Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Podcasting - An Engaging Tool for Authentic Learning and Assessment

Podcasting is a powerful way to share information, tell stories, entertain and assess learning in a creative, engaging and authentic way. OK, it's a great thing, but what is podcasting you ask?  Podcasting is using the Internet to host episodes of audio and/or media files that can be heard/seen on the Internet, on your own computer or downloaded.  Often, they are captured in "podcatchers" like iTunes which looks for new episodes of a particular podcast to which you have subscribed.  Someone explained podcasts to me once by making the analogy between podcasting and an old fashioned radio show.  However, now we can make audio podcasts, enhanced podcasts (audio accompanied by pictures) and video podcasts (which are sometimes called vodcasts).  This is another way of making a digital story to share with people from all over the world or just your little piece of it.  They can be hosted on local networks or your computer so that they are not accessed globally or hosted in the cloud on sites such as podomatic, odeo, or iTunes (there are many others) so that they can be shared with all who would like to listen to them.

 In education, podcasting can be used as an authentic way of learning and assessment.  For example, imagine a middle school language arts classroom where the students are beginning to learn about the 9 comprehensive reading strategies.  After initial introduction to the strategies, students are asked to work in pairs to create a podcast on a particular strategy.  The strategy is to be explained in the podcast and an example given to demonstrate how the strategy is used while reading.  An appropriate introduction and conclusion are incorporated into the podcast as well as nice background music. The teacher uses a rubric to assess the students' understanding of the reading strategy assigned, as well as the students' use of the technology.  Then the podcasts are shared with the entire community so that all students and parents can learn from the podcasts.  By sharing with the community at large, parents and grandparents are now able to better help their children with reading comprehension!  The students were able to participate in an fun, engaging and authentic learning experience that benefits their community and feel a sense of pride in their work.  This kind of scenario could be done in all content areas.

Give podcasting a try with your students.  You will be glad you did and so will they!  Below are some helpful links to get you started! to upload, and store your podcasts.  You can even create an RSS feed that you can give to iTunes and they will become a podcatcher for your feeds.  This has a definite cool factor for students.  This is a free downloadable software that will let you record your podcast and change it into an mp3.  You will also need the lame encoder file to make mp3's in Audacity.  Audacity will work on either a Mac or a PC.  The site has downloads for both formats.

Here are some Audacity tutorials: is where you can get some music from the public domain for your podcast.

Good luck!!

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