saudixpat’s Weblog

October 17, 2008

To Podcast or Not to Podcast. That’s the Question.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Expat in Saudi @ 9:13 pm

The big research topic this post is podcasting. After surveying and digging deeply into podcasting, I narrowed my research questions down to two. The first is, “Why Podcast?”. The second is, “Do Podcasts really have a place in education?” Then I began lookng at the evidence.

Will Richardson gives a good rationale for Podcasting on page 113 of Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. It’s easy. Lots of schools are already using podcasting. Finally, it does not necessarily involve teachers creating content for students. Rather, many of the models he gives are student to student content. Richardson (p. 114 – 115) gives examples of four different schools that use podcasting for different purposes. Willowdale Elementary School uses podcasting for student-created entertainment. Brent Coley School uses podcasts to showcase student projects where students have created educational content for other students. Yet another school, Mabry Middle School, uses podcasting to update students on school news and upcoming events. Finally, Lincoln Southwest High School uses podcasting to promote student reviews, interviews, upcoming events and “…whatever else might be of interest [to students]” (Richardson, 2009. p. 115). From these examples, it is clear that podcasting can cover a lot of curricular territory, social interests, cultural viewpoints, and that it involves students in ways not previously available to all schools. In the past, to broadcast as a school, a radio broadcasting unit would have been required. Now all that is needed is a computer and a microphone.

Then I widened my search to the internet. Using the search term ‘top ten reasons to podcast’, I found the sixth URL listed, ‘Top Ten Reasons to Podcast with Your Students’. Point nine, “Podcasting is another publishing avenue” and point seven, “You can reach auditory learners,” really rang a bell with me. As a teacher who has had students display their knowledge in Social Studis via a newspaper from a specific time period, I can see how the relevency could be updated for learners while at the same time still displaying mastery by conducting interviews, debates, or newscasts covering the same material. Point seven hit the mark as well. I can think of quite a few students in my classes over the years who would have done much better with an oral assignment. The one that I think of the most was a dyslexic student in my Socials class who ended up dropping out of school. With podcasting, he would have been able to skip the visual processing of the words and focus aurally on the meaning. I can see how that would have helped him learn and retain information, making reviewing for assignments, quizzes and tests much easier.

In an interview with dyslexic students about the benefits of podcasts in education, one girl made the point that the lesson become portable. She can download it and listen to it while she cycles and also has the ability to replay it back at any time. This video, along with others discussing the benefits of podcasting and other technologies with learning impaired students can be found at the University of Nottingham. The information here really reinforces my thoughts on that one student and others like him.

To sum it up, podcasts can be used for a wide variety of educational purposes. They can be used to provide students with enriched content or to allow absent students to “be” in class via the podcast. Students can create podcast assignments which cover the same material and display knowledge mastery. Students can also podcast a wide range of material of academic, social, and cultural interest to themselves. Finally, and most importantly, podcasting can be used to assist learners who struggle with an orthographic system. Why podcast? Podcast because it is extremely beneficial to both teachers and students.

That brings me to my next question, “Do podcasts really have a place in education”? Looking at the question, I realize I have answered it in the section above. The answer? A resounding “YES!”. Lacking a question, I asked myself the next logical question. “How easy is it to podcast?”

This got me searching websites. I found a great site at Poducate Me whose guide walks you through any possible consideration about podcasting, including education. According to the information in the Podcasting in Education section, podcasting is spreading across campuses nationwide, even replacing textbooks in some courses.

Another good site to learn about podcasting and how to make a podcast is the radio.about site which gives a five page step-by-step tutorial on making podcasts. It doesn’t specifically refer to education though, just about making podcasts.

Then I looked at the programs needed to make a podcast. Asking around, I found that if my First Class school email software had the ability to create podcasts via web publishing as of version 8.3. Emboldened, I researched it. Here is the Teachertube video of how to do that for those of you who use the First Class client. I had tried to embed it, but you have to download a bunch of files from Teachertube and install software to your WordPress root directory. As mine is a free account, I don’t believe I have access to this. Easier to create a link.

To test how easy it is to follow those directions, I created a Podcast using my First Class school email and its Web Publishing features. I had never thought that my email client at school could do that! It was actually very easy!

Creating a podcast in First Class

Creating a podcast in First Class

Another piece of software that makes creating podcasts easy is Audacity. It comes in both Mac and PC versions and allows you to record and edit a podcast. The last piece of software I looked at was Garageband. I have the ’06 and ’08 versions. Both make it easy to create a voice recording with backing music beats to add energy. Because of the ease of adding music, I chose GarageBand over Audacity.

Garageband Splash Screen

Garageband Splash Screen

Garageband is podcast capable right off the bat. It has a clear and easy interface beginning with the initial selection of project and purpose. Even before you create your podcast, though, you can use Magic Garageband (seen below) to build a beat track to play in the background, which I did using the reggae tools. You have a wide choice of effects for each instrument shown.

Magic Garageband

Magic Garageband

Lastly, what really won me over was the Garageband interface when I was building and recording my podcast. It has different rows for each instrument or voice recording, it allows you to control volume levels if necessary, and it allows you to trim, split, or overlap soundtracks in your podcast. I was easily able to take my raggae backbeat, lower the volume at the point where I wanted to start talking, and then match my podcast voiceover to end first followed by my backbeat. I really liked it.

Garageband Interface

Garageband Interface

If I was not going to host on my own First Class account, I would definitely use Podomatic. I looked at another podcast host, Podcastspot, however,they are closing down this November 30, although they didn’t explain why. Podomatic has free hosting, free publishing, and even allows you to make a podcast right on site. In short, they are the podcast version of Flickr or Picassa. Unfortunately, I had a problem creating an account in Podomatic, so I tried Podbean. Podbean has the exact same look and feel as WordPress, which made me right at home. So, I hosted my podcast on Garageband with Podbean.

Now that you have a better overview of podcasting, its educational advantages, purposes, and impact, and you know how easy it really is to make one, I hope you feel inspired to go out and create your own podcasts.



  1. Bruce,
    So you used your email to create a podcast? Cool. Talk about good timing because our technology consultant just told me today that he wants to study using email as an educational tool. I’ll have to let him know about what you’ve said and showed us in your blog today.

    Did you make another podcast using GarageBand?


    Comment by Jo-Anne — October 18, 2008 @ 5:49 am | Reply

  2. Bruce,
    Thanks for your GarageBand podcast. I am definitely going to have to check it out. Adding music to my podcast on Audacity was a little tricky until you figured it out. It sounds like from you’ve said that GarageBand might be a bit easier. I like the idea of creating a multi-media event using iTunes. Our students would love that. I wonder if our IT department would have any difficulty with putting iTunes on our school computers?


    Comment by Jo-Anne — October 19, 2008 @ 2:05 am | Reply

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