Podcasts The Forgotten Tool

How can my learners listen to podcasts?

In class, your learners can listen to podcasts in their normal classroom via a computer or portable device such as iPod, MP3 player or smartphone. In a computer room learners can listen to the audio files via a computer with headphones.

Alternatively, you can arrange for your learners to save the audio files to their own portable devices and complete tasks individually, in small groups or for homework.

How do podcasts support language learning?

Podcasts are great for language learning because:

  • they’re usually a structured audio text (they have a beginning, middle and end section)
  • they usually follow a common entertainment genre such as a talk show or magazine type programme
  • they’re usually scheduled at regular intervals (each day/week) and each episode often follows the same or a similar structure to build into a series
  • there’s a huge variety of podcasts available
  • they’re easily searched online via topics, themes, poems, stories, etc.
  • latest up-to-the-minute stories and articles are available
  • digital audio files are easier to store than CDs and cassettes
  • lots of online audio files are accompanied by video, pictures, etc.
  • podcast software can automatically save the latest audio files
  • internet access is widely available outside the classroom and your learners can learn how to access and register for podcasts on their own.

Benefits for teachers include:

  • regular updates
  • ease of access
  • copyright free materials for classroom use
  • zero (or low) cost
  • additional materials that are often supplied to teach extensive and intensive listening skills.

Criteria to evaluate podcast materials

  • Has the site been updated recently?
  • Do you need to register or pay?
  • Can you find the audio file and preview it easily without downloading the entire file first?
  • Is the language natural?
  • Is the length of the audio appropriate?
  • Is the sound quality good?
  • Does the file play reasonably quickly?
  • Is there advertising present? How intrusive is it?
  • What level of learners would the materials be appropriate for?
  • Can you search topics that fit your syllabus?
  • Can learners interact with the site: add comments, upload own work, etc?
  • Are there any accompanying materials such as exercises or tape scripts?
  • Is there an RSS feed? Is it easy to find and subscribe to?

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