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Podcasting as an Educational Tool

written by Stefaan Lesage on 15/03/2009

Many people we talk to here in Belgium think that podcasting is just another way to redistribute radio shows. With this series of articles we will explain some other possibilities for Podcasting, and in this first article we will concentrate on the Educational power of Podcasting.

Introduction

There are many aspects of today’s life that could benefit from Podcasting, but if there is one aspect that would really benefit from it, it would be the educational arena.

More and more schools and colleges in the United States are starting to embrace podcasting as a means to share lectures of classes with their students or to supply additional material.

What are the advantages ?

In an environment where lessons and lectures form a key aspect in sharing information, podcasting is quickly becoming a means to distribute that content. The reason being that the content is actually important, relevant and informative and can be consumed anywhere and anytime! In the next sections, we’ll explain some of the reasons why podcasting can be an effective educational tool :

Mobile

OK, you are probably thinking “He’s starting to use some marketing buzz words”, but actually Podcasts being mobile is what makes them so powerful. What student wouldn’t be happy with a lecture in audio format delivered to him through a podcast when he can’t attend the class due to medical reasons ? Wouldn’t those audio lectures come in handy when you’re on a the train or bus when you’re heading for school ?

You have to agree that being able to learn or review your lectures anywhere you want is a huge advantage in the educational arena. Whether you are at home, on the way to school, on vacation, or anywhere in the world, you can learn something by consuming your school’s podcast !

Not Time Bound

Podcasting is not only mobile, but you are not bound to a specific time schedule neither. Some people tend to learn better early in the morning, others like me learn better at night. With Podcasting the time aspect isn’t important. You can consume podcasts whenever you want to, whether this is early in the morning, during lunch breaks, in a traffic jam on my way home, or even late at night !

What makes this even more interesting is that you are able to learn at your own pace. You can start listening to a lecture or lesson, pause it whenever you need, rewind it to hear it again and start playing it whenever you want to.

Educational Podcasts Work !

I always found that personally I tend to learn something faster when I’m hearing or seeing something. In my personal experience it just tends to stick longer than something I’ve read on paper.

There has been a recent psychological study from the State University of New York which shows that podcasting as an educational tool does work. Students who consumed the podcast averaged a grade of C (71%) on the test, which is better than those who didn’t and averaged a D grade (62%). Students who watched the podcast a few times and took notes when doing so scored even better (an average score of 77%).

How can Podcasting be used as an Educational Tool ?

There are a few different types of podcasts, and each one of them have their own advantages and disadvantages. The list I have added here is by no means a complete list, but just a summary on a few types of podcasts and how they can be used as an educational tool.

Audio Podcasts

The audio podcast is the most common form of podcasts today. They contain only audio, but they can be played on a wide variety of devices, from computers (Mar or PC), MP3 Players, Cell Phones, Gaming Consoles, ...

One area in which this type of podcast is very useful is the area of language learning. You can easily subscribe to a few audio feeds for the languages you want to learn and take the courses with you to listen to them whenever and wherever you want. Once the episodes have been downloaded, you don’t need to be in front of you computer to start learning. Just take the episodes with you on your favorite music player and your are ready to go.

A great example for this is actually the podcasts created by the people from the Radio Lingua Network. They offer courses for quite a few different languages ranging from English, French, German and Spanish to even Catalan, Danish, Mandarin and quite a few more !

Enhanced Podcasts

An enhanced podcast is slightly different than a normal audio podcast. With an enhanced podcast you are able to add images which will be displayed at a certain point in the audio. Images aren't the only thing you can add to an Enhanced Podcast, you can even add links to websites or online resources and chapter markers into the podcast.

This can actually be an effective way to present a lecture together with the slides from that lecture. The disadvantage here is that you will be more limited as to the devices which are able to play back the Enhanced Podcast (Apple iPods have no problem playing back enhanced podcasts).

The people from Radio Lingua Network offer Enahnced Podcasts as Premium / Paid Content. In the Enhanced version of the podcast you will also get a visual display of the vocabulary learned throughout a specific lesson.

