" in order to help teachers choose the right podcast for their classroom, with useful tips and tricks embedded throughout (Williams, 2007).

Sean FitzGerald provides an extensive list of educational uses for podcasting on his Podcasts in Education wiki. Below is a partial list:

  • Teachers/lecturers can record their lectures for absent learners and for learners to review later
  • Podcasts can accompany presentations (e.g. powerpoint slides) which can be made available on a blog, along with other support material such as web links and references
  • Podcasts can provide extra material for self-paced learning
  • Recordings of guest speakers from remote locations
  • Interviews with subject experts or industry figures (can be recorded using Skype)
  • Audio lessons for visually impaired & recordings of lectures
  • Support for learners with reading and/or other learning difficulties
  • Multi-lingual education
  • Foreign language lessons

There have been some studies within a wide range of educational backgrounds which focuses on teacher produced podcasts and student attitudes towards the technology (Frydenberg, 2006; Janossy, 2007; Edirisingha, Rizzi, Nie and Rothwell, 2007). Edirisingha, Rizzi, Nie and Rothwell (2007) provide empirical data about student attitudes towards podcasting, focusing on how podcasting can provide teachers and students support for an English Language and Communication class. Janossy examines how students may benefit by listening to text while reading the same text themselves (2007). Lee and Chan discusses the results of providing podcasts used for supplementary listening material to distance learners (2007) and the views, experiences and perceived learning value of podcasts from the perspective of student learners (2007). Frydenberg gives insights into how students use podcasts to contribute to their learning (2006).

There appears to be very little research on the subject of student-produced podcasts and there affects on learning, although papers about student-produced podcasts and their impact on knowledge-building do exist (Lee, McLoughlin and Chan, 2008; Seitzinger, 2006).

Constructivism and Podcasting

Knowledge building: student-produce podcasts can easily incorporate knowledge-building principles.

Scardamalia and Bereiter note that knowledge is a product and that there is a continuity among knowledge-building communities beyond the school. Consistent with the tenets of constructivism, they state that the term "building" implies that the classroom community works to produce knowledge (1994). They suggest having a class produce scholarly journals with peer reviews as an example of a knowledge-building community. This would be very similar to students producing an audio or video podcast for similar purposes. Campus Beat is an example of a student-produced podcast that incorporates knowledge-building principles.

Lee, McLoughlin and Chan note the following about knowledge-building and student produced podcasts in their research (2008):

  • "[...] the shared social context and focus on a common goal resulted in a highly cohesive team of student-producers, where mutual respect, open communication and the pursuit of a common goal were key factors that ensured ongoing exploratory dialogue and a commitment to sharing ideas, as well as to individual and group learning."
  • "the presentation phase of the podcast production process allowed the student-producers to jointly and synchronously create tangible learning objects for sharing with a wider, peer audience via the Internet."

The image above demonstrates how knowledge-building occurs with student-produced podcasts. Again, while there has been numerous papers published on the subject of podcasting and education, there appears to be little research in the area of student-produced podcasts and knowledge-building.

In their 2011 study, Dick Ng'ambi and Annette Lombe, use two case studies to prove that podcasting to enhance student learning. Their paper, Using Podcasting to Facilitate Student Learning: A Constructivist Perspective suggests that podcasts afford learners control and flexibility, reflection and self paced learning. Further, the paper shows how social spaces of entertainment can be transformed into learning environments that are conducive to constructivist pedagogy. The case studies had teacher generated lectures distributed through podcasts and had students reflect on their learning through creation of their own. This constructivist pedagogy built upon existing students skills and competencies as well as encouraged collaborative and active learning. The meaning making process was scaffolded as to have students formulate questions to direct their further learning (Ng'ambi and Lombe, 2011).

