Have you heard about the podcast? It’s actually not that new of a concept. Podcasts’ emerged in the 90s when bloggers would record themselves working on a project, reading a book, or just venting and then post the mp3 file to their pages. Today, we know podcasts as being a  “digital media file” that can be found primarily online. To play a podcast, one must use a computer or a media device such as an iPod, choose the subject or object you want to listen to and off you go. Think of it as a book on tape- just perhaps not as long. In addition to sound, podcasts can include images to enhance its usability.

ImageThe article that has sparked my imagination discussed the usage of podcasts at the university level, where, many professors are utilizing the podcast technology to better the learning environment for their students. The technology is being adapted for students in the classroom and those who are taking online courses. At PoducateMe.com, an evaluation done at Duke University found that students who were using podcasts became increasingly more engaged and interested in class discussions. The website also includes an informational guide, meant for teachers, on creating one of their own.

 I then began to think about how our K-12 group could utilize this trend in our Magic Backpack project. Our plan, among other things, was to move teachers from the classrooms into this virtual classroom realm. An option to make use of podcasting could be an archive. In this archive, podcasts could be made available on an array of subjects that the curriculum doesn’t go in depth on. For example, under History, there could be a podcast on an old wives tale or unsolved mystery regarding the topic of the Civil War. Another example could be a sample piece of literature like an assigned poem or Shakespeare piece-which in its own right is rather challenging to read. The podcasts would also serve as an additional reinforcement tool on the lessons of that day/week. By including the lesson in addition to these other extra files, we are extending an arm of information to students who don’t share the same “classroom.” Again, this reinforces the concept of shared communication and a shared communal classroom. Podcasts could even include tutorials on using specialized resources in the Magic Backpack. For example if a new tool were to be introduced on the site, it would be simple to just listen to the podcast and follow the instructions on how to navigate through it. This would also benefit students who may be using this particular kind of software for the first time.

Because our project idea is almost entirely located in the digital sphere, it is really important that we utilize tools that make communication, learning, listening, and reading, simpler. Podcasting as well other utilities together can create a pretty unique classroom setting.