Youve probably heard or read the word podcast. Radio and television shows urge their audiences to subscribe to their podcasts for the latest updates. Newspapers suggest readers visit their podcast pages to find digital connections to the stories they print. Podcasts do not have to be published by mass media organizations however. Its just as likely though that youll find a podcast by a colleague, your public library, or students youve taught.
To provide some background, let me explain what a podcast is. A podcast is a series of audio broadcasts that is distributed using an RSS feed. You can think of it as the 21st century version of a radio show. In fact, many radio stations and radio production companies post their radio shows online as podcasts. Chicago Public Radio, for instance, posts episodes of This American Life as podcasts, and my local public radio station, WILL-AM, posts podcasts of all the daily agricultural reports.
I should note that people do misuse the term podcast. In technical terms, an individual audio file that is not distributed by an RSS feeds is not podcasts. Its just a basic audio recording. Such stand-alone audio files can be useful and fun, but for this week, Im focusing on legitimate podcasts only. True podcasts provide new, ongoing resources while single audio files are one-time publications.
You subscribe to the RSS feed of a podcast and then download and listen to each episode using an audio player like iTunes or Windows Media Player. You can find complete instructions for the process using iTunes from the Apple website.
For an even better explanation of podcasts and how they work, watch this video from The Common Craft Show:
Now that you know what a podcast is, how do you find ones that you are interested in? If you use iTunes to listen to podcasts, you can visit the Apple Store, click on the Podcasts link, and begin finding the latest podcasts that have been published. There are similar ways to find podcasts in other audio players, but I use iTunes.
There are online sites you can visit to explore directories of podcasts. You can search through and find anything you like on sites like these (listed alphabetically):
Podcast Alley: http://www.podcastalley.com/There are also sites that list educational podcasts, such as the Education Podcast Network (http://epnweb.org/).
Podcast Pickle: http://podcastpickle.com/
Podcast Ready: http://www.podcastready.com/
You can also seek out podcasts at the sites of professional organizations that you already know as well. Organizations like the American Library Association, the International Reading Association, and International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) all have podcasts that might interest you.
Id be remiss if I didnt share details on two monthly podcasts published by ReadWriteThink each month: Chatting About Books: Recommendations for Young Readers and Text Messages: Recommendations for Teen Readers. In Chatting About Books, host Emily Manning chats with kids, parents, and teachers about the best in childrens literature for ages 4 through 11. Discussions include reading tips and fun activities to do with children before, during, and after reading.
Text Messages podcasts provide book recommendations that adults can pass along to preteen and teen readers. Each episode features one in-depth recommendation plus suggestions of several other related books, audiobooks, or films that will engage and excite teen readers.
If all this discussion has gotten you thinking about how you might use podcasts with students, find some extra inspiration in the English Journal article “The Book Report, Version 2.0: Podcasting on Young Adult Novels.”