By creating authentic content and sharing ideas with a real audience, podcasting has merit in constructivist circles. Students have more engagement with their learning as they co-construct knowledge and engage in a high level of negotiation of meaning (wikibook, 2009). The learner control and flexibility that podcasting provides is one of the most obvious ways that it supports constructivist learning (Seitzinger, 2006).

Podcasts and M-learning

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M-learning is the idea that the use of portable technologies, such as mobile phones and MP3 players, can create a dynamic learning environment. The subject of M-learning with podcasts has been the focus of a lot of research (Evans, 2007; Lee and Chan, 2007; McCarty, 2005; Campbell, 2005; Tynan and Colbran, 2006).

Evans notes from his research that students feel that the flexibility created by the option of listening to course materials and/or lecture outside of the classroom is effective (2008). According to his research, "students report that they were more receptive to podcast material than material delivered in the form of a revision lecture or from the textbook. All of these are forms of direct communication between the educator and the learner. This suggests that learners may feel more engaged when listening to a podcast" (2008).





Examples in Education

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Teacher-Produced Podcasts

Student-Produced Podcasts

Students are able to

Teachers are able to

Software, Services and Tools

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Since 2005, there have been numerous software and services made available for producing audio podcasts.

Software

Free and paid audio editing software used for producing podcasts:

Learn how to record a podcast with Audacity in 7 easy steps

Services

Free and paid services (includes RSS and servers for storage):

Creating Podcasts in the Classroom

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In creating Podcasts requires utilizing Software and Services as mentioned above. The steps involved are:

  • Preproduction
  • Recording
  • Post Production
  • Publishing

A basic tutorial on how to create a podcast

When creating a Podcast, one needs to take the quality of sound into consideration. Since there is much noise in the classroom (door opening and closing etc.) one can reduce by using sound booths that blocks extraneous noises.

Podcasts in Education: A Video Summary

A short stop-motion animated video to summarize key points on the use of podcasts in education.

References

  • Campbell, G. (2005). There’s Something in the Air: Podcasting in Education. EDUCAUSE Review, 40(6), 33-46.
  • Edirisingha, P., Chiara, R. Nie, M. and Rothwell, L. (2007). Podcasting to Provide Teaching and Learning Support for an Undergraduate Module on English Language and Communication. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education. 8 (3), 87-107. Retrieved March 4, 2008, from http://tojde.anadolu.edu.tr/tojde27/pdf/article_6.pdf.
  • Hew, K. (2009). Use of audio podcast in K-12 and higher education: a review of research topics and methodologies. Association for Educational Communications and Technology, 333-358. doi: DOI 10.1007/s11423-008-9108-3
  • Janossy, J. (2007). Student Reaction to Podcast Learning Materials: Preliminary Results. Engaging the Learner. Annual Instructional Technology Conference. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED496202).
  • Lee, M and Chan, A. (2007). Pervasive, Lifestyle-integrated Mobile Learning for Distance Learners: An Analysis and Unexpected Results from a Podcasting Study. Open Learning, 22 (3), 201-218. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ776788).
  • Lee, M. and Chan, A. (2007). Reducing the Effects of Isolation and Promoting Inclusivity for Distance Learners Through Podcasting. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education. 8 (1), 85-104. Retrieved March 10, 2008, from http://tojde.anadolu.edu.tr/tojde25/pdf/article_7.pdf.
  • Ng'ambi, D., & Lombe, A.(2012). Using Podcasting to Facilitate Student Learning: A Constructivist Perspective. Educational Technology & Society,15 (4), 181–192.
  • Rosell-Aguilar, F. (2007). Top of the Pods – In Search of a Podcasting ‘podagogy’ for Language Learning. Computer Assisted Language Learning. 20 (5), 471-492.
  • Scardamalia, M. and Bereiter, C. (1994). Computer support for knowledge-building communities. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 3(3), 265-283.
  • Tynan, B. and Colbran, S. (2006). Podcasting, Student Learning and Expectations. Retrieved November 4, 2007 from http://www.ascilite.org.au.