The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Podcast nation


Podcasts are streaming into classrooms, changing the way professors disperse information to students. They’re providing campuses and homes with copious amounts of information, sound bites and video.

Podcasting makes the Internet portable. Media is downloaded off the computer, through iTunes or a Web site, in the form of a podcast. It is stored on the desktop and can be transferred to an MP3 player.

“The best way to describe podcasts to someone who doesn’t know is that it’s a new technology that allows users to record audio and upload and download (files),” said Spanish professor Anne Cummings Hlas.

Unlike a single downloaded file, podcasts allow users to receive news feeds from a particular source of media. Through a program like iTunes, the media is updated and new files are available.

Story continues below advertisement

By simply browsing the iTunes store or Internet, one can find a myriad of options. Television episodes, sports updates, and movie trailers, are some of the millions of options available.

Beyond the scope of entertainment, podcasts make it possible to learn a new language, get cooking tips, tour a museum, or receive election coverage through news feeds.

At UW- Eau Claire, this form of media is also used as a teaching tool.

Jessica Miller, assistant professor of French, started using podcasts in her class last semester. It began as a pilot project, she said, and is now an important part of her phonetics curriculum.

“Students respond well because they already use podcasts in their daily life,” Miller said.

A native of France, Miller initially used this technology for personal use to receive information from her home country.

In addition, she drew inspiration for her class from Grammar Girl, an online resource for writing tips via podcast. Miller said she used this to polish her English.

According to the Web site, in addition to Grammar Girl, other self-help podcasts are available such as Mr. Manners, Travel Avatar and Money Girl.

In the classroom, Miller has students explain French through this media like a teacher would. She said this allows her to see if they understand the material well.

Students write a script before they record their podcast to assess their work. Then, they put the scripts online to broadcast, which makes them a true podcast, Miller said.

So far, Miller has not received any negative feedback in regard to her new teaching technique. She said one student in particular told her it really helped to explain the French language clearly.

“I’m glad I tried (podcasts) and hope I can continue to improve the use of it in my classroom; it’s a fun activity for students,” Miller said.

She said the use of this technology broadening. Miller knows a colleague in Colorado who is using podcasts for the first time for an advanced grammar class.

Miller is not the only professor at Eau Claire who uses podcasts in the classroom. Hlas used it last spring for Spanish 302, an advanced conversation class.

She paired students and had them record three podcasts in the style of a conversational interview. Hlas said they picked a theme, like movies, and created top ten lists or debates to discuss in Spanish.

Hlas has seen positive results from her students using this learning style for learning a language orally.

“The nice thing (with podcasts) is that there’s less anxiety,” Hlas said, adding when students are asked to do an oral presentation, they are more nervous about it, but if they’re all in the lab talking with each other, it is a less stressful environment.

Hlas surveyed her students to track their progress and found students improved their ability to monitor themselves in Spanish. In addition, she said they are getting better at speaking in long paragraphs.

Miller said she likes podcasts because it’s a new format, so it’s a nice way to introduce a variation of teaching. But is this technology suitable for any classroom?

“It depends on the teacher’s style,” Miller said. “And whether or not they are comfortable with this technology.”

She also said it’s difficult to get into because it is so new and because it is still in the testing process, teachers are not yet sure what to expect.

Hlas said she has seen podcasting used in business and biology and can be applied to many areas of study.

For assistance with the growing use of online technologies, the Network for Excellence in Teaching program is available. Miller is a teaching scholar and Hlas received a grant to podcast through the program.

“I feel that the university is really up-to-date, so you can have the support to try something new,” Miller said.

This teaching program gives professors the opportunity for new ideas and workshops, Miller said. More information regarding this program is located on the university’s Web site.

As far as the future of podcasts, Hlas said it will continue to grow because there are great benefits for enhancing distance learning. She said there are podcasts from news feeds in Spain that could even help students learn the language better.

“It’s a little emersion environment.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

The Spectator intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. The Spectator does not allow anonymous comments and requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
All The Spectator Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *