For education, this emerging technology provides another way of sharing and publishing both audio and video for teaching and learning in schools, colleges and at home.
As well as providing broadcast audio and video for public access, children and young people are able to record, produce and publish on the Internet podcasts of their very own using basic software. Ultimately, audio podcasts can be synchronised with many popular MP3 players.
The technology infrastructure for creating and distributing podcasts is evolving rapidly. As well as just audio-only podcasts, there are currently two other forms of podcast available - enhanced podcasts and video podcasts.
Enhanced podcasts may include chapter marks, images that change at predetermined times when the podcast is played and hyperlinks to websites. You can also easily move to different chapters in the podcast, a feature used extensively in audiobooks for example.
Video podcasts (vodcasts) are the very latest in podcasting and provide a full visual and audio experience for the user. Even with dramatic advances in the compression of video and audio files, video podcasts take longer to download, depending on the size used for the video.
The ubiquitous iPod® evolved from just a MP3 player with a range of additional facilities. The latest versions and many mobile phones now include the ability to synchronise audio, enhanced and video podcasts with iTunes for the first time.
To find out more information on using podcasts in education, read our article about exploiting the educational potential of podcasting. This includes sections on podcasting for schools, the curriculum, music, copyright and legal issues.
To locate. listen and download podcasts, you can use host systems already built-in to many websites. Our own podcast directory for teaching and learning. Most podcasts are also provided on-line so you can listen to them straight away via your Internet browser. Some browsers incorporate functions that recognise and use RSS feeds.
The latest iTunes® software package provided by Apple (for both the Windows and Mac operating systems) provides a suite of facilities that enable you to search and locate podcasts over a very wide range of genre. You can easily subscribe to a podcast channel - the program will automatically download the latest podcast for you. Some of the podcast channels that are listed in iTunes include an expect warning because they contain adult material.
For greater flexibility, you may want to obtain software and download podcasts for use on a MP3 player. There are increasing numbers of programs being produced that can locate, download and regularly update podcasts, many of these are freeware.
These small programs can run on different computers and transfer the audio files directly to a MP3 device. Most programs can support a range of other devices.