03 July 2007 at 09.00
ICT in the classroom: Podcasting and language skills
MFL teacher Joe Dale explains how podcasting can be used across the curriculum.
More and more teachers are recognising the educational value of podcasting. For MFL teachers, podcasting is surely a no brainer for two reasons. Firstly, by making a podcast, we can give pupils a real and engaging reason for extending their speaking skills and help them to deepen their understanding through the process of editing their work. Secondly, by harnessing the power of the web, we can offer pupils the choice of revising material already covered in class on a mobile device or home computer at a time that suits them.
You don't need much kit to get started, just a computer, microphone, sound editing software and a web connection. If you have a mobile phone or mp3 player that records audio, you can create podcasts wherever you want, such as on a school trip abroad. Having mastered the basics of digital voice recording, you could think about podcasting or vodcasting your pupils doing the following:
- chanting verbs or drilling vocabulary
- rehearsing dialogues
- speaking with your foreign language assistant
- practising pronunciation
- explaining grammatical rules
- singing songs
- reciting GCSE model answers for the oral exam
- making a weekly weather forecast
- creating a tour guide of the local area or town
- reviewing a recent film
- producing a radio show or news report
- making a presentation for a partner school
- taking part in authentic conversations with native speakers on an educational visit
- explaining the cooking instructions for a recipe
- recording a weekly learning log
- summarising a unit of work in their own words
The next step would be to let your pupils subscribe to the podcasts from home using a free and readily available piece of software like iTunes, so they can then transfer them to their mobile devices and listen to them on the move.
Podomatic is a free hosting service which makes podcasting an easy and straightforward process. Having created an account, you can add your clips in two different ways, either by directly recording them with the site's inbuilt tool or by importing files you've already prepared using software such as Audacity or GarageBand for PC or Mac. The site also handles video and allows you to make a series of videocasts or vodcasts using MovieMaker or iMovie.
Once uploaded, you can list your files as episodes in a series on your own customised page. More advanced features, allow you to add intros and outros to your podcasts to make them sound really professional and you can even create your own subscribable feed so your pupils can download any new episode via iTunes.
If you're interested in trying out the podcasting portal, why not run through this tutorial made by ESL teacher Valentina Dodge or this guide by The Florida Center for Instructional Technology, to get you started. It really is that simple.
To test out the podcast directory, I thought I'd upload the French Grammar podcasts I made recently with my Year 7 form class. Using the intuitive interface it was easy setting up my page and uploading the episodes in order. That done, I simply registered the feed with iTunes and waited a short time until it was approved.
This is what you do to register your feed:
1. Once you've logged in to Podomatic, click on My Podcast and then Manage my Podcast
2. Copy the code in the box labelled Your RSS Feed
3. Download iTunes and create an account
4. In the main interface, click on Music Store and then Podcasts
5. Scroll down until you seen the panel FOR PODCASTERS and click on Submit a Podcast
6. In the Podcast Feed URL box, paste the code from Step 1 and click Continue
7. You will then have to sign in to publish your podcast
8. In the next screen, you need to choose a category and subcategory for your podcast such as Education and Language Courses
9. Click Submit
10. You should then receive the message Thank you for submitting this podcast to the iTunes Store
11. Click Done
Your podcast series should then appear in the iTunes directory once it has been approved which can take a few days. Now that you've registered, your feed will automatically update itself whenever you create a new episode in Podomatic. Now, to allow your pupils to subscribe to your podcasts, this is what you do:
1. On the page you've created e.g. nodehillfrench.podomatic.com click on the RSS Feed link on the right hand side of the page.
2. Copy the code in the address bar towards the top of the screen which should look something like this: http://nodehillfrench.podomatic.com/rss2.xml
3. Open iTunes and click on the Advanced menu
4. Click Subscribe to Podcast ...
5. In the dialogue box that then appears, paste the code and click OK
6. A listing of your podcast series should then be highlighted in blue in the directory in front of you
7. Click on the arrow to the left of the title of your series to see all the current episodes appear
8. To download any of these episodes, click the GET button or simply double-click the episode
9. Once downloaded, double click the episode to play it
10. You can then transfer the recordings to a mobile device by synchronising it with iTunes or Windows Media Player
Creative language teachers like Stuart Gorse from Lancaster Royal Grammar School has been using Podomatic recently to help his pupils revise for their French and Spanish GCSE speaking exams by uploading personalised video clips of him and his ventriloquist dummy Hugo modelling typical questions and answers for the oral test.
Anne Peters from South Bromsgrove Community High School has also been using Podomatic to get her GCSE German pupils to create model answers for their speaking exam in the school's South News Pipe Line Podcast maintained by music teacher, Chris Cobon. Watch the Teachers TV programme Secondary ICT SOS - Internet Research and Podcasting to see how she does it.
Other language teachers in England and Scotland are also trying out Podomatic to support their students outside of the classroom. Samantha Dernley, German teacher from Egglescliffe School in Stockton-on-Tees has been encouraging her GCSE students to listen to her podcasts as a way of revising at home. Likewise, Volker Green, Programme Leader for Modern Languages at The City Academy in Bristol has been experimenting with a Spanish podcast to help his students learn how to say they are sick or injured.
Language teachers in Scotland have created ML Podcast to publish a range of primary and secondary podcasts from the region. These include revision guides, presentations, interviews and model speaking tests. Kay McMeekin who runs the blog East Ayrshire Modern Languages News posted recently about podcasts made at New Farm Primary School and Doon Academy respectively. Erwan Ansquer, MFL teacher from Morgan Academy in Dundee has been videoing the department's Spanish and French language assistants and uploading the clips to the site. Check out the results here.
Have a look at this clip too created by languages lead tutor Rosi Gemmell for a MFL day in Bradford in February 2007. The video shows how Podomatic can be used to introduce vocabulary on simple topics such as the family in Spanish.
To find hear more examples of MFL teachers experimenting with podcasting in the iTunes Music Store, go to the education category of the podcast directory and look for the following:
- SHSG French Podcast
- Northgate High School
- Elliott Podcast
- GCSE French Podcast - Stantonbury Campus
- GCSE Spanish - Shireland CLC
As more and more pupils choose to stop learning a foreign language at the end of KS3, we must as MFL teachers think about ways of encouraging them to continue with their studies. Podcasting could be one way to achieve this by giving our ICT savvy teenagers different ways of revising and expressing their creativity with the technology they like to use in their own time outside of school.
Podcasting is not a panacea, but we would be stupid to completely ignore its potential.