Technology Column - Addicted to Podcasts
by Shaun Wilden
I am something of a podcast addict, both as a consumer, and for the last year a creator. Making and producing The TEFL commute podcast, now in its second season, is quickly becoming my main hobby. With podcasting as a whole undergoing something of a revival of late, perhaps it’s time to introduce your students to this wealth of listening material.
Podcasts are an excellent way to bring authentic listening material to students in areas that interest them. There are around 100,000 podcasts in English on ITunes so you would imagine there would be at least one that your students or class might like. And if there isn’t, you can get the students to make their own.
Creating a podcast needs no fancy equipment. We make the TEFL commute simply by using garageband on our computers to record our skype conversations. As a class project you can create one simply using apps available for most mobile devices and computers. Even if you don’t want to make a podcast, these apps are excellent for simply capturing audio around you and students recording themselves. So let’s look at five I enjoy using.
Audioboom: Signing up for a free account allows you to create and make 10-minute recordings. It’s great for capturing audio via a mobile device as it uploads directly to your account. I first started using this with students for capturing sounds around us, which we then ‘brought’ to class to guess and talk about. We also use it for short audio descriptions such as the truth or lie game.
Bossjock studio is currently enjoying a lot of praise in the education community at large. Unlike the other apps it isn’t free but for the cost you basically get a recording studio on your apple device. Maybe not for those of you starting out but if, like me, you enjoy adding SFX to your audio, it is well worth a look.
Opinion podcasts is an IOS app designed for podcasting. It makes recording, editing and publishing very easily. Allowing you to start and stop makes it easy to use in the classroom as a number of students can record by simply passing round the device. My last class got great fun out of using it to make audio record chain stories. Instead of passing the paper to their left, they passed their device. One thing to note however is that unless you use the paid version your recording length is limited.
Garage band: If you have bought an apple device in the last year then this app is free (and may well already be on your device). It can look intimidating when you first open it as it is designed for musicians to record on. However simply choose the microphone, press record and you’re off. Files can be saved as mp3 making them easy to share. Another advantage is that you can edit your recordings. If you don’t own an apple device you could download Audacity or even use a website like vocaroo.
Spreaker works on any platform. Without paying for a pro account you can make 30-minute recordings and store up to ten hours in your account. It is as simple as just pressing record then saving and uploading to your account. Perfect for making the class radio program on.
As a class project, making a podcast is one that engages students in and out of the classroom. It can be done over a series of lessons or by utilising some time from each lesson. It can also be the focus for project days such as a kids’ club. By creating material, students are practicing their English. By creating a podcast they have created material for others to get genuine listening practice from. As a by-product a school gets something to use to show how good their students are at English.
Not every student may want to be recorded so typically I assign one or two students to the role of director and producer. They are responsible for overseeing the content and the recording. Its important for me that the students are in charge of the project as it makes the students more motivated. At the start of the project use a lesson to discuss what kind of segments the students want in their podcast. This can be anything but typical things that can be included are reviews (of apps, games, films, music), interviews with students and teachers, school news, and even audio stories. We also like to work with language covered in class so we include overviews of lessons, quizzes on language, and audio exercises based on coursebook material.
Once content has been decided, use parts of subsequent lessons and homework for students to prepare their segments. You can provide language help and advise and help the students craft their piece. One thing they should avoid (unless well rehearsed) is reading the whole piece, as this will make the students sound unnatural. Rehearsal time is a must as people can react strangely when first encountering a microphone. This also helps people work out where they need to sit in relation to the device’s microphone. You don’t need to invest in a fancy microphone, most devices internal mics are strong enough.
Make sure you have a recording day scheduled into the calendar from the start, as this acts as the deadline for preparation. I tend to use a different classroom for the recording as this alleviates any background noise and distractions from other students. With the director overseeing the recording, I send them the required speakers while staying with the majority of the class. Once the recording is complete remember to save it!
Now you’re ready to share. You can upload the mp3 file to some of the sites mentioned earlier, your school’s website or even get the class to start their own thereby extending the project.
That’s it, you have the tools and the ideas now you need to go and make. If you do make sure you send me a link so I can fuel my podcast listening addiction some more.
Author’s Bio: Shaun Wilden has been involved in English language teaching for over twenty years. He is currently the International House World Organisation Teacher Training Coordinator. He also maintains several online teaching sites including ihonlinetraining.net and is interested in the application of technology to teaching. He is a moderator of the twitter #eltchat group which meets every Wednesday to discuss issues and ideas in ELT and membership secretary of the IATEFL Learning Technologies SIG. Feel free to follow him @shaunwilden or read his blog (shaunwilden.com). When not sitting at a computer, Shaun enjoys growing food in his garden and then cooking it.