Another example of an Educational Enhanced Podcast is NeatLittleMacApps podcast is a tribute to those neat little Mac apps that are out there. Expect an inspired enhanced review podcast with attractive screenshots.

Video Podcasts

Of course Podcasting isn’t limited to audio or enhanced podcast, and some topics might require a more visual approach. If you want to teach others how to set up a 3 point lighting system in order to shoot better video, you might find it useful to include a video which shows how it is actually done.

One very good example here is IzzyVideo. In this podcast Isreal Hyman regularly brings us a new video episode covering different aspects which can help you to Shoot, Edit and Produce better Video.

The IzzyVideo podcast seems to be a success, since recently Isreal also started with a series of 38 web-based training videos which total more than 6 hours of training on Final Cut Pro 6. Learn Final Cut Pro 6: The Izzy Video Guide for Beginners is available as a premium course on the IzziVideo Website.

Video Podcasts are larger in File Site and do require more equipment and time to record, edit and host them. In order to play Video Podcasts you will also need a device which is capable of playing Video.

Screencasts

A screencast is actually a very specific type of Video which is very useful when demonstrating and teaching specific features of a software application. A screencast is actually a recording of the computer screen, combined with audio narration.

Screencasts are quite useful when learning people how to use computers and software, or how to achieve a specific task with a specific application. Compared to the traditional infrastructure cost of computer based training, screencasting is quickly becoming a very popular and cost effective technique.

As with traditional Video Podcasts, screencast still require some time and equipment when recording and editing, but the advantage is that this is only a one-time cost. No need to book a room with enough computers for 8 attendees 10 times a year ! Of course there is a cost in equipment, and recording a good screencast takes some time, but once it is recorded and edited, you can make it available to anyone, anywhere and at whatever time your audience chooses to.

There are quite a few good examples of podcasts which use the technique of Screencasting. Probably one of the best out there is actually ScreenCastsOnline (link http://www.screencastonline.com/) in which DonMcAllister brings us a new Macintosh Video Tutorial each week.

And if you are a Dutch speaking Mac user, you might also want to check out the iTutor Podcast (Shameless Plug).

Conclusion

Quite a lot of people I meet still believe that podcasting is just another means to redistribute music or to republish radio shows, but you can actually do a lot more with Podcasting ! Podcasting is actually an a very good educational tool. Although it will never replace traditional methods, it can be quite effective when complementing a course or lecture.

Heading into a recession, this is a great opportunity for organisations to be selling or providing education on ipods for Generation Y.  The multitaskers who have never experienced bad economic times. With the 'me' focus it's likely that this demographic in particular will be quick to value and adopt education in a mobile form like podcasting.

— James Williams, Podcasters' Emporium

Comments

  • 1

    Stefaan,

    great overview of various podcast techniques. Thanks for this helpful article!

    written by progressiveOne on 20/03/2009
  • 2

    Hi,

    Glad you like the article.  I know I didn’t cover everything yet, but you can expect more articles on the same subject in the future.

    Tomorow I’ll be giving a small presentation at Barcamp Antwerp, and I will be uploading the slides of that presentation to the website next week.

    Best regards,


    Stefaan

    written by Stefaan Lesage on 20/03/2009
  • 3

    Hi,

    I am elementary school teacher and I have been podcasting for about four years with the kids in my class. The kids love making their weekly ‘radio show’. When they enter my class on monday, the first thing they ask is: ‘What can I do on the podcast on thursday?’.  It’s not always a great show to listen to, but it’s a fantastic way for really getting to know the kids in my class in a more informal manner.

    Maarten

    written by Maarten Hendrikx on 20/03/2009
  • 4

    Hello Maarten,

    Well I’m really glad you commented on this post, since you are a good example of using Podcasting in Education here in Beligum !

    Best Regards,

    Stefaan Lesage

    written by Stefaan Lesage on 20/03/2009
  • 5

    Humm… interesting,

    i really love podcasting… you miss a radio show and you can donwload it later… its great…

    Thanks for bringing this up

    written by web development on 19/10/2009
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