It seems that the opportunities for teaching and learning are endless when it comes to both audio and video podcasts.It opens up ways of learning that teachers 20 or even 10 years ago may not have even imagined.
Firstly, being able to subscribe to educational podcasts for free is so good. Once you have subsribed it loads the current issue, then automatically loads future issues when they are published. And if you aren't happy or have enough, then you can simply unsubscribe. The automatic laoding of new issues means you can just go to iTunes and check if you have any new material rather than searching and having to load each episode. In that way it is really simple and user friendly, especially if you find a good one that is relevant to you.
The big difference with using podcasts as an instructional tool as opposed to other Web 2.0 technologies, is that it is available for use anytime, anywhere. I think it's safe to say that most students have an iPod or other MP3/MP4 player in their pocket or bag 90% of the time. Having learning podcasts on them means they can do their "readings" for a subject; or catch up on a missed class; or do their homework; or be guided through a practical session... whatever it is they need to listen to or watch can happen anywhere - on the bus, in the library, waiting for their pizza etc. - and anytime they have time to press 'play'. It gives learners another option that fits in with their lifestyle outside of school. Not just time-wise but in the way of engagement.
Today's learners are not looking for yesterday's education, they are looking to be engaged in school the same way they are engaged outside of school (Prensky, 2005). It is becoming clear that ICTs are at the centre of their engagement. As Digital Natives are learners are able to multi-task and parallel process (Prensky, 2001). If learners are given podcasts as a learning path it can fit in with their life and bring education up to their level of living. Can you just imagine a high school student with his iPod in his ears listening to a podcast, while texting his best mate, catching up with friends on MSN, researching for an assignment on the internet and downloading cheats for his new video game all at the same time? To me, that sounds exhausting, but if you take a look this is how our learners of today, these Digital Natives, prefer to workin their lives outside of school (Prensky, 2001). So why not give them the option at school and marry the two worlds together?
As I said, a multitude of ways of using podcasts in education come to mind. Including use for the individual, as a group, or as a class; to be introduced to new material, as a "reading" to complement learning, or as extra material; for in class work, homework, or 'anytime' work; to listen to, to watch, or to create and upload for others... I'm sure you can think of more.
But when it comes down to it, I don't think it really matters how or in how many ways you can use podcasts. What really matters is that using them, and letting learners use them for educational purposes, is a step closer to engaging and keeping the interest of today's learners. It is a step closer to some 'damned good curricular gameplay' that will engage our learners, and not enrage them (Prensky, 2005).
Prensky, M. (2001). 'Digital Natives and Immigrants.' On the Horizon, Vol. 9 No. 5. MCB University Press.
Prensky, M., (2005). 'Engage Me or Enrage Me: what today's learners demand'. Educause Review, September/October