The word podcast refers to a non-musical audio broadcast that is distributed over the Internet. What differentiates a podcast from any other mp3 audio file on the Web is its method of distribution: our new friend RSS. To put it simply, mp3 + RSS = podcast. Podcasts can take many forms and can last anywhere from one minute to one hour (and beyond). Some parallels exist between podcasts and talk radio, but podcasts can cover any topic. From university lectures to weekly reality TV recaps, there are podcasts out there for any interest, no matter how obscure.
Despite the word podcast's derivation from Apple's iPod, you don't need an iPod to listen to podcasts. Since podcasts use the mp3 file format, a popular compressed format for audio files, you really just need a PC with headphones or speakers.
Subscribing to and downloading podcasts can be done in two ways. The first method, which is described in our DO exercise here, is to subscribe to a podcast in your feed reader, just as you would do with any other news site. When a new podcast is available, you can then choose to listen to it on your PC or download for transfer to an mp3 player.
The second, and more common, method is to use a podcatcher, an application that downloads your podcasts automatically for you. iTunes is the service most associated with finding and subscribing to podcasts, but if you don't have iTunes installed, there are plenty of other options. Penn State University has a succinct list of choices.
Now that you're more familiar with how podcasts work, it's time to discover some that you want to hear!
Many libraries and institutions of higher education are now using this technology as a method of distributing promotional and educational content. The Library Success Wiki has an extensive list of public libraries, academic libraries, and affiliated organizations that are podcasting. Keep this list in mind for our DO exercise.
Engage in lifelong learning with Learn Out Loud educational podcasts. Browse the "Podcast Directory" on the left hand side. You can also see the most popular podcasts as you scroll down to the bottom of the page.
Podcast Alley is one fine example of a podcast directory.
Explore one of these podcast directories to find a podcast to suit your personal interests.
- Take a look at two or three of the podcast directories listed above and see if you can find a podcast that interests you. Aim for two library-related podcasts and one for your personal interest.
- Sign into your Google Reader account. Add the RSS feed for your selected podcasts to your Reader by clicking "Add Subscription" and pasting in the URL of the podcast.
- You should now have new items appearing in your Reader. To listen to your new podcasts, click the "Play" button within each new podcast.
- Share your podcast experience with your co-workers. Create a blog post about your discoveries.
- Which library podcasts did you listen to?
- Do you see podcasting as a useful tool for Skokie Public Library?
- Any ideas about which topics our patrons might be interested in hearing?
- Do you have any other experience with listening to or creating podcasts?
BONUS CHALLENGE: None for this Thing. You've been working hard enough!
Move along to Thing 8: Wikis.