Podcasting through time and space

July 19, 2009

podcasting in education

The following post is intended to aid your listening of this audio blog. If you have any problems with video, please click on the link above and open in a new window to listen to this blog post. 

I can hear my heart pounding in my ears. Short, quick breaths catch in my throat as I slowly, slowly, slowly creep toward the microphone. Why is everybody staring at me? What are they thinking about me right now? I fumble through my speech. My voice sounds so far away, and then… it’s over before I know it. A deep breath. It’s over… until I face an audience again.

Not everyone experiences anxiety to this degree when faced with the daunting task of speaking in front of an audience, but an alarming number of people do. Now, imagine speaking in front of millions of people. Diffusion Group (2005)  predicted that nearly 60 million people will listen to podcasts by 2010. If you’re an anxious public speaker, that possibility  is enough to make your heart stop. Somehow, podcasting makes speaking in front of this many people far less scary. Why? With podcasting you have the luxury of anonymity (it is quite okay to use a pseudonym or name different from your own) and you have wonderful software tools like audacity to correct any mishaps. This is what makes podcasting a highly effective tool to use in education, as it provides students with a means of presenting new knowledge with less social risk (November, 2006). We have an opportunity to focus more on speaking skills like voice projection, intonation, and pace, and to focus less on the psychological preparation involved in public speaking where the audience can see your every nervous move. While I do feel it is necessary to develop confidence in public speaking, perhaps it would be more effective to have students learn speaking skills first.

 I often watch my students shy away when presenting in front of the class. Instead, I would love to hear them speak confidently about the connections and new knowledge they make. I believe eliminating the fear factor of messing up in front of the class results in greater risk taking and learning. As well, students become more motivated to investigate and prepare for their topic with the knowledge that their voices literally will be heard all over the world. One voice really can make a difference thanks to podcasting.

 What is podcasting? Why bother?

For those who may not be familiar with what a podcast is, it is a series of media clips collected using tools such as Skype, an MP3 player, or a  microphone hooked up to your computer. What makes a podcast different from a regular audio file is the fact that it is broadcasted to anyone who subscribes to your RSS feed. As Chris Kretz (Courtney, 2007, pg36) states, “The RSS feed defines the podcast.

Podcasts have evolved from audio only, to audio and video (vodcast), to enhanced podcasts using photos, URL links, and pdf files to aid the audio presentations. Some will also include text in their blog to support the podcast. The steps required to create a podcast include presenting, recording, and publishing. The software needed to record the audio comes at a low cost and editing software like garageband (for Macs) and audacity are free.  In order to publish your podcast, you need to find a hosting site that will broadcast your podcast for you. Sites such as podspot, ourmedia.org, and odeo studio provide this service for free. Websites like Podpress, GoDaddy, and Libsyn provide this service for a fee, which is recommended if you plan to host regular podcasts. And all of this great “amateur radio,” as it is described by Will Richardson (2009) can be found using podcatchers like iTunes. I would take this one step further and say that there is a 4th step to podcasting, especially if it is used in an educational context, and that is to receive feedback and respond. By inviting the feedback of one’s audience, a mutually beneficial exchange of information occurs, to which a podcaster can respond in the next podcast.

What educational value does podcasting provide? For one, we are no longer “bound by geographical location,” (Eash 2006) space, and time. We now exist in an era of “point of need information” (Eash, 2006). We can receive information when we need it and wherever we need it, as long as there is an internet connection. Lamb and Johnson (2007) bring up an excellent point that podcasts allow the presenter to express emotions in way that cannot be achieved through text. I’m sure that anyone who has ever had an “Email misunderstanding” would agree that a text message doesn’t always convey your intented meaning.

 David Baugh (Cole, 2007), an information technology advisor, gives three great reasons to use podcasts in education. One, podcasts encourage continuous learning as you are motivated to continue creating or listening to a series rather than one episode only. Two, your audience is huge and this makes for more authentic learning activities. Three, save the Earth! There is no longer a need to waste paper on newsletters. To support the idea that podcasting direct instruction aids in differentiation, Shawn Wheeler provides some interesting statistics on memory retention in his presentation, “Say it Again…Improving Student Learning through Podcasting.”

Memory Retention 

  20 minutes   47% forgotten
  1 day   62% forgotten
  2 days   69% forgotten
  75 days   75% forgotten
  78 days   78% forgotten

                                                *Walter Pauk (Cornel 84)

After 20 minutes of listening to this podcast, you will forget nearly half of what I said. What better way to retrieve this information than by returning to this podcast and listening again. I’m sure you can see the connection to setting students up for success.

 Practical Applications

Podcasts are not really a new technology, as they have been around since 2004,  however, in the last 3 years, podcasts have become more utilized in classrooms all over the world. Currently, podcasts are playing an important role in the education of our young people. What follows are some examples of how podcasting is being used for motivation and differentiated instruction:

Some additional ways I plan to use and encourage podcasting are:

  • Weekly storytelling by teachers and parents and family overseas with the use of Skype recordings
  • Weekly Spelling word list with use in sentences
  • Virtual wax museum when doing the biography writing unit in grades 3 and 4
  • Grade 5 Science Fair presentations (vodcasts) to be attached to student websites for parents who can’t make it to school in person.
  • Student weekly book talk in the form of vodcasts (see Isinglass BookTalk Podcasts )

 As I listened to different podcasts during my research, I carefully considered how podcasts can be used to enable differentiation in the classroom.  I am reminded of a podcast presented by Shawn Wheeler where he reminds us that podcasting facilitates learning at your own pace and provides extension activities for advanced learners. Both of which are important qualities for differentiation. This technology meets the needs of the auditory learner. By recording the direct instruction portion of a lesson and publishing this to your podcast, students are able to review the day’s lesson. Students with dyslexia, or other reading difficulties, now have an auditory aid. Podcasts serve the interpersonal learner as they are able to work with others to create a project and serves the intrapersonal learner who prefers to share his/her ideas alone.

 Curricular Implications

Keeping in mind that one shouldn’t use podcasting just for the sake of using it, I looked for different entry points in our curriculum here at SIS, where creating a podcast would actually enhance the process by which curricular standards were met. I quickly saw that there were many opportunities for the use of podcasts. As Eash (2006) pointed out, “Students learn to research, write, develop vocabulary, speak effectively, manage time, solve problems, and grab attention,” when working with podcasts. This applies across all curricular areas, as does the fact that podcasting requires Bloom’s highest level of thinking; synthesis. With regards to ALA standards (American Association of School Librarians, 2007) that I see more specifically addressed with podcasting,  participating in the social exchange of ideas (4.3.1), using writing and speaking skills to communicate new understandings effectively (3.1.3),  and respecting copyright/intellectual property rights of creators and producers (1.3.1).  In the panel discussion, “Is there a Place for Media Specialists Who Don’t Know Social Media,” (Hargadon, 2009), a recommendation was made to inform the administrator and parent community about how podcasting supports the ALA standards as well as our School-wide Learning Expectations at SIS as a way of soliciting the support of the school community.

 What I feel is very important to point out is the way that podcasts can be used to teach the whole child. At the school I teach at, we have the School-wide Learning Expectations, fondly dubbed as T.I.G.E.R.S. SLE’s. These SLE’s can be addressed and assessed with the use of podcasting. Students can become effective communicators by preparing, practicing, performing, and publishing their ideas so that they can be heard by people all over the world. Students can become reflective learners and global citizens by listening to the differing perspectives on world issues, and by offering their own ideas and perspectives to these global conversations. They can be trustworthy individuals and demonstrate integrity by learning about and valuing ownership rights. Podcasting also enables teachers to have professional development opportunities at their fingertips, modeling life-long learning.

In the podcast, “Is there a place for media specialists,” one of the questions asked was, how do we help librarians to “retool” in order to ensure they are up to date with new technologies. The response was that administrators have a responsibility to ensure best teaching practices and that current librarians need to reach out. I believe that podcasting, using sites like LISRadio and OPAL, (proposed by Courtney, 2007, pg 39 and 41), are an excellent way to encourage others to “retool.”

 What might limit our use of podcasts?

I thought long and hard about the potential limitations of this technology, and could only think of three. Depending on your school’s budget for technology, cost could be an issue, as there could be a shortage of computers and or MP3 players. As well, rural areas without high speed internet may find that downloading audio and video files, and uploading podcasts is a long and tedious job, and isn’t worth the time. Last, is copyright. Because of copyright laws, you are not normally able to publish the reading of an entire book. This might limit my intended use of podcasts because I plan to do a weekly storytelling podcast from the library. This means that I will need to seek the permission of each author to read his/her book and publish it on our podcast.

 Issues to consider

There a several important issues to consider when implementing podcasts. One important issue associated with podcasting is privacy. Communication is critical and the behavioral expectations, learning outcomes, and ways to protect privacy should be addressed at the beginning of the year with parents and administration. In the elementary school, we might consider using first name only when a student is introducing him or her self. Another issue is ownership and copyright. This issue can be resolved using photos and music from fair use sites like CCMixter.org and podomatic.com. As well, students should be familiar with fair use guidelines. Creative Commons is a great way to help develop digital citizens (Hargadon, 2009).  A third issue, brought to my attention by Lamb and Johnson (2007), is authority. Anyone can create a podcast, and students need to know the difference between fact and opinion. They also need to be taught how to evaluate the credibility of the podcast source the same way they would evaluate a website.

 Andy Carvin (2006) identifies 3 more issues that might limit the impact of podcasting in education. These are accessibility, basic literacy skills, and a lack of quality content. I have to agree that accessibility might still be an issue in 2009. While the number of households who are online has no doubt increased, we cannot ignore the still high number of disadvantaged kids who cannot afford to buy an MP3 player, let alone a computer and monthly internet fees. THESE children do not get to benefit from the wondrous aggregators and RSS feeds. Carvin (2006) also mentions that there are many who are not information or technology literate. The problem with this is that you have to search for your podcasts initially, which presents a limitation if you are unsure how to use a search engine. And finally, Carvin (2006) states that the target topics for most podcasts are mainly entertainment and news. I think that things have changed a lot since 2006, and I think that Carvin would retract this statement, as there is now a massive amount of quality educational podcasts available. Check out iTunes U to demonstrate this point.

