What is podcasting?

Podcasting is a way of distributing audio files via the Internet. A podcast is an audio file that can be downloaded from the Internet, often in MP3 format. Once a podcast has been downloaded, it can be listened to on a computer, or be transferred to a portable device such as an iPod or other Portable Media Player (PMP), a mobile phone, or a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA).

Subscribing and downloading

In the strictest sense, podcasts are subscribed to using RSS (Really Simple Syndication). RSS is a way of providing people with frequently updated content. By using podcatching software, such as iTunes or Juice, podcasts can be subscribed to, and if in a "series", new episodes can be automatically downloaded as they become available.

The BBC´s "Today" programme provides an excellent example of how audio material can be distributed via podcasting. Clicking the link below, or on the right hand side of the page, will take you to the web page for the programme, with links to either subscribe to the series, or download individual episodes.

Click here to go to the BBC's "Today" programme podcast page

Key pedagogical points about podcasts and podcasting:

1 – Flexible delivery

Because podcasts are normally downloaded and can be copied onto portable devices like iPods and mobile phones, you and your students can listen to them anywhere at anytime, without requiring being connected to the Internet. This offers enormous potential for flexible delivery of learning resources.

2 – Use of Audio as en educational medium

The advent of podcasting places a new emphasis on the use of audio resources in learning and teaching. Audio has often been seen as a "poor relation" to video and other forms of multimedia, and perhaps the greatest challenge in the use of podcasting in education is to find ways in which audio materials can be most effectively used in pedagogical terms.

3 – Podcasting is easy and cheap.

Podcasts are very simple to create, and can be produced using the freely available Audacity software, and very inexpensive hardware such as a cheap "Skype" type headset that costs less then £5. We will happily come and teach you, your colleagues, and/or your students how to do it.