A podcast is an audio or video broadcast that is circulated and downloaded via the Internet. Podcasts are highly accessible and are automatically and seamlessly downloaded directly to your computer, iPod, MP3 player or other device. You will of course need access to speakers or a headset and the bandwidth required for viewing or listening to the podcast.
Podcasting is growing in leaps and bounds as a training and communication tool. Podcasts can vary in length, from brief presentations to full length workshops. There are podcasts available on virtually any topic of interest. As an added bonus, podcasts are typically free. For ease of access, podcasts can be embedded in websites or e-mails. As well, most major newspapers, magazines and radio stations make podcasts of their shows available.
There are numerous Internet sites that collect and make podcasts freely available. One of the most popular of such sites is iTunes (iTunes was created by Apple and can be freely downloaded to your PC or Mac). See: www.apple.com/itunes/store/podcasts.html for more information (and to download iTunes).
iTunes contains thousands of podcasts, all categorized in a searchable database. A quick search of the iTunes library using the term “literacy” revealed a variety of free podcasts, including those on the following topics: information literacy, computer literacy, family literacy, health literacy, and critical literacy practice.
Apple has also created iTunes University which offers free podcasts of university and college lectures and other educational presentations. iTunes U is free and it is open to the general public – not just students. You can learn more at: www.apple.com/education/itunesu.
Most major newspapers and magazines (and other news sources) offer podcasts, which makes the news accessible in more than just a read-only format. This both makes the news more accessible and often more engaging.
For more information on the basics of podcasting, Common Craft has created a highly user-friendly and engaging overview called “Podcasting in Plain English” at: www.commoncraft.com/podcasting.
Technology in Action
The educational possibilities of podcasting are endless. Podcasts could be used to supplement learning activities, to promote literacy, or to supplement staff and/or tutor training.
For example, a podcast of an adult learner speaking about the need for literacy could be created to promote the cause of literacy to politicians, community leaders, and the general public. Or, an organization could create a podcast where the chair of its board promotes a fundraising or public awareness campaign. Another example could be for an organization to embed a podcast on its website of a volunteer speaking about their positive experience with volunteering in literacy.
Yet another good example came from the GO research where one of the organizations, in a bid to add flexibility and convenience, intended to supplement its current online course offerings by developing 15-minute podcasts for participants to listen to on their iPods or MP3 players at convenient times during their busy lives.
You can access a podcast about literacy from any (or all!) of the Ministers of Education from Canada's provinces and territories from the Canadian Ministers of Education Canada website at: www.literacy.cmec.ca/en/index.aspx?sortcode=2.1.3.
The National Adult Literacy Database presents an adult learner “Story of the Week” via podcast. Here is a sample podcast from NALD, featuring three adult learners from the Barrie Literacy Council: www.nald.ca/story/archive/2008/08oct27/mary.htm.
The Ontario Ministry of Education has created several podcasts which provide practical ideas for parents and caregivers to help children learn: www.edu.gov.on.ca/abc123/eng/podcast/.
And finally, the Just One More Book website offers wonderful podcasts of a variety of children's books: www.justonemorebook.com/.
Additional Resources about Podcasting
Educause Learning Initiative created an extremely informative review of podcasting called: “Seven Things You Should Know About Podcasting” at: www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7003.pdf. Topics covered include: what is podcasting?; who is doing it?; how does it work?; and why is it significant?
This interesting article from Charity Village overviews seven innovative ways a non-profit organization could use a podcast. For more information, please see: www.charityvillage.com/cv/research/rtech61.html.
Another useful resource is the Educate Podcast Portal site from Russell Education Consultancy and Productions in the UK which highlights various educational podcasts at: http://recap.ltd.uk/podcasting/.
This link from Apple provides a very helpful demonstration about how to use iTunes University: www.apple.com/education/itunesu_mobile-learning/landing.html.
You can find tips on creating a podcast from Apple at: www.apple.com/itunes/whatson/podcasts/specs.html.
Here is another great site, called “Podcasting Tools”. It includes information on what is podcasting and how to do it and what podcasting software is available. See: www.podcasting-tools.com/.