NASA IV&V Facility’s Educator Resource Center Promotes Podcasting with WV Teachers and Students
By Todd Ensign
If you have never heard of podcasting or you aren’t really sure what it is, allow me to provide a quick introduction. Let’s begin by dispelling the biggest myth of podcasting . . . you don’t need an “iPod” to embrace this latest technology used by organizations such as NASA, NPR, NOVA and many more to share their online multimedia content. Indeed, with respect to the fact that podcasting is nothing more than the dissemination of audio and video files via the Internet it isn’t even a new technology. What makes “podcasting” different is that the users “subscribe” to a specific program of interest to them using “podcatching” software, such as Apple’s iTunes, and each time the content is updated that audio or video file is automatically downloaded to the user’s computer and is ready to be played at a time that is convenient for them. The “pod” part of the name comes from the idea that any content downloaded to a computer can then be automatically transferred to a portable device such as the iPod and now the user can listen to the content whenever and wherever they wish, for example enjoying the latest news from NASA while driving to work or learning Spanish while on a plane to Costa Rica.
The educational implications of podcasting are immense since podcasts can deliver educational content for listening or viewing on your computer or iPod, freeing learning from constraints of the physical classroom, scheduled programming, and access to multimedia equipment. Podcasting allows teachers and students to listen to lectures or lessons, the latest news events, educational commentary, audio books, foreign language lessons, and much more, on demand. To reap the benefits of podcasting a teacher only needs a computer with Internet access, software such as Apple iTunes, and a set of speakers – all of which are common in today’s classroom. With an iPod, a teacher can have access to thousands of educational audio files on device the size of a credit card that can be played back in any classroom, during a morning commute, or even taken on field trips. Once a teacher has subscribed to a podcast appropriate for classroom use or their own professional development, the audio files will be regularly downloaded and are instantly ready for integration in the learning process at the push of a button.
Through a K-12 Teacher grant provided by the West Virginia NASA Space Grant Consortium 50 WV teachers from Clay, Marion, and Upshur counties received training in locating, downloading, managing and integrating podcasts in their classroom. They also received an iPod Nano and a set of portable speakers so they are able to utilize the technology where it best fits into their curriculum. All three counties also received an additional day of training on how to develop their own classroom podcast using freely available software. Additionally, the grant provided a Mac Mini that the Principal Investigator has used to develop and publish the first WV Science Podcast for educators which is located at www.wvglobe.org/podcast/ . This podcast is an “ask the scientist” series where questions provided by students are answered by a growing consortium of experts from WV institutions including West Virginia University, Fairmont State University, A-B College, Glenville State College, and West Virginia State University. Additionally, an online discussion forum has been used by participating teachers to share questions and answers on the integration of podcasting and is located at www.wvglobe.org/phorum/ .
Teachers have been excited to participate in this innovative program and all have found dozens of appropriate podcasts for their classroom. Many participants have provided unsolicited praise for the technology reporting that their students love the use of multimedia to enhance learning. Based on feedback from participating teachers and from conference presentations, future opportunities provided by the NASA IV&V ERC will include expanded use of video podcasts and more extensive training on how to create audio and video podcasts in the classroom.