In order to understand the technical side of podcasting it is useful to
refer to the wikipedia definition (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Podcasting)
Podcasting is the method of distributing multimedia files such as
audio programs or music videos over the Internet using either the
RSS or Atom syndication formats for playback on mobile devices
and personal computers. Though podcasters' web sites may also
offer direct download or streaming of their files: a podcast however
is distinguished by its ability to be downloaded automatically using
software capable of reading RSS or Atom feeds.
Should further information be sought concerning the technical
application and structure of the RSS feeds please contact Dave
Lowe at D.D.Lowe@ncl.ac.uk
At the same time that the idea of developing a Podcast site was
being explored the University's Teaching and Learning Council
invited application for grants to research technology in teaching and
learning, the grants were limited to £5,000 and the time frame for
application was very tight. The application was made to investigate
podcasting application in teaching and learning and to set up a pilot
scheme with the following aims:
Facilitation of self-paced learning
To offer a richer environment through
To embrace future learning delivery
through new technology
The three aims have in fact been generally adhered to as the
project developed. Within the original grant application it was stated
that the site would also show how similar sites could be replicated.
To this end we published our RSS feeds and also pointed users to
The grant application was for purchasing of a certain amount of
technical equipment, direct payment to native language speakers
for their time and some hourly paid teaching for pedagogical input.
Technical equipment purchased for the Linguacast project
RM Expert 3000 PC
Satellite Pro M40 Notebook
Creative Zen Micro MP3 player
iRiver H-340 40Gb MP3 player
Once the project started it became quickly apparent that there was
a great deal more possible than the initial application envisaged.
More operational aims were developed as we learnt how to produce
material these being:
To allow lessons to be recorded and then
podcast to many students at different time
To enable students with reading or other
disabilities to have access to information
via audio files
To provide multi-lingual material and
The first stage was to develop language content so that further
pedagogical ideas and content could be progressed. A bank of mp3
recordings for English Language Learners was produced. All the
an air of informality
natural rhythm and intonation
This allowed learners and teachers to have material to develop the
Uses of vocabulary
Intonation and stress
Examples of humour an dialogues
The second stage was the development of foreign language material
through a bank of example languages. At this stage all the
interlocutors were volunteers from the University's international
cohort. Again there was little or no scripting with the interviews
following a similar but not identical pattern. The questions are in
English and the responses are in the interviewee's own language.
The third stage was to demonstrate language content and that the
Podcast can be used for lectures, giving information, thematic
material, and sociolinguistics; examples of origins of language,
humour and accents. At this stage an example bank of sound
effects was also put on to the site that teachers could download for
the development of their own broadcasts or for use in the language
laboratory. These included a telephone, a lorry and machinery.
The next step took the podcasting open learning idea one step
further and content for translation studies was recorded and put on
the web page. This was in collaboration with Maria Fernandez Toro.
This was material that would be used in an actual class. The
material was recorded and then the students would have direct and
continuous access to the material at home or anywhere on campus.
These audio file differed from the other podcasts as they were more
scripted, edited and time controlled.
While content development was progressing technical investigation
developed as well especially in pocket held PC via WiFi and hand
held devices via USB connection
As the Podcasting site has generated more interest other uses have
developed and are developing on campus. The team is collaborating
with the library services in the development of audio guides for
library tours and inductions. The international office is looking into
the preparation of audio materials for marketing and induction of
the International Cohort these MP3 audio files will be embedded in
the WebPages of the International office. The very successful The
Schools Enterprise Euromarché project utilised podcasting aspect to
allow open access to the language content to schools both
participating in the programme and any other school wishing to
have access to the content. Developing directly from the experience
of the Linguacast project a further UTLC grant was awarded to a
project designed to investigate the uses of MP3 and MP4
(Vodcasting) for translating and interpreting teaching and learning.
The Linguacast project was successful in more areas than was
The project clearly demonstrated the versatility of the MP3 file for
teaching and learning of languages. The application of the basic
principles can be used in other areas of education and academic
content delivery. The spirit of openness, collaboration and
contribution allowed for quick development and generated
numerous other projects as demonstrated by the Schools Enterprise
Euromarché project .
There were also additional positive spin offs from the project that
have been instrumental in developing further projects. The Open
Access Centre's profile was raised across the University, this was
the first time that the OAC had applied for and had been awarded a
UTLC grant. The interaction with other departments was very
positive as was the interest shown in the spin off possibilities.
