Educational Technologies: The Podcast
What is Podcasting?
Podcasting is yet another digital technology which has erupted on the scene and which is so hard for adults to keep up with in the ‘digital deluge’. Podcasting is only a couple of years old at the time of writing but it is rapidly developing into an important part of ‘new media’.
In essence the Podcast is the equivalent of being able to take a radio programme around on a tape and listen to it on your personal stereo (Walkman). It is in a computer file format which can be played on many different devices.
How to listen
Increasingly you will be able to play them on your car sound system, your sound system at home including portable digital radios as well as on iPod or MP3 players and also mobile phones which can store the MP3 file format. You can also play them on your laptop computer. With a set of headphones it is possible to lsiten and work on the train for example.
The iPod or MP3 player are the normal way of listening to these. These devices are becoming cheaper and more sophisticated all the time with many mobile phones having the facility to download and play MP3 sound files. The latest of these devices are able to store the content of dozens of CDs with hard drive memories larger than the average household computer of a few years ago.
The file format thus allows for what are sometimes described in media terms as place-shifting and time-shifting. Or ‘when you want it, how you want it, where you want it’ in plain English.
How do you get Podcasts?
Its all very well talking about them – and I’m writing this pretty much as I learn- but its another thing getting all the technology sorted out and wondering if it will all work together and then will it really be worth it when you’ve done all this when reading a good book in the garden might be more pleauarable.
I think the answer is yes or this article wouldn’t be here. The first thing is that you will neeed the correct software loaded onto your computer. The best software to use is “iTunes” from the Apple website. This also comes with the latest version of “Quicktime” which you will be able to download at the same time. The process is quite painless and you will end up with a couple of nice little extra icons on your desktop.
For cinema a good place to go to start the process is the Moviemail podcasts page
The site gives some explanation of podcasts and also gives you some options. You can listen to a choice of podcasts without actually keeping them or else you can follow the link which says ‘subscribe via iTunes’. This will take you to the Apple site. (It is a busy site and sometimes seems to get stuck as it did with me when writing this. Just go back later if this happens). once you are into the site followthe instructions for getting iTunes / Quicktime. You can then ‘subscribe’ to the Moviemail podcast lists. You will see a list of what is available and you can choose which ones to download. there is a button to click saying get this (or something like that I can’t check at the moment). The software gives you one of those annoying lists saying “customers who subscribed to this also ….” . Well actually it was quite useful as it took me to some useful podcasts from the Guardian and the Times / BFI London Film Festival.
Now the files are in your computer and can be downloded to other devices in the usual ways.
When I find more useful podcasts I will stick in links to the Podcastography (or whatever these lists are going to get called eventually).
Future usage on my courses
For the current Open Studies course on “Weimar and Nazi Cinema” I don’t expect us to be making our own podcasts but this is going to be increasingly possible as better recording equipment becomes cheaper.
If you are reading this as an A level media student I’m currently thinking
about converging podcast making into the coursework of making websites and radio. Rather than radio ‘broadcasts’ being made available for two weeks on a limited licence podcasts will be availbale on the network.
The great cultural critic Raymond Williams once described the Walkman as ‘mobile privatisation’, however this is a pessimistic view which doesn’t allow for the possibilities of being in communication in a different mental space form the physical space. This form of communication can be at any intellectual level. In reality people on tubes and trains can be remarkably private and locked into their own thoughts without any technology. one always needs to ask the question whther there is some sort of nostalgia present for a ‘golden age ’ of interpersonal communication based on ‘community’ which never quite existed in reality.
What is on the Way?
This weekend (Nov 18 / 06) The Financial Times ‘How to Spend it’ (Wish I had their problems :-) ) on the gadgets for Xmas page announced the world’s first digitally recording microphone mentioning that it will be good for podcasters. – It happens to be British – expect that some sort of device like this will be on all up-market mobile ‘phones’ (Multi communication devices might be a beter name) in about 18 months and in three years time they will be common. Anyway it’s called FlashMic
The point is that we will all reasonably soon be able to use a digital recording device in a commonly used file format and put it onto the web.
This means that there are good educational uses developing as well as the possibility of narrowscasting acoss the world.
A more reasonably priced but obviously bulkier item is the Marantz flash memory digital recorder. This means that you can record whatever on the same cards which you will be using for a digital camera. There is a customer review on there as well.
New Educational Paradigms?
From the perspective of education it is likely to be very useful in recording small group discussions in workshops and seminars. It will be useful in interviewing people and it will also be useful in recording research projects such as focus groups and semi-structured interviews.
The actual recordings can be used in a variety of different ways and for different target audiences. Already some university lecturers are making their lectures available as podcasts (Check this link). This means that peole can listen or re-listen to the lecture at their convenience. It may even mean that lectures become more infrequent to be replaced by other formes of delivery and learning techniques.
Supervisors and tutors will be able to listen to the focus group dicusssions and evaluate them, or else listen to small group discussions and give appropriate feedback. Furthermore all the small group discussions could be collected and a greater range of ideas made available to all course participants.
Furthermore all participants will be able to access and download these discussions. This will encourage a far better system of peer group assessment combined with tutor input. If the podcast recordings of say five discussion groups are uploaded to webspace the following day, a typical student formative student task would be to generate feedback upon other discussions. These could be discussed at the next workshop and also uploaded to a forum either in text or as a podcast as well.
The job of a tutor will be to give the criteria expected in an evaluative podcast for example. The criteria could include evidence of listening to all the other podcasts, synthesising and summarising the arguments and making an evaluative judgemnt about these arguments. This could be done in the more traditional text format or else delivered as a podcast. Thus there is no reason why much of the student work and tutor assessment cannot become aural.
From an educational perspective this is developing a range of skills which are much used in quality radio for example but little recognised. Much of the debate within media and cultural studies focuses upon the visual versus the written text. The rise of the podcast could have quite far reaching implications. One big advantage underlying the potential of the podcast is its flexibility. The contents are easily listened to while travelling for example at times when reading and notetaking may awkward.
Other Useful Links on Podcasting
This is a link to Warwick Podcasts where a number of interviews with academics discuss a broad range of issues. These show what can be done.
This is a link to BBC Podcasts