Of the many technology-based training tools available, podcasting offers resource-strapped educators many benefits. It’s a convenient, easy-to-use way to record and play back lessons for students to review course material or catch up on lessons they missed.
Plus, podcasting doesn’t have to be expensive — a microphone and computer are some of the basic tools required, and there’s open-source software available that allows you to quickly record, edit and export content to MP3 files.
Podcast-recorded lectures also offer one way to support guidelines from the Americans with Disa-bil-i-ties Act, which is often a concern at public universities such as the University of Arizona (UA).
Thousands of fac-ulty members in 16 different colleges at the university can borrow digital recorders and strap them to their arms to record lectures. At the end of class, they can export the lecture from the device to their computer, make it an MP3 file and podcast it.
Stuart Glogoff, senior consultant for UA’s Learning Technologies Center, leads a podcasting initiative, whose central mission for the past two years has been to support those who don’t have all the departmental resources they need.
He said podcasts make it very easy to focus on current events and new technologies in a relatable, purposeful way — Glogoff subscribes to a few podcasts that he listens to every day or downloads to his iPod to listen to in the car.
“One of my favorites is ‘this WEEK in TECH,’ which hosts a panel of technologists from around the world,” he said. “When you’re listening, it’s as if they’re sitting in the same room, talking and interacting with each other.
“They’ll focus on a lot of the important IT issues that came up in the past week, and it’s hosted by Leo Laporte, who has put together many different podcast series. He hosts one on security, and I teach an introduction to IT course at the UA. When we do the security module, I have students listen to a recent security podcast so they hear real-world experiences.”
Because podcasts can be delivered in audio or video format, they can be especially helpful when delivering lectures to remote audiences. Glogoff said there is software that will record voice-over PowerPoint slides, which can then be exported to the iTunes podcast format. Other pricier podcasting products take audio files, convert voice to text and input the data into a searchable database.
“If you’re reaching a remote audience, it helps to personalize the instruction,” Glogoff explained. “That person on the other end is not just looking at flat text on a screen — they’re hearing a voice, they’re hearing inflection. You’re relating real-world experience. It makes a personal contact that isn’t there in the print medium.”
Podcasts in the classroom also have value as a marketing tool. At UA, there are hundreds of different departments, most of which are competing with other universities for the best students — podcasting about departmental activities can have instructional value, as well as aid recruiting efforts.
Glogoff said podcasting also fits in well with the idea of mobile computing or learning on the job.
“You don’t have to sit at your desk and concentrate and listen because you’re able to hear it, go back and pause it if you think, ‘This was important — I need to pay closer attention,’” he said. “It’s very easy to put these things on MP3 players and listen to them when you’re driving, traveling, when you’ve got downtime and you’re looking for something to do. Listen to that while you’re playing Spider solitaire.”
–Kellye Whitney, firstname.lastname@example.org