The development of low cost but high quality audio content with no
copyright implication is very interesting from both an administrative
and financial point of view. All material produced can be stored on
the net and can be downloaded at will and developed at will by both
teachers and learners. This has the potential to develop a vast
range of language material.
The development of the Linguacast projected was in parallel with
the installation of a digital language laboratory. The demonstration
of the versatility of the MP3 audio file by the Linguacast site and the
popular interest in Podcasting generated ideas and content for use
both in the lab and intranet as well as internet.
The invitations that given to International students to participate
generated a sense of participation; all the recordings on the
Linguacast site were done by volunteers. The nature of the Podcast
and its roots in non-mainstream broadcasting in the US has
developed a style of flexibility and informality of the content
production has allowed a vibrancy of language and authenticity of
dialogue to become the norm for the language content. This in itself
has generated feedback and comment. Many teachers want the
transcripts to be published along with worksheets. EFL students like
mixture of registers, idiom and jargon.
As with many projects the time available has been the limiting
factor. It would be good to develop the site further and for it to
become a standard language learning tool with transcripts, lessons
and regular additions. The next stage would be to take the content
examples and to develop pedagogical material and interaction. The
development of Pod-blog groups is a possibility as will be the
regular posting of lectures and lessons. There are now many
examples of Mp3 and podcasts being used in the classroom for
Language teaching, most noticeably at Mussleburgh Grammar
School in East Lothian and The Ashcombe School in Dorking
It is hoped to further develop the site for autonomous learning as
well as for taught course support both in the EFL field and the
Modern Language learning area it is hoped to have input from post-
graduates and from the school of education.
However, as with all projects of this nature it will require dedication
Schools' Enterprise Euromarché
The Language Tool and Design Team, Newcastle University undergraduates
Schools' Enterprise Euromarché is an interschool project directed by
Newcastle City Council in partnership with North East Gateway
National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth (NAGTY). The
event saw Grainger Market, in the heart of Newcastle city centre,
transformed into a cosmopolitan hub of commerce and learning.
Over two days school groups were able to trade wares as well as
showcasing performance skills whilst putting Modern Foreign
Languages to good use over the two days. Newcastle University
undergraduates produced a language learning tool in order to equip
school children and their teachers with the appropriate vocabulary
and language skills for the event. Here, I will briefly outline the
general project management scheme before giving a detailed
summary of the podcasting element of the Language Tool.
NAGTY, funded by the DfES aims to ensure that all children and
young people, regardless of background, have access to the formal
and informal learning opportunities they need to help them convert
their potential into high achievement. Their aims guided the remit
for the Language Tool. Podcasting is particularly suited to allowing
all learners, with access to the appropriate equipment as I shall
discuss later, to profit from the material produced for NAGTY pupils.
The resource comprised a Learner's Log, Euro Marche participation
certificate, Progress Passport, CD-ROM with webpage and flash card
images. Teachers were able to put it to use in classes of mixed
ability as well as in groups streamed for those of higher ability. The
accompanying lessons focused on intercultural understanding
alongside language learning as prescribed in the primary school
curriculum through visual, auditory and kinaesthetic (VAK) methods
for the target languages: French, Spanish and German. Keen to
employ latest techniques and technology, the Design Team opted
for a series of podcasts to form the aural component of the
Podcasting project management
Time and money are familiar restrictions in project management.
Lack of storage becomes another issue, especially in schools and
universities. Thankfully, podcasting tackles this by costing little in
all three areas. Approximately 8 hours of recording and editing and
30 hours of website construction resulted in the Schools Enterprise
Euromarché website (http://linguacast.ncl.ac.uk/euromarche) with around
70 recordings in user-friendly groups and available for immediate
download, without the hassle and extra cost or time of recording,
publishing and distribution.
From the user's point of view, podcasting sites allow immediate
access to up to-date resources without neither charge nor copyright
implications. This was particularly important for a project designed
to have a much longer shelf life than the few months of the Schools'
Enterprise Euromarché itself, as teachers and independent users
could return to the site as they wished. The open source nature of
the site leaves it available to all users with access to the internet
opening the content of the Language Tool to many more users than
the original audience of gifted and talented' pupils.
