Many experts agree that there are countless benefits by using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in English Language Teaching (ELT), and podcasting definitely adds to those benefits. Nowadays, it is one of the greatest tools used in ELT environments due to its easy-to-implement characteristics and invaluable advantages.
What is a podcast?
According to the Business Dictionary.Com a podcast is a digital recording of music, news or other media that can be downloaded from the internet to a portable media player. The term originated from “P.O.D.”, meaning Portable on demand and “cast”, relating to the term broadcast.
A podcast (or netcast) is a digital medium consisting of an episodic series of audio video PDF or ePub files subscribed to and downloaded through web syndication or streamed online to a computer or mobile device. The word is a neologism and pormanteau derived from "broadcast" and "pod" from the success of the iPod, as audio podcasts are often listened to on portable media players: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Podcasting
After contemplating on the above definitions, I would say that podcasting is a language teacher’s paradise. It is like a magic wand for teachers of second languages. There are so many things that could be done using this tool because of its automatic download features.
It is a splendid mean to assign out-of-class activities. Both students and teachers could easily go beyond the walls of a rigid academic classroom. This would most probably promote positive habits of continuous learning and engagement by the language learner. The teacher could give explanations and clarifications of any topic and the student would have access to such from anywhere and at anytime. For instance, a second language learner who did not understand a certain matter in the classroom could always rely on a podcast for a revision of that particular theme. Another example, students could spend most of their commuting time listening to podcasts, and considering my context, Caracas, where they spend at least two hours daily getting to and from work, this tool could be most useful. Also, teachers could send previews of future classes so learners could check prior to sessions and so enabling them to better understand the topics, and, as a result, be more efficient and proficient in the classes. It is much easier for students that way. Additionally, language learners could improve their language skills such as listening due to the constant use of this tool. Podcasting is also a way to get away from the overuse of text books.When teachers depend on these books, which for the most part do not contain authentic language, it could be quite monotonous and annoying for some second language learners. The level of interest becomes low. A podcast could boost motivation, a necessary trait for learning anything, resulting in students’ willingness to give some extra time to their language endeavors. A further reason to podcast is that second language students could be involved in creating their own podcast as a class project and so forth. In my opinion, this is an enormous benefit because they could improve their skills such as writing due to the huge effort in trying to be attentive and correct in what they do knowing that it is going to be published to a wider audience and not just to their peers and teachers.
Literacy means having the ability to read and write and being able to use what we have around us and adapt to changes. Podcasting is the “now.” It is the trend, so I would suggest that we EFL/ESL teachers use these technological inventions to enhance the learning and teaching process in ELT. If we did not, then we would be considered digitally illiterate, so to speak.
For further readings: http://www.csus.edu/irt/newsletter/issue/2/9.stm