Free QualityTime-ESL Podcast Drills for Your Teaching-Pt 1
Teachers often write to me to ask this question: “Where can I find your drills and how can I use them in class?” In this two-part article we will take you step-by-step through downloading the drills and getting their accompanying materials all the way to using them effectively with your students. The instructions I give you will help you take advantage of most podcasts—not only the four series produced by QualityTime-ESL.
Downloading podcasts and scripts
There are several ways to get podcasts onto your computer. The first way is to go to the website where they have been uploaded. In the case of my series you go to www.QualityTime-ESL.com and choose the series you’re interested in from the homepage or you type the name of this series into the search window at the top of the page. A window will appear with the page that gives the complete list of all available podcasts for that series. You can choose the podcast you are interested in, and this will take you to the window with the audio file. In the case of certain podcasts the free written script and/or worksheets are included as well. If the written materials are not free, you can follow the link to the QualityTime-ESL store to get them for a minimal fee. To download the audio file you just do a right-click on the file and select “save link as…” Make sure the file is being saved in a place where you can retrieve it easily.
Downloading through iTunes
The second way is in a way more convenient and can easily be used by your students when they are looking for their oral homework. It involves using iTunes. First of all be sure you have iTunes on your computer. If you don’t have it, just type “iTunes” into your search engine and go to the page where you can download iTunes. There is no cost. This platform offers songs, albums, movies and even ebooks (that of course you pay for), but it also provides links to podcasts, which are free radio or television programs. It is important to know that iTunes is merely a directory, like a telephone directory. It does not store any programs but only enables you to locate and thus download these free audio or video programs. In fact the word “podcast” always signifies that the broadcast is free of charge. That is why it is such an extraordinary tool for language teaching and for other domains of education.
Searching for podcasts
The next step is to download the podcasts you want onto your own computer. Let’s take the example of my QualityTime-ESL podcasts. You open iTunes on your computer. You look at the column to the left, and you click on iTunes Store. In the top right-hand corner you will find a search window. You can, for instance, type my name “Marianne Raynaud” and click on enter. A window will appear showing three of my podcast series. Actually I have more than three, so it is always best to click at the top next to “Podcasts” on “Display all” to see the complete list of available series. In my case you will see Your English, 5-Minute Tops, Essential English, and QualityTime-ESL Podcasts. Next to each podcast series you will see a gray box with the indication “FREE”. You should click on it, but be careful not to click on the arrow to the right unless you wish to go to Facebook or other social media.
Getting supplementary episodes
So let’s assume you have clicked on the gray box next to Your English. Immediately, you will see in the left-hand column of the iTunes window that a download has been started. In a very short time, probably less than a minute, the latest podcast in the series Your English will be on your computer. You go to the top of the left-hand column of your iTunes window, which is marked LIBRARY, and just below you will see “Podcasts”. By clicking on it you will get a complete directory, which of course in the beginning is practically empty but will soon be filled with your downloaded podcasts.
You search for “Your English”, and then you click on the arrow to the left. You will see the first podcast that has been downloaded, which in fact is the latest one produced in the series. You will also see in gray on list of all the available podcasts in the series you have chosen (suggested podcasts). There are boxes to the right, which enable you to download either all the podcasts of a particular series or just certain podcasts you wish to have on your computer. You should bear in mind that audio podcasts are compressed MP3 files that are not very heavy. Downloading them will not take much time, even if you are downloading let’s say a series of 50. Video podcasts, on the contrary, are very big and will take up to 20 or 30 minutes each depending on the speed of the Internet connection. The advantage of audio, at least for the time being, lies in the fast downloading and thus the greater availability for all users, whatever the speed of their web service.
Using "New and Noteworthy" and "What’s Hot" on iTunes
Another way of searching for podcasts such as Your English, is to go to the front page of the iTunes Store and to look at the bar at the top. Music, Films, TV Series, App Store and Books all lead to products that can be purchased for a fee. On the other hand, Podcasts and iTunes U will take you to free programs. What is particularly interesting is that you can assign oral homework such as listening to one of these podcasts, because your students will not have to pay for them. More about the use of podcasts in your teaching in the second article on the subject of using free drills in the curriculum.
So you are on the home page of the iTunes Store. You click on “Podcasts” and then you scroll down to “Education”. At the top of the page you will see two categories. The first one is “New and Noteworthy”. The second one is “What’s Hot”. You can scroll from the left to the right and see what iTunes is recommending among new programs or programs that are currently doing well. I am very pleased to say that Your English is often in the category “What’s Hot” in many of the countries of the world. Incidentally, you can always change countries by going to the bottom of any iTunes page and choosing “Change Country". From the list of recommended podcasts you can click on any icon and go to a particular page where you can listen to each podcast in streaming by clicking on the blue arrow to the left of the title, download a particular podcast by clicking on the box to the right, or subscribe to the podcast as I explained above by clicking on the gray box with the word “FREE” to the right of the icon.
Finding language courses
If you are a language teacher, you probably want to look specifically at language learning podcasts. So you scroll down to the bottom of the page where in the right-hand column you will see “More on Education”. If you click on the link “Language Courses” you will get another window, again with two categories: “New and Noteworthy” and “What’s Hot”. Hopefully, Your English and even some of my other series will be recommended, as has been the case in numerous countries for the last few years. You can also go to the right-hand column where iTunes has two different rankings: one for the most popular individual podcasts and another for the most popular podcast series. The top 200 podcasts or podcast series are ranked according to downloads. Here you will see the series that are made by big companies like the BBC or Voice of America among others. These rankings will tell you what iTunes listeners have chosen to download.
If you would like to see a PowerPoint presentation that will take you through the different windows of iTunes and help you understand what I presented above, then just go to http://www.qualitytime-esl.com/spip.php?article502.
Transferring files from iTunes directory
Many teachers ask me how to put the files from iTunes onto their hard disk or directly onto a flash key/storage device. This can be useful if for instance you have to work in a room where there is a language lab or simply a computer supplied by the school/company you are working for and no Internet connection. What you have to do is to select the podcast you are interested in and then drag it to your desktop and drop it there. It will be a simple MP3 file, which you can of course open with Audacity software (free on the Web) and then edit to select just the part you need.
A fantastic array of teaching materials
As you can see there is a fantastic array of teaching materials produced by large corporations or individuals like myself, who are trying to help others by providing their skills and knowledge free of charge. It is as though our students, in language courses all over the world, had a language lab available to them either in the classroom or outside. Using podcasts can help your students improve their listening and speaking skills considerably. In my next article (Part 2 on using QualityTime-ESL podcasts) I will show you specifically how to use these radio broadcasts from the Internet directly in the classroom or as audio homework.