A further advantage for autonomous learning is that podcasts allow
the user to download the latest recordings, whether basic
vocabulary lists or listening exercises, into personal music players
alongside use in the classroom to diversify and strengthen the
Podcast lesson with KS2 pupils at Walkergate
The use of podcasts plays an important role in keeping the Schools'
Enterprise Euromarché resources fresh and up-to-date, making
language learning more relevant. Its technological appeal helps
raise the profile of Modern Foreign Language learning in today's fast
paced learning settings, especially with the advent of Virtual
It is essential for language learners to have contact with an
authentic version of the target language, especially within the
Language Tool's target audience, where modelling pronunciation is
of fundamental importance before moving on to the written word in
upper Key Stage 2. However, the sheer logistic of facilitating direct
native speaker contact in the 51 participating schools across
Newcastle would have proved impossible. Recording native speakers
in podcast format solved this problem quickly and efficiently.
A bonus of having a University based production team enabled
Access to international students
Flexibility of timetables
Excellent resources and assistance
provided by the Open Access Centre at
Newcastle University who also provided
and edited the webspace.
Scripts and transcripts
As particular vocabulary had to be covered, the podcasts were
semi-scripted. This allowed us to be subject specific whilst allowing
a flow that would be natural to the native speaker. For the more
advanced learner, there were some ad-libbed dialogues too. The
scripting and post-editing allowed us to eliminate grammatical
errors without removing authenticity.
Budget and deadlines limited what could be included in the
resources so it was decided that transcripts should be available in
the Language Tool and some suggestions for lesson plans without
the aural component becoming overly present in the Language Tool.
This was an excellent way of providing the base to possible lesson
plans which could then be adapted by the teacher, who is, after all
the best placed to assess the attitude and aptitude of their class and
to decide which learning style suits them best. All the same, some
podcast recordings were specifically designed to be used as lessons.
These included the Maths Games' and Number Jumbles', as well as
some Spanish and German dialogues. These are available on
Schools Enterprise Euromarché website
The Language Tool, showing introduction pages, the CD Rom and progress passport
Podcasting: the complications
As mentioned above, the user could encounter two main obstacles
with podcasts. Firstly, in the case of the Schools' Enterprise
Euromarché , it is an advantage to be in possession of the Language
Tool to use in conjunction with the podcast site. Secondly, and more
importantly, it is essential that they have the facilities to access the
podcasts. A CD ROM was supplied in the Language Tool with a
browser version of the webpage, but this defeats some of the
advantages of podcasting.
For the potential podcaster themselves, access to decent recording
facilities and technological expertise are key in a podcasting project.
It is possible to use a Dictaphone and .WAV files, but post-editing is
made easier by using a programme like SANAKO.
In short, technological know-how and the appropriate equipment
are integral to the success of podcast recordings. This particular
project would not have been so successful without computer
support and savvy from highly competent and readily available staff
at Newcastle University 's Open Access Centre.
The inevitable what next?! The success of the pilot year of Schools'
Enterprise Euromarché heralds longevity for the event itself. If it is
to be repeated and the Language Tool is to be renewed, further
editions will benefit from the podcast recordings as these can be
easily re-edited and expanded through the existing site.
Newcastle University hopes to extend their podcast projects and are
currently looking at weekly podblogs that can be available to
schools as a learning resource. For example, teachers could
effectively order' subject specific recordings for use in the classroom
later that week. Pupils could also participate in pod-pal
programmes, as a modern version of pen-pals. Issues with
monitoring such sites would have to be closely considered, but both
open source and bespoke recordings are feasible. The next stage in
this rapidly progressing field of technology would be to introduce
MP4 files and continue with videocasting.
The popularity of Modern Foreign Languages in the UK appears to
be waning. We, those involved with their promotion, constantly
seek new approaches of raising the profile. One way of encouraging
the potential learner is to show that MFL and associated learning
methods are modern, that they keep pace with new forms of
technology. Podcasting, as a medium of new technology and
through its provision of fresh material, is but one tactic in a wider
strategy of increasing the appeal of MFL to modern-day learners.
Languages themselves are continually evolving, they are dynamic
and vibrant. It goes without saying that language learning should
be as equally exciting. Podcasting helps language learning to be as
alive as languages are!
Press release about the event: Pupils going all European, 13th July,
2006, The Evening Chronicle
www.rln-northeast.com/News/July 06 News Detail/13-07-06 Pupils go
For copies of the Language Tool and
details of the Schools' Enterprise
For information about its contents, contact
For information related to the Linguacast
Project, contact Andrew Grenfell, Manager
of Resources for Open Learning