Too often tech geeks (like myself) use words to name new technologies that serve to exclude people rather than include them. We come up with names like blog, Ning, Twitter, and Flickr. People hear the words, they read the names and they are intimidated. They fear venturing into something that they don’t know or understand. How do you approach learning what a Ning is when you don’t have even the faintest idea what it’s about?
And it’s my job to demystify that.
The irony is that these names describe technologies that are completely inclusive rather than exclusive. These technologies have made so much of what used to be the domain of trained professionals now available to EVERYONE. Yes, that includes you.
Podcasting is one of these things.
Podcasts are nothing more than files, mostly audio files, but not always anymore…now they could have video. These files are kept on the web. People download them and then people listen to them. Imagine a radio show that you like listening to, only it’s on at 2 am and you just can’t be awake at that time to listen to it. What if instead, that radio show was recorded and you could get it any time and listen to it anytime. That’s a podcast.
What makes podcasts different from just any old file on the web actually has more to do with RSS, which I talked about in a previous post. Because RSS means that you can subscribe to a site and get information whenever it’s added to that site. For podcasts that means that once you subscribe to a “show” that you are interested in, every time a new “episode” is added, it will automatically download to your computer.
Here’s how Podcast Alley (more on them later) describe podcasts:
Podcasting, created by former MTV VJ Adam Curry, is a term that was devised as a crisp way to describe the technology used to push audio content from websites down to consumers of that content, who typically listen to it on their iPod (hence the “pod”) or other audio player that supports mp3 at their convenience. The term podcasting is meant to rhyme with broadcasting and is a derivative of the iPod platform. While not directly associated with Apples iPod device or iTunes music service, the company did contribute both the desire and the technology for this capability. Podcasting is not unlike time-shifted video software and devices like TiVo, which let you watch what you want when you want by recording and storing video, except that podcasting is used for audio and is currently free of charge. Note, however, that this technology can be used to push any kind of file, including software updates, pictures, and videos.
They go on to add:
What makes podcasting special is that it allows individuals to publish (podcast) radioshows, that interested listeners can subscribe to. Before podcasting you could of course record a radio show and put it on your website, but now people can automatically receive new shows, without having to go to a specific site and download it from there.
So that’s all they are. Files that you subscribe to using either an RSS reader or more typically, iTunes.
So how do you find podcasts?
A good place to start is the iTunes Store. Open your iTunes and on the left hand side, click on iTunes Store. It’ll take a second or two to load as it uses your internet connection to work. If you are reading this, then your internet is connected.
Inside the iTunes Store screen, you will see some choices – one of them is Podcasts, another is iTunes U. Both are great places to start. (see picture)
Also, use the Search field in the upper right hand corner of your iTunes Store window and search for a podcast. For example, I searched for “french” and got not only a list of songs that have artists named French, but also a long list of podcast files of French for beginners and more.
When you find one you like (and if it’s free), click on the Subscribe button. Now the podcast will join your list of podcasts in your menu (see picture) on the left in Library and above the link for the iTunes Store. Just under the iTunes Store link you will see a new link called Downloads. This tells you what podcasts are downloading at that particular moment.
Another way to find podcasts is to search the many Podcast Directories that are out there. Try Podcast Alley or Podcast.net to get started. Or just do a Google search on podcast directory.
If you find a podcast you want to subscribe to in one of these sites, you may have to copy the feed address from the address bar and then paste it in iTunes by clicking Advanced > Subscribe to Podcast and then pasting in the address.
So where to start? Try searching for an interest (pssst…it doesn’t have to be education)
Here are some links that will subscribe right into your iTunes without any searching whatsoever! Now that’s service.
In no particular order…
Counselor’s Podcast – counselors talk about how colleges make decisions, making the most of college visits, and how to handle the rush of recommendations you have to write.
World at War – a series of radio dramas about events taking place during World War II. Might be an interesting hook to start class with.
Coffee Break Spanish – beginner level Spanish learning (there are tons of language learning podcasts)
Mandarin – from the Times Online site, Mandarin learning from beginner levels on up.
Grammar Girl – one of the most popular podcasts in the world. Simple down and dirty tips on grammar in the English language. Great for all writers, SAT takers, and English as a Second Language speakers.
SmartBoard Lessons – educators share lesson ideas using the Smart Board. There’s got to be something in there for all of us!
Physics – this semester’s Intro to Physics class at the University of California Berkeley. Lots more from many of the top US universities in all subjects in the iTunes U section. High School teachers, you HAVE to check out iTunes U!
The Psych Files – psychology in everyday life.
Math according to Mike – math of functions and other algebraic work
Math Factor – interesting puzzle-based discussions of math.
And for fun…
The Onion Radio News – the news brought to you in satire by the witty people over at The Onion.
Here’s a video of me finding a podcast using iTunes and subscribing.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/GUzmKH6fqhw" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
And there are so many more. But you have to start somewhere. Just find one or two…see if you can get them loaded. Ask me for help, or ask a friend.
Don’t let us tech geeks with our silly names for technology scare you off.
Podcasts are just fun, simple to use and a great way to get and listen to PD and other interests.
Give it a go!
Next post: How to make your own podcasts. Students too!
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