Keeping up with the Digital Revolution in the Language Classroom: 4 Skills meet 21st Century Skills

line decor
line decor

Podcasts & RSS feeds

What's a podcast? A podcast is an audio file that you can download to your computer or music player (such as an iPod). You can listen to a podcast on a music/MP3 player or a computer. The difference between this kind of file and any other download is you don't have to go out looking for new content - it is delivered to you automatically when you subscribe, so it's more like your daily newspaper as compared to the book you borrowed from your local library. Podcasts are generally short and contain additional written material, which can be accessed on computer OR iPod (push the center button to see show notes).

World language teachers have 3 options in using podcasting:

  1. Using podcasts that others have created (ESL Podcast to provide authentic, motivating materials for your students.
  2. Creating podcasts that are closely tied to the content of your course and sending them out into the ether for use by your students in class or in a mobile immersion environment.
  3. Having your students create podcasts as a way to increase their listening and speaking opportunities, give them an authentic audience and motivate them toward greater engagement with the language.

Apple has made podcasting accessible to many schools, with partnerships to provide server space and software, and has some great online tutorials. You can watch videos on how to get started in podcasting (using Macs and Apple software, of course) here. Apple now has a Student Gallery where students can upload their projects

GWU professor Heather Schell has her writing center students create "Gorilla Radio" news podcasts.

To record audio, you can use Audacity (Mac or Windows) You can use a built-in microphone on some computers, but using one with a headset usually works better. Save your file in .wav format or in .mp3 format. Another way to record on Mac is using Garage Band, which will save the file in a format native to iTunes.

Online Podcasting Community: Promoting Oral Proficiency with

WATESOL Workshop participants noted that the place to record for Odeo is Another option for online recording of podcasts is podOmatic

At the NorthEast Association for Language Learning Technology (NEALLT) conference, three language instructors, J. Ruth and L. Teixeira from East Stroudsburg University and S. Villa from The New School, showed how they use Odeo in their Spanish and Portuguese classes. is a community-based podcasting service which allows everything created there to be shared via email. The presenters explained this process for using it:

  • The teacher posts a picture and some audio to accompany it. For example, a picture of four people would have the audio, "Describe estas personas." Another teacher might send students to a BBC news clip in Portuguese and ask particular questions.
  • Each student responds orally, recording and saving the audio that is sent to the teacher automatically. The instructors say this greatly increases the amount of time students are listening and speaking in the target language.

Podcasts as Instructional Tools: Taking Language Tasks Beyond the Classroom.

Two teachers, J. Torres and R. Araujo, from St. Lawrence University, in Canton, NY, told about a project in their advanced Spanish Conversation class.

  • First, they listened to examples of native-language podcasts; and personal podcasts.
  • Next, they trained students in how to create podcasts, using Audacity ( a free, cross-platform sound editor) or Garage Band (on Mac) or Loudblog:, which sets up an iTunes-ready RSS feed.
  • The main aspect of the project required students to produce four 10 – 20 minute podcasts about topics that would be of interest to other students. The course website can be seen at: where you can hear examples of the student podcasts.

  • Another new development in sharing online audio is MIDOMI, which allows you to record your own version of a popular song and upload it for others to hear. See the 'top stars'

    NCLRC article on creating podcasts to explore study abroad (French Class)


RSS: Really Simple Syndication

RSS is like getting a newspaper subscription in cyberspace: announcements of new content arrive and you can choose to 'open' them and read or hear the content. It's a way to keep up to date on what's happening on a number of sites without navigating to them. You can look at RSS from two perspectives, as the content receiver (reader) or as the content provider (blogger or podaster). I'll give you a quick explanation for each perspective.

RSS For Content Receivers

You have to set up an RSS "aggregator" to handle the flow of content coming to your computer. Mac users can use NetNewWire (I have this on my laptop) while Windows users can go to FeedDemon for Windows

RSS For Content Creators

You can create an RSS feed manually but most prefer using software that creates an xml webpage for you. One site I used is FeedBurner, which allows you to create and easily update your RSS feed.

    Listening | Speaking | Reading | Writing
  contact me