Thing 17 (Week 8): Explore Podcasting

NOTE: For the sake of simplicity, this "Thing," will focus on audio podcasts, but the concepts apply to video podcasts as well.


photo by thornj
photo by thornj

photo by thornj
A podcast is sort of like an online radio show, except the listeners get to decide when and where they want to listen.

The term "podcast" stands for Portable On-Demand Broadcast. And you DON'T NEED an iPod to listen to or create a podcast! Having an iPod (or similar portable device) simply makes listening to podcasts (and other media, such as music, audiobooks and videos) really convenient. (Of course, there are tons of ways to use iPods in education).

An audio file published to the web does not qualify as a podcast. A podcast consists of an audio file (typically MP3 format) published to the web PLUS an RSS feed (XML file). The RSS feed allows listeners to subscribe to the podcast and to automatically receive new episodes in a special type of RSS reader called a podcatcher. In addition to managing your podcast subscriptions and playing the media files, podcatchers can also help you transfer your podcasts to your media player. The most popular podcatcher is iTunes, a free program designed to work with iPods, but which also serves as a general media player and organizer, and a huge, searchable podcast directory.

Good to know: You can subscribe to and play podcasts in your Google Reader, but it can't help you transfer your media files onto your portable player. If you just want to listen to podcasts on your computer, Google Reader is actually a great option, because it just "points to" the podcast files so that you can play them in the reader, whereas a "true podcatcher" such as iTunes actually DOWNLOADS the media files to your hard drive (so that you can transfer them).

Lucky for us, our friends at CommonCraft have created a "Podcasting in Plain English" video...

Due to CommonCraft's Copyright stance, you must view this video directly from their website:

Here is another excellent introduction to Podcasting video, from PodGrunt. Click the image to view the video on its originating page.

external image podgrunt_logo_web.png
external image podgrunt_logo_web.png


Discovery Exercise

The best way to learn about podcasts is to listen to a few of them.

PART 1: Subscribe to the Grammar Girl podcast in your Google Reader. (I just want you to experience how to do this).

General instructions for adding a podcast feed to your Google Reader:
Locate the Podcast RSS or Subscribe icon (or link) and right-click it, then select Copy Link Location (or Copy Shortcut in IE). Log in to your Google Reader, click Add a Subscription, paste the feed URL and click Add).

‡ HELP Page: Step-by-Step (Two-minute) Instructions for subscribing to Grammar Girl in your Google Reader

Grammar Girl Website:

PART 2: Find and preview several podcasts using iTunes. As you explore podcasts in iTunes, begin thinking about ways you could use existing podcasts to supplement your own learning (personal and professional) and classroom teaching/learning.
  1. Download and install iTunes on your computer.
  2. Launch iTunes. Click iTunes Store in the left navigation area.. Within the store, click the drop arrow on the Podcast tab.
  3. Select a category and explore the available podcasts. If you are not familiar with iTunes, please watch this short video from Apple.
    While you are exploring:
    • Try browsing different categories, such as Education, Kids & Family and iTunes Picks. In each category, you will also find a list of Top Podcasts.
    • Try searching for podcasts in the iTunes Store Search bar (type your search term and press enter on your keyboard). On the results page, click Podcasts under Filter by Media Type. Try the Power Search to improve your results.
    • Be sure to visit iTunes U under the Education category! This amazing resource offers a collection of "more than 250,000 free lectures, videos, films, and other resources — from all over the world." (Way more than just podcasts, but you MUST check it out!) Learn more about iTunes U.
  4. Preview several podcasts. You can listen to any podcast episode by clicking the blue Play arrow to the left of the episode title.
  5. Subscribe to at least one podcast of personal interest and one podcast of professional interest using iTunes. Listen to a bit of your subscription(s). You can access your subscriptions

‡ HELP Video: Find, preview and subscribe to a podcast in iTunes
‡ HELP Page: Find, preview and subscribe to a podcast in iTunes

Where else do I find podcasts?

(Nearly all of these can also be found in the iTunes podcast directory, but know that you can add any podcast feed to iTunes by copying the podcast feed URL from the podcast website, then opening iTunes and selecting Advanced > Subscribe to Podcast and pasting the URL). )

Additional Resources


Write a brief blog post sharing your initial thoughts about podcasting in education. Points to consider: Which podcasts did you preview and subscribe to? What did you think? Do you have any ideas about incorporating existing podcasts into your personal, classroom or professional learning? (If you already use iTunes (or other podcatcher) and/or have an iPod or other MP3 player that you use for podcast listening, please share a bit about your experiences. If you are a podcaster, or have used podcasting with students, please share a bit about that as well). Please include "Thing 17" in your post title.


Help Resources for iTunes:
  • Get iTunes 8 - You do not need to provide your email address -- just UNcheck the email alert boxes!
  • Apple iTunes Tutorial: Get Free Podcasts (~2 min)

Where do I find podcasts?

Additional Resources