What is Podcasting?

There are some really neat things going on with podcasting, but I want to lay a little groundwork before jumping in with both feet. This is the first in a series of posts about how this technology can help teachers and students.

First of all, a definition is in order. Basically, a podcast is an audio file that gets distributed through a feed. While you can download podcast episodes from the web, you need special software (more on that in a minute) to subscribe to the feeds. Once you subscribe, the episodes are automatically downloaded to your computer as they become available.

Traditionally, podcasts have been audio-only, though some people are starting to do the same thing with video files. I’ll be focusing on audio only, because (a) most of the podcasts are audio-only, and (b) I think this medium has more potential than the video version.

You DO NOT need to have an iPod to take advantage of podcasts. In my case, I subscribe to several podcasts, and then either burn the audio files to CD so I can listen to them in the car or I listen to them directly on the computer.

About that software: I use Juice, a free, cross-platform receiver for podcasts. Get the software, install it, and then subscribe to some "feeds". For example, I’m subscribed to "NPR’s Most Emailed Stories," which is a collection of the stories most emailed to others from the NPR web site. Every day, an audio file shows up on my computer with these stories in it. To subscribe to the feed, I went to the NPR Podcast Page, selected the feed, and then copied and pasted it into Juice.You can get other feeds by using Google to search for podcasts, or using a podcast directory like Podcast Alley or Podcast.Net.

So what does this mean? It means that you subscribe to audio shows, and those shows are downloaded for you onto your computer automatically. You can then listen to them whenever you want, either on your computer, on a portable music player (like an iPod), or on a CD.

That’s enough for now. I’ll be revisiting this topic pretty soon.