Subscribing to Podcasts
If you'd like to start subscribing to podcasts, you don't necessarily need an iPod, but you will definitely need an internet-accessible computer upon which you have installed "podcast receiving" or "podcatching" software. This software is free, and once you've downloaded and installed it, you'll be ready to start receiving podcasts. Visit iTunes for your free software. Alternatively, your can try Juice or visit Wikipedia for a listing of other podcast receiving software.
If you decide to download and install iTunes, you will gain access to the iTunes Music Store where you can set up an account and purchase music, video, audio books, and TV programs. The video files can only be shown using a video iPod, but if you don't have this device, it is still possible to either hear the audio on an audio iPod or to view the material in via iTunes, Juice or other podcatcher while sitting at your computer. In addition to audio and video for sale, the iTunes Music Store also includes a Podcast Directory. Use the Podcast Directory to locate and subscribe to podcasts that interest you. There are many other podcast directories, including Podcast.net.
Podcasts in Education
The last time we looked, the iTunes Podcast Directory listed over 1200 podcasts in the Higher Education Genre alone. Podcasts continue to have a growing acceptance among the education community. Educate: Podcasts for educators, schools, and colleges is a podcast directory dedicated to the inclusion of quality-control podcasts for educational purposes.
For a comprehensive article on podcasting and its value in education, please read, "Exploiting the Educational Potential of Podcasting" by Dave Jobbings.
Podcasting at The College of St. Scholastica
Currently, podcasts at The College of St. Scholastica are being produced by Dr. Gerald Cizadlo, Professor of Biology, Diana Johnson, Assistant Professor of Computer Information Systems Department, and students of Dr. Pat Hagen's Dignitas class.
Finding and Subscribing to Podcasts
Once you have downloaded and installed the needed software, you'll want to note that there are many podcast directories on the Internet. Aside from the iTunes directory (which can only be reached if you download and install iTunes), anyone can visit and browse the listings of Podcast.net or Podcast Directory to get urls of some podcasts to which you'd like to subscribe. For a more complete listing of podcast directories visit the MORF (Multimedia Online Resources for Faculty) site.
If you are using the iTunes Podcast Directory, subscribing is as simple as clicking on a "Subscribe" button. However, some podcast publishers may provide an XML/RSS link to a podcast but may not have registered their podcast with a podcast directory. In this case, you will need to subscribe manually by copying the address of the XML page and pasting it into the appropriate area of your iTunes, Juice, or other podcatching software.
Once you have subscribed to a specific podcast, your iTunes or other podcatching software will periodically search for and download any updates as they become available. Later, when you synchronize your iPod or other MP3/media player, it will be updated with new episodes from the feeds to which you have subscribed.
A subscriber does not need to have an iPod or other MP3 player to benefit from the automatic downloads/subscription feature, but portability is one of the main benefits of MP3s and is a factor that has contributed to the popularity of podcasts and RSS.
If you would like more information about starting a podcast to support your own course, please feel free to contact Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org. Prior to implementing podcasts in the Fall of 2005, the Academic Technology Center experimented with the podcasting of novels by Joseph Conrad and other authors with works in the public domain. We used a free sound editing program called "Audacity" to create the audio. The MP3 files that are needed for the podcast are placed in a podcast folder on the CSS Web server.
In addition to creating the MP3s for each session of your podcast, you will need to use a plain text editor to write an .xml file that works to coordinate and describe the contents of your podcast. The XML file is updated whenever you create new material. The podcatching software of anyone who has subscribed to your podcast scans the file for new material, and if a new "item tag" is found, the software automatically downloads the new MP3 file. You will continuously update your XML file to point to new MP3 files that comprise your audio production. Note that software like Feed for All is also available to generate the necessary code. For further information, e-mail email@example.com or refer to Bongey, S. B., Cizadlo, G., & Kalnbach, L. (2006): Explorations in course-casting: podcasts in higher education.