Using Our Podcasts for Your Teaching or Learning

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 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. Here, at QualityTime-ESL.com, choose the one you’re interested in from the homepage, or you type the name into the search box 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 want. The link will take you to the window with the audio file.
In the case of specific podcasts, the free written script and worksheets are included. If the materials to print 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 do a right-click on the file and select “save link as…” Make sure the data is saved in a place where you usually retrieve your downloads.

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, 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 essential 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. 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 other domains of education.

Searching for podcasts

The next step is to download the podcasts you want onto your 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 the 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. 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.

N.B. The system has changed over the years, and not all podcasts are displayed. So, it is best to search with a name or title.

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 started. In a 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 in the beginning is practically empty but will soon be filled with your downloaded podcasts.

You can 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 is the latest one produced in the series. You will also see in gray on a 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 or just specific 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 a series of 50 or more. Video podcasts, on the contrary, are very big and will take much longer 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. There is more about the use of podcasts in your teaching in the second article. It deals with 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 left to right and see what iTunes is recommending among new programs or programs that are currently doing well. I am delighted to say that Your English has often been in the category “What’s Hot” in many countries.

Incidentally, you can always pick a different nation by going to the bottom of any iTunes page and choosing “Change Country." From the list of recommended podcasts, click on the icon. It will take you to a particular page where you can listen to each podcast in streaming by activating the blue arrow to the left of the title and download it by clicking on the box to the right. You can also 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. 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 continue to be recommended, as has been the case in numerous countries for the last few years. However, if you don’t create new ones regularly, which unfortunately has been my case lately, you are soon forgotten. That is the situation in our fast-moving, high-paced society. A seventy plus senior woman like myself has to try hard to keep up with the young crowd. But we try our best only because we sincerely wish to help others.

Another way of locating language courses

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 the number of 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. My company consists of two retirees: my husband and myself!

PowerPoint presentation

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 go to http://www.qualitytime-esl.com/spip.php?article502.

Transferring files from the 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 maneuver can be useful if, for instance, you have to work in a room where there is a language lab or merely a computer supplied by the school/company you are working for and no Internet connection. You just 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 open with Audacity software (free on the Web) and then edit to select just the parts 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. Students, in language courses all over the world, will have virtual language labs 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 show you precisely how to use these radio broadcasts from the Internet directly in the classroom or as audio homework.

Best regards,

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