To continue my theme of practical user-centered applications of technology in libraries and education, I started thinking about podcasting. I don’t really know how it could be used in libraries. I don’t imagine patrons would want to listen to an audio listing of events or interesting items read by their librarians and I don’t know if it could be used very well in teaching information literacy since so much of information literacy training involves hands-on learning and visuals. But I do think it could have amazingly cool practical uses in education, and I think we, as librarians, can educate the educators about podcasting and encourage its use in the classroom.

More and more people are learning over the Web. Whether it’s a workshop or an entire graduate program, it is a medium for which instructional techniques are still being developed. Some ways of teaching online work better than others, and it really depends on the material, the professor, and the make-up of the class. In distance learning classes, podcasting is a great format for lectures. It’s essentially just an audio recording of the professor giving a lecture that the user can play at any time and from any media that can access mp3s. I’ve been in a distance learning class where the professor tried to lecture in iChat, but it’s really difficult to get the information across. It becomes a free for all, where people interject or accidentally broadcast a private message. Chat is good for Q&A. Podcasting is good for lectures.

Podcasting can really enrich the educational experience and can be a tremendous help to non-traditional learners. Allowing users to play-back lectures at their leisure recognizes the diversity of learning styles. People learn differently. Some are auditory learners, where listening to a lecture is great, but looking at a page full of notes is a nightmare. Students with learning disabilities or ADHD might learn better through repetition, and with podcasting, they could replay lectures to their heart’s content. If professors were really interested in the medium, they could even offer extra lectures or audio content for interested students. It would prevent educators from teaching to the lowest common denominator or teaching over their heads to the highest achievers. There really could be some sort of tailoring of the course to accomodate different learners. Of course I don’t know how many educators would really be willing to do that, but I think it’s such a fantastic idea!

Finally, podcasting allows professors the ability to easily use guest speakers. They could interview the speakers over skype so that the speaker never actually has to come to class. This way, the professor could get great guest speakers who would otherwise not be able to make the trip. It would be less of a burden for the speaker and the professor could use the recording over and over again. I took a class where we were assigned to listen to interviews my professor had done with guest speakers from years before. Additionally, the professor doesn’t have to waste class time on guest speakers and can have students listen to the podcasts before class.

While there probably isn’t much we librarians can do directly with podcasting for our patrons, I am certain that we can assist many non-traditional learners by encouraging educators to use it. The more I think about podcasting, the more excited I get! Do any of you have cool ideas about what librarians and educators could be doing with podcasting? I’d love to hear all about it!