What is Podcasting?
Podcasting provides a means of publishing audio programs via the Internet. Users can automatically download podcasts (usually mp3 files) onto their computers and transfer these recordings automatically to portable music players such as Apple's extremely popular iPods. Users can then listen to the files anytime and anywhere they choose.
Podcasting is especially interesting for English learners as it provides a means for students to get access to "authentic" listening sources about almost any subject they may interest them. Teachers can take advantage of podcasts as a basis for listening comprehension exercises, as a means of generating conversation based on students' reaction to podcasts, and as a way of providing each and every student diverse listening materials. Students will obviously find the ability to listen to these podcasts useful especially due to its portability.
Another extremely useful aspect of podcasting is its subscription model. In this model, users subscribe to a feed using a program. The most popular of these programs, and possibly most useful, is iTunes. While iTunes is not in any means solely dedicated to podcasts, it does provide an easy means to subscribe to free podcasts. Another popular program is available at iPodder, which focuses solely on subscribing to podcasts.
Podcasting for English Learners and Teachers
While podcasting is relatively new, there are already a number of promising podcasts dedicated to English learning. Here is a selection of the best I could find:
English Feed is a new podcast I have created. The podcast focuses on important grammar and vocabulary subjects while providing great listening practice. You can sign up for the podcast in iTunes, iPodder or any other podcatching software. If you aren't sure of what podcasting is (listening practice that you can receive automatically), you might want to take a look at this short introduction to podcasting.
This podcast is very professional, delivers excellent information about relevant topics and is a lot of fun. Created for native speakers of English who enjoy learning about the ins-and-outs of the language, The Word Nerds podcast is also excellent for advanced level English learners - especially those who are interested in idiomatic English.
John focuses on understandable English speaking in an extremely clear voice (some might find the perfect pronunciation unnatural) provides useful English lesson - ideal for intermediate level learners.
One of the more mature - if you can say that anything is mature at this point - podcasts dedicated to ESL learning. The podcasts include advanced vocabulary and subjects which will prove especially useful for English for Academic Purposes classes. Pronunciation is very slow and clear, if rather unnatural.
Also a commercial site for teachers and students preparing for Cambridge First Certificate in English (FCE), Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) and Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE). Advanced level English podcasting with a decidedly British accent - both in terms of pronunciation and themes about British life.