Search form

Podcast for Free in the Classroom


Students Can Podcast, Too!

At St. Mary's Episcopal School in Memphis, Tennessee, school librarians work with the history department on its yearly term paper assignment. Included is an introduction to such valuable reference publications as subject-specific encyclopedias. But --no surprise -- students were far from enthused during those lectures. Recently, library staff assigned one publication to each student and asked him or her to create a two-minute commercial podcast promoting the assigned text. Each student also was required to listen to classmates' podcasts and comment on them online. What was once a dull and forgotten lecture became an exciting and memorable feature of the term-paper project.

Once only available to people with technical experience and high-level computer skills, podcasts are now easily accessible to everyone. Whether you want to use an existing podcast as a classroom tool, or whether you want to create (or have your students create) podcasts, the process has never been easier.

Podcasts can be an invaluable addition to teaching and learning but confusion over just what a podcast is and what is needed to podcast can prevent educators from integrating them into the classroom. Yet, for the simplest podcast, students and teachers need nothing more than the Internet or a telephone to create and publish recordings online.


What is a podcast? A podcast at its simplest is an audio recording that's available on the Internet. Podcast purists would add that a podcast should also be serial -- like, say, an old radio show with weekly installments -- and subscription-based, with listeners using RSS Feeds to tell their computer to download any new installments to be heard later.

The term podcast is derived from the words "iPod" (Apple's mp3 player) and "broadcasting." Eighty percent of podcasts, however, are never put on an mp3 player, but instead are listened to on a computer.

If you're new to podcasts and want to listen to one, start at Apples iTunes, a free download for PC as well as Mac users. There you'll find hundreds of podcasts on a variety of subjects -- including education. You can download a single episode or subscribe to a whole podcast. Many Web sites now offer content through podcasts; take a look at CNNs Podcasting page for dozens of news-related podcasts.


Listening to podcasts is a first step, but sooner or later, many educators are ready to take the leap and record their own podcasts. Already, high school history students are recording reports on Chinese dynasties, while first graders are narrating paragraphs about their classs star of the week, and fourth grade classes produce a weekly news bulletin. At Mabry Middle School in Marietta, Georgia, 7th graders are sharing their science experiments while Principal Dr. Tim Tyson records his communications to parents and students in podcasts.

How can you try podcasting yourself? For many teachers, the thought of a serial podcast (one that requires weekly or biweekly updates) is overwhelming, and few parents (or educators) may be ready to subscribe with RSS feeds anyway. So, begin with the basics, by creating a simple non-serialized podcast for at least the first few times.

The steps are easy -- record, upload, and share -- and the hardware can be as simple as your PC, or even a telephone. Below are two options that fit a variety of situations. (Note: For option 1, you'll need a microphone. Many laptops come with internal mics, but if yours does not, or if you have a desktop computer, most electronics stores or big-box retailers sell small microphones for about $20. There's no need to go high-tech.)

Option 1: Podcast Using Audacity
Audacity is a free and easy way to record and upload podcasts for the classroom. Basically, just talk into the mic, export as an MP3 and upload to the Internet. You can even do some simple audio editing.
Option 2: Podcast by Phone with BlogTalkRadio
Don't have a microphone, or need to podcast off-site, maybe on a field trip to Washington, D.C.? With, you simply dial a toll-free number and record a podcast anywhere, anytime using only your telephone. It's free and very easy to get started.

After using one of the above options to record and upload your first podcast, don't forget the last step in podcasting: sharing. Let parents and students know where to find the podcast online, perhaps linking to your podcast from your school's site or even just posting it there.

What should you podcast? Classroom ideas include:

  • Students reading their original poetry or short stories.
  • Foreign language teachers narrating passages to be translated at home by students.
  • Biology students recording two-minute overviews on specific genetic disorders.
  • Music students recording original compositions.
  • History teachers recording classroom discussions or lectures for absent students.
  • Elementary students recording a greeting to pen pals across the country or world.

The simplest way to start is to add podcasting to a project you've done for years. In just minutes, you can join the Web 2.0 revolution and be a podcaster yourself. So, energize your students and enliven your classroom with a podcast today.

Article by Lorrie Jackson

About the Author

Lorrie Jackson is the Coordinator of Instructional Technology at Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis, Tennessee, where she also oversees the Laptop Institute, an annual conference for K-12 educators interested in laptops/tablets in the classroom. A prolific edtech writer and frequent conference presenter, Lorrie provides technology reviews and workshops for K-12 schools as a consultant with EduCollaborators.

Education World®
Copyright © 2007 Education World

Updated 04/12/2011