My Personal Journey

I have to make a confession; I am one of those teachers who has asked my students to create a podcast, without actually trying it out for myself. How on earth did I teach the kids to create a podcast then? I didn’t. Our wonderful technology specialist stepped in and taught my students how to record their presentations on an MP3, how to save these on a file, how to edit their audio,  and about fair use using creative commons and flashkit. He then took care of publishing the podcasts to iTunes and to our school server. Well, I’ve decided I would much rather be able to understand this process so that I am better able to use podcasting as a teaching and learning tool.

 I began by considering what I wanted to talk about. I felt it would be most appropriate, for the purpose of this assignment, to audio blog. Once I recorded my audio blog, I saved it as an MP3 file. My computer already had audacity installed, so this is the software I used to edit my blog post and to add music and sound effects to it. Our technology coordinator has also posted a tutorial   for creating podcasts, which I used to help me create this assignment. Playing around with audacity was exciting and frustrating at the same tame. I had an opportunity to check out usable sound effects and music and try them out in the podcast. My husband and I had a good laugh at some of the effects, but in the end, I decided that sometimes less is more. And the result, is what you’re listening to right now. Overall, it was quite straightforward. The most challenging part for me was talking into the MP3 player and being very aware of my own voice, but I think I could get used to it.

 Podcasting can be an empowering experience, for teachers and for students. A sense of accomplishment is felt when one successfully broadcasts what they want to say to a vast audience, an otherwise nerve racking event. As with all technologies, the use of podcasting comes with issues and limitations, however, I believe the benefits to all people who wish to be lifelong learners, make it worth finding solutions. Solutions include ensuring all our students have access to the technology required to create and catch podcasts, educating students in fair use policies and information literacies, and teaching students how to evaluate a podcast for credibility.

Works Cited

1. American Library Association (2007). 21st Century Learners. Retrieved Sept.12, 2008.  http://www.ala.org.aasl/standards.

2. Carvin, Andy (2006 Feb.22). “At the U of Missouri Scholarly Communications Conference.” Retrieved July 17th, 2009. http://www.andycarvin.com/archives/2006/02/at_the_u_of_missouri.html

3. Cole, George (2007 Sept.18). “Why every school should be podcasting.”The Guardian. Retrieved July 18, 2009. http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2007/sep/18/link.link16  

4. Eash, Esther Kreider.  (2006, April). PODCASTING 101 FOR K-12 LIBRARIANS. Computers in Libraries, 26(4), 16-20.  Retrieved July 17, 2009, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 1024232971).

 5. Lamb, Annette & Johnson, Larry. (2007). Podcasting in the school library, part 1: integrating Podcasts and   vodcasts into teaching and learning. Teacher Librarian, 34(3), 54-57.  Retrieved July 17, 2009, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 1204860731).

 6. November, Alan sponsored by Learning.com K-8 Technology Integration Podcasts (2006 March 9) The Education Podcast Learning Network.   http://epnweb.org/player.phppodshow=http://www.learning.com/podcast/Alan_November_2.16.06.mp3&podcast=Learning.com K-8 Technology Integration Podcasts&program=Alan November Leadership Symposium, March 9, 2006

7. Hargadon, Steve (2009 June 15). Panel Discussion: “Is There a Place for Media Specialists Who Don’t Know Social Media?”  with Valenza, Joyce; Hamilton, Buffy; Nelson, Cathy; Foote, Carolyn. Website: The future of education.  http://www.futureofeducation.com/forum/topics/panel-discussion-is-there-a

 8. Troutner, Joanne.  (2007). Best Sites for Educational Podcasts. Teacher Librarian, 34(3), 43-44.  Retrieved July 17, 2009, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 1204860641).

9. Wheeler, Shawn. “Say it Again…Improving Student Learning through Podcasting” Podcast retrieved July 17, 2009. http://tinyurl.com/22rddy

For Further Reading/listening







Schrock, K. (2006). What makes a good Podcast? http://school.discovery.com/schrock guide/evalpodcast.html

 ISTE Vision Network. June 29, 2009. Podcasting and Podcatching for the Absolute Beginner. Larry Anderson, Anna Adam, Lucy Gray, Helen Mowers, Craig Nansen and Julene Reed. www.istevision.org/watch.php?vid=734c10f376251fdedcae48f25b13973868a8e764

Places to list your podcast












  1. “This means that I will need to seek the permission of each author to read his/her book and publish it on our podcast”

    You might be able to find books or stories that are in the public domain you could use (e.g. fairytales) so that you could save yourself a step in this process. You might have to rely on your own (or the kids’) oral storytelling skills but this might be a good way to avoid getting into copyright trouble.

  2. Would Creative Commons be the best place to find stories we are permitted to podcast without worrying about copyright?
    I was also hoping to have students read their own stories. Grade 1’s and 2’s can write some pretty interesting stuff:)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: