Teach >> Articles

Topic: Introduction to Podcasting
Peter Travis gives an introduction to the podcast.
This is adapted from an article that first appeared in the ETP (English Teaching Professional) in September 2007.

Page 1: What are podcasts and why use them
Page 2: Finding and listening to them
Page 3: Using them with your students

Where can I find them?
We’ve already touched on one way to search for podcasts: simply doing a search in Google, Yahoo or your own favourite search engine. This can be the quickest way to locate a podcast on a particular subject. However, there are a growing number of ‘portals’ or websites that feature podcasts specifically, some aimed at particular subjects – like learning English! One of my own favourites can be found at:
http://a4esl.org.
This includes the 20 latest English language podcasts which the site offers links to. Englishcaster is another site with a focus on ESL podcasts:
www.englishcaster.com
General educational podcasts, including English language learning, can be found at EPN:
www.epnweb.org
A UK-based portal Recap, with links to excellent podcasts can be found at:
http://recap.ltd.uk/podcasting/index.php.
Finally there are general podcast portals, which will have an educational category but also many other areas. As with the web generally, there will inevitably be some podcasts that you may find inappropriate for your students:
www.allpodcasts.com
www.podcastalley.com
www.podcast.net
http://podcasts.yahoo.com

How can I listen to them?
When you first come across a website containing podcasts, you’ll probably simply click on the Play button that accompanies each episode to find what it’s like. If you like what you hear, you can then download it to your computer either to listen to again later or toplay to your students in class, where you may have no internet connection. Place the cursor over the Download link and click the right mouse button. What you select next depends on what browser you have. Select Save Target As ..., (Internet Explorer & Opera) or Save Link As... (Firefox) or Download Linked File (Apple Safari). You can then download the file to a location on your computer to listen to later.

If that’s about as involved as you want to get as a consumer of podcasts, you could leave it at that. However, you’d be missing out on one of the big advantages of podcasting. If you find a podcast that’s really useful, you won’t want to miss the next episode, so the subscription opportunity offered with podcasting comes in very handy. So how do you subscribe? First you’ll need to have access to a tool for reading RSS feeds or what is often called a podcatcher. There are basically two methods you can use to do this:
1 Install software on your PC or laptop which will download a podcast you subscribe to automatically. The most popular tool of this kind is iTunes, Apple’s music store. You can download iTunes from the Apple website: www.apple.com. Another popular podcatcher is Juice, which is designed specifically for podcasts:
http://juicereceiver.sourceforge.net.
2 Rather than installing software on your computer, you can use a service that lives on the Internet. You simply create an account and login to the service in the same way you would a Hotmail or Yahoo email account. The difference between this and iTunes is that a web-based podcatcher will not download the podcast automatically. It will simply show when you next login that a new episode has been published and you’re then free to download it manually. My favourite online service is Netvibes. You’ll find a help sheet to show you how to get started with Netvibes here:
http://www.splendid-speaking.com/community
Once you have your podcatcher, it’s simply a question of adding your RSS feed. Links to RSS feeds from the podcast service will often look like this:

You’ll find detailed instructions on how to add the link in the Netvibes help sheet.

Page 1: What are podcasts and why use them
Page 2: Finding and listening to them
Page 3: Using them with your students