For education, this emerging technology provides another way of sharing and transmitting audio for teaching and learning in schools and at home.
As well as just audio-only podcasts, there are other forms of podcast available - enhanced podcasts and video podcasts.
As well as providing broadcast audio 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. Audio podcasts are still the most popular format at present for creating and publsihing a podcast. Ultimately, audio podcasts can be synchronised with many popular MP3 players.
Enhanced podcasts may include chapter marks, images that change at predetermined times when the podcast is played and hyper links to websites. You can also easily move to different chapters in the podcast, a feature used extensively in audio books for example.
Video podcasts (sometimes referred to as 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.
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, including our website where you see the PLAY symbol. 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 ubiquitous iPod® has also evolved from just a MP3 player with additional facilities. The latest versions include the ability to synchronise audio, enhanced and video podcasts with iTunes for the first time.
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 explicit 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. As well as the popular iPod, most programs can support a range of other devices. Podcast sofware for different computer operating systems can be located.