Thing 17 (Week 8): Explore Podcasting

NOTE: For the sake of simplicity, this "Thing," will focus on audio podcasts, but the concepts apply to video podcasts as well.


photo by thornj
photo by thornj
A podcast is sort of like an online radio show, except the listeners get to decide when and where they want to listen.

The term "podcast" stands for Portable On-Demand Broadcast. And you DON'T NEED an iPod to listen to or create a podcast! Having an iPod (or similar portable device) simply makes listening to podcasts (and other media, such as music, audiobooks and videos) really convenient. (Of course, there are tons of ways to use iPods in education).

An audio file published to the web does not qualify as a podcast. A podcast consists of an audio file (typically MP3 format) published to the web PLUS an RSS feed (XML file). The RSS feed allows listeners to subscribe to the podcast and to automatically receive new episodes in a special type of RSS reader called a podcatcher. In addition to managing your podcast subscriptions and playing the media files, podcatchers can also help you transfer your podcasts to your media player. The most popular podcatcher is iTunes, a free program designed to work with iPods (and iPads and iPhones), but which also serves as a general media player and organizer, and a huge, searchable podcast directory.

Good to know: You can subscribe to and play podcasts in your Feedly, but Feedly can't help you transfer your media files onto your portable player. If you just want to listen to podcasts on your computer, Google Reader is actually a great option, because it just "points to" the podcast files so that you can play them in the reader, whereas a "true podcatcher" such as iTunes actually DOWNLOADS the media files to your hard drive (so that you can transfer them).

Here is an excellent video introduction to Podcasting, from PodGrunt (4:01 - you can stop watching at 3:32).

Direct link:

If you're feeling sad that you didn't get a "Podcasting in Plain English" video, here it is:

Discovery Exercise

The best way to learn about podcasts is to listen to a few of them.

PART 1: Subscribe to the Grammar Girl podcast in your Feedly (~5 min)
(I just want you to experience how to do this. NOTE: You must first click an episode title to find the RSS feed for this particular podcast).

General instructions for adding a podcast feed to your Feedly:
  1. Locate the Podcast RSS or Subscribe icon (or link) and right-click it, then select Copy Link (Address or Location).
  2. Go to (Log in with your Gmail account if you need to).
  3. Paste the copied link into Feedly's Add Content/Search box.
  4. Press Enter or Return on your keyboard to search for the site in Feedly.
  5. Once Feedly has found the site, click the plus sign to add it to your subscriptions. Create or select a category for the feed. Then click Add.
  6. Feedly will include a player with each episode, so you can listen from inside Feedly (this worked perfectly for me in Chrome and Safari, but Firefox only gave me a download link).

Grammar Girl Website: (You must first click an episode title to find the RSS feed).

PART 2: Find and preview several podcasts using iTunes. As you explore podcasts in iTunes, begin thinking about ways you could use existing podcasts to supplement your own learning (personal and professional) and classroom teaching/learning. (~30-45 min)
  1. Download and install iTunes on your computer.iTunes_download10.png
  2. Launch iTunes. Click iTunes Store in the upper right. Within the store, click the Podcast tab at the top.
  3. Select a category and explore the available podcasts (right side). If you are not familiar with iTunes, please review "What is iTunes" on the Apple site.
    While you are exploring:
    • Try browsing different categories, such as Education, Kids & Family and iTunes Picks. Each category also offers a list of "New & Noteworthy" and "What's Hot." Click "See All" to expand the selection.
    • Try searching for podcasts in the iTunes Store Search bar (type your search term(s) and press enter on your keyboard). On the results page, click Podcasts under Filter by Media Type.
    • Visit iTunes U! This amazing resource offers a collection of "more than 500,000 free lectures, videos, films, and other resources — from all over the world." (Way more than just podcasts, but you MUST check it out!) Learn more about iTunes U.
  4. Preview several podcasts. You can listen to any podcast episode by clicking the Play arrow to the left of the episode title.
  5. Subscribe to at least one podcast of personal interest and one podcast of professional interest using iTunes. Listen to a bit of your subscription(s).
  6. Access your subscriptions by clicking Library on the upper right, then selecting Podcasts on the upper left (click where it says Music)

‡ HELP Video: Find, preview and subscribe to a podcast in iTunes

Additional Resources


Write a brief blog post sharing your thoughts about podcasting in education. Points to consider: Which podcasts did you preview and subscribe to? What did you think? Do you have any ideas about incorporating existing podcasts into your personal, classroom or professional learning? If you already use iTunes or other podcatcher and/or have an iPod or other MP3 player that you use for podcast listening, please share a bit about your experiences. If you are a podcaster, or have used podcasting with students, please share a bit about that as well. Please include "Thing 17" in your post title.