Podcasting: Reply to Susan

I recently received an email from one of the Webheads (Susan Marandi) asking me about podcasting, and I found the reply I sent to her had ideas that may well be of interest to more people, so I've decided to copy the email here:

Hi Susan

Nice to hear from you too - I've heard what an exciting time you're having at the moment (through the Webheads group) and I'm thrilled for you.

Is podcasting useful for language teaching? I think it has to be - it's the audio equivalent of blogging (it's actually much more than this, but this is one thing it can be). The key, I think, is to get enough language educators interested in it, and for them to start experimenting with it and producing content. At first, as with every new technology, not everything will be great, but we'll get better as we learn from our mistakes. Interested?

I don't think it has to be more complicated than blogging. The best way to start is to become a listener to podcasts (using a "podcatcher") - that way you'll see how useful it is, and start to think how you can use it for students. This is how I started, and very soon after listening to podcasts on the way to work, found I was introducing excerpts to my classes - an example: I used an extract from one podcast with an anecdote/comment about Camilla Parker Bowles and her hats to present discourse markers to a group of Advanced students. It was perfect, and a real example, not scripted from a coursebook cassette.

Of course, there's several ways you can go from here:

- You can listen to lots of podcasts and start to build a "library" of excerpts or
- use excerpts from podcasts occasionally

And this is just using podcasts you listen to. Of course, I'm also thinking about doing podcasts myself, and I've set up a site, inspired by a colleague. Here the idea is to provide content to students who want to listen to English outside of class. The trick I think is to find enough content (or provide enough content) to keep the students interested. On my site, I want to experiment with podcasting to different levels and age groups, but I recognise that the best way of doing this would be to set up a site aimed at one particular level and age group. Nonetheless, if the content is not time-bound, it can be recycled in this way later.

And then, the really interesting time (as with blogging) will come when we start getting students to podcast too. I'm planning on doing something in the summer, with a group of young learners I'll have for a month. They usually do projects, and my idea is for them to put together a radio show in stages, and to podcast it as we do it. Where this would really work well is if another centre in a different part of the world was doing it at the same time.

At university level, think of an intecultural project where students can share opinions, anecdotes, friendship. You set up a blog and a podcast and have an international exchange with other classes. What do they record? Well, you can have different themes as the year goes on. 1) Questions I have about your country and culture 2) Replies to those questions 3) A folk tale from my country 4) A typical day in my life 5) The sterotype of my country and how I feel about it.

If students get interested, then there's a lot that can be done here. I'd really like to do this.

Finally, as educators, there's a lot we can do to help each other with teaching and technology. Ironically, speaking to us is actually more natural than writing. And usually, we are better at speaking than writing. And yet, the idea of recording our voice and sharing it is more daunting than recording our written words to share (in an email, blog, etc). I suppose one reason is because we are used to asynchronous writing, but recording a monologue is more alien to us. Imagine is someone produced a 20 minute round-up of the Webhead group's news every week? I would love that, and download it to listen to religiously, as I am sure many others would too.

Sorry, Susan, this is getting to be a longer reply than I first thought, but your email has inspired me. I'll probably post this on my blog too, as it has a few things I'd like to develop further.

As far as holding back on podcasting, I think you should give it a go now. If you like, I'd love to help you. An idea (but only if you're interested, and have the time): Record an audio file with questions, thoughts, responses to this email, and send it to me. I'll add my response and upload it as a podcast. Then I'll show you how to do the same.

Well, I'll stop rambling now, Susan. Only hope this is as interesting to you to read as it has been for me to write.

:) Graham


  1. a nice presentation of why audioblogs and podcasts might be useful for our students!


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