ICT in Education Main Headline

Podcasts that make it easier to learn

中文摘要 / Summary in Chinese

Podcasting refers to the practice of using the Internet to make digital recordings of broadcasts available to play on demand and for download, using a computer or mobile device. It makes use of digital audio technologies so that audiences can have convenient access to sound files supplied by a content manager.

Podcasts are widely used for entertainment, and can allow people to access a huge number of online music sources. Podcasts are also commonly used for instructional and educational purposes, such as listening tests, self-guided walking tours and training materials.

PodBean is a commercial podcast hosting system available online, on which anyone can sign up for a free account despite with limited privileges as compared to a paid account. Upon registration, the user becomes in effect a content manager: PodBean can be utