Do you have a favorite list of podcasts you listen to? In the last few years, podcasting has become a very popular communication medium for everything from tutorials to thrilling headlines (any Serial listeners out there?).
You can find free podcasts on every topic under the sun: from finance to weight loss and everything in between. People enjoy being able to download a podcast and listen to it in their car, on their run, or while theyʼre making dinner. Itʼs portable radio that is customized to your individual tastes.
What is a Podcast?
Essentially, a podcast is simply an audio or video transcription of information that can be downloaded and played anywhere and anytime. Itʼs kind of like satellite radio, but in pre-packaged, time-limited formats.
Podcasts are recorded using software or online recording programs (they donʼt have to be fancy), exported to a digital warehouse (such as iTunes), and then downloaded by anyone who searches for that topic or anyone who has a direct link to the podcast itself.
If you’re looking for education podcasts, we have a few favorites you might enjoy:
And these just skim the surface. There are literally thousands of options to choose from, so you’ll never be left with dead air again.
Using Podcasts In and Out of the Classroom
But podcasts for educators go beyond just passive listening. You can use this communication tool in your own classroom. Podcasts can be used to:
- provide information in a fun and entertaining way (thus, increasing student engagement)
- extend student learning with critical links between content areas
- synthesize student learning through podcast creation and
- communicate with parents and the community
Letʼs take a look at each one of these in depth to explore their uses and possibilities.
Informational podcasts are podcasts that you, the teacher, create. You record the information that you want to provide either audibly or visually and then have your students download it. You can use this as a center for students during a reading or math rotation, or as part of a homework assignment. Or, if you recorded a video for students, you can easily download just the audio and turn that into a podcast they can listen to later as a reminder.
These types of podcasts are really one- way in scope. You are feeding the students the information. Obviously, there is an appropriate time for this in a learning environment – it is the standard method of teaching. However now, instead of being tethered to a classroom, students can learn the information you want to share anytime and anywhere.
For instance, if you happened to be absent for a class, you could pre-record a podcast and have the substitute share it during class. Or, if youʼre nervous about a sub in your classroom not knowing what to do, you could put it up on your class blog and have students listen to it for homework. This actually frees up a lot of classroom time. By having students listen to the information at home, in a center, or otherwise, you can then take precious classroom time to use the information through projects, assessments, or portfolios.
Informational podcasts should include some way of keeping track or assessing the information that was learned. For example, I created a podcast about synesthesia and used it as a center rotation. I also provided several worksheets for students to use to apply what I taught during the podcast. This way, your students are being engaged in active, rather than passive, listening.
Podcasts can also be used to extend and connect what youʼve taught in the classroom to other meaningful content areas that are relevant to your students. For instance, if you are teaching a math unit on measurement, you can create a podcast about the use of measurement in architecture and design.
Students can listen to how designers create monuments such as the Washington Monument, the Eiffel Tower, and the Taj Mahal. What would have happened if their measurements were off? Why is math so important in these designs? What patterns can they find? Podcasts can provide critical links to the world beyond the classroom using the information that students are learning.
Podcasts are also very useful if you are looking to connect music and the content areas. For a lot of people who are not musicians or music teachers, music is the last artform that they want to try to use within the content area due to a fear of exposure. Many people say “I canʼt sing – Iʼm not doing that in front of my students!” yet music is more than singing or playing an instrument.
Itʼs also about listening, rhythmic and melodic structure and aesthetics. Using a podcast to connect a content area like math or reading to music is a fantastic way to weave two objectives together.
For instance, if you were to take that math objective of measurement and teach the musical concept of patterns simultaneously, you could create a podcast wherein you teach the math concept of measurement and use for your examples snippets of songs that demonstrate the use of specific patterns through measurement (Bach is great at that; so is Kesha).
By using music as your example for the math concept, students then understand why they are learning the material and become invested in their learning.
One of the best ways to use podcasting is through student creation. Rather than the teacher doing all of the work, train your students how to create a podcast and have them do the work themselves.
Assign students to create podcasts that demonstrate their learning of a particular concept(s) by linking their information to a current problem or issue. Their podcast should then be available for other students to download so that the students become the teachers.
We want our students to be independent and make meaning out of their knowledge. By becoming the teachers, they must not only know about the topic, but they must be able to make the connections that will allow them to explain it to someone else. Podcasts provide them with an opportunity to do this with ease.
Students can create their own worksheets to go with the podcasts and then the other students can complete the worksheets after listening to their peer podcasts. Students can be assessed on how well they taught the information based upon the feedback by their peers, or can be assessed on what their own synthesis of the information conveyed. Suddenly, the classroom becomes an environment where everyone is a learner and a teacher – the old hierarchy is gone. Welcome to 21st century learning!
We want our students and our schools to have a voice within their community. We want to be active participants in what is happening and contribute to the community as a whole. We need to teach our students the tools of communication and how to let their voices be heard in a positive and constructive way. Podcasts allow students to communicate in this manner.
Let’s take a look at some examples. If there is a community issue – have your students create a podcast with their opinions and potential solutions. Then post it to the blog and send it to your community leaders. Do you have a subject going on in your classroom that you would like the parents and community members to know about? Would you like to invite them in to participate in an event? Creating a podcast to share this information is a great way to get them excited about coming.
Part of podcasting is in teaching our students how to be productive and creative citizens that use language as a tool for positive change and increasing collaboration. By allowing our students the opportunity to use podcasts for these goals and by educating them on how to communicate well, we are preparing them for their changing roles in the 21st century.
Podcasts have so many benefits and can be used in a variety of ways. In the end, it all comes down to communication with each other. Donʼt be afraid of the podcast – embrace it and it can save you time and change your classroom environment for good!
How to Create a Podcast
There are a couple of different ways to create a podcast. The most common options are either by using Garageband (a software program included in Mac OS X and up) or by using Audacity (a free, downloadable software program for any operating system). Weʼre going to explore these two with some step-by-steps so that you can get a taste of developing your own podcast.
Let’s start with using Garageband. Again, this program is on all Mac computers with operating systems. Itʼs indicated by the little guitar on your dashboard. If you donʼt have a Mac, thatʼs fine. You can skip to the Audacity area. Watch these video clips for step-by-step directions to creating a podcast in Garageband:
1.) Open Garageband from your desktop. Click “Podcast” when it gives you the options of what to record.
2.) Click record to record your voice. Click record again to stop recording. To listen to your podcast, click the rewind button.
3.) To add artwork, simply select the top “Artwork” section on your podcast. Then, from the right hand sidebar, select “Photos”. Select a photo you would like to use as the album cover and drag it onto the Artwork section.
4.) To add jingles, select the “Jingles” section on your podcast. Then, from the right hand sidebar, select “Audio” and find a piece of music youʼd like to use. Click and drag that onto the “Jingles” section. It will download the whole piece of music. Shorten it by selecting the music, waiting for the left arrow to appear, click and drag back to where you want the intro music to end.
5.) Save your work often! After you save, go up to the top and under “Share” click “Export Song to Disc”. This will then export your podcast to your desktop or file you choose. You can now upload it to a website, your Google Drive or listen to it from your computer.
Additional tutorials for sharing your podcast can be found here.
Additional Uses for Garageband
Garageband is also great for having students create their own music by recording or adding loops to create new songs. This is a wonderful way for students to understand patterns, dynamics, environmental sounds, adding music to a story and more! I have my students create songs on Garageband by writing their own song, recording it on the Garageband platform, then adding loops that enhance their music with drums, guitars and more.
Audacity is just like Garageband, except that you can use it on any operating system, including Windows, Mac or Linux. You can download it for free on the internet by going to the Audacity website. After you download it, follow these steps for creating a podcast:
1.) Open Audacity. This take you directly to the recording menu.
2.) Click record at the top left and begin recording your podcast. When youʼre finished click the stop button.
3.) Listen to your podcast by clicking play.
4.) To edit out a section, simply click the track, highlight what you want to remove and click delete.
5.) Save your project!
6.) Click File, Export to export your new podcast to an application for uploading. If you use iTunes OR a Mac, you can export as an AIFF. If you use a Windows machine that DOES NOT have iTunes, export as an MP3 or WAV file.
If you need more information on Audacity, you can view this tutorial. I just want you to know the basics for now of creating a podcast using these tools.
How and Where to Share
Now that you have a podcast episode recorded, how do you share it? It depends on how you want to use it. If you’re just creating a podcast for your students or having students create a podcast for practice, you can keep it all internal. This is the simplest way forward.
If you’re keeping it internal, I suggest having a specific file on your computer or on your cloud service (Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud, etc). Then, just export the episodes directly to that folder and listen as you choose.
If you’re planning to share your episodes online, you’ll want to take an additional step of uploading your episodes to a specific podcast hosting service. This will make it easier to share it on your website or on iTunes.
We recommend two hosts to try: Podbean and Buzzsprout. Both offer free plans for educators with between 2 and 5 hours of content. If it takes off, you can always look at upgrading to their paid programs, but that’s not necessary right away.
Once you register with a host, you can then upload your audio file to that service. The service will then allow you to embed an audio player in your website or class blog to share the podcast episodes.
And if you want to share it to iTunes, those services will even help you upload it there with the click of a button.
Truly, you are in complete control of how far and wide you want to broadcast your podcasts. It’s just up to you and your intentions for use.
Podcasting is a powerful way to assist you in using technology within your classroom to weave the content areas and the fine arts together. Enjoy creating rich, meaningful learning experiences for all of your students with this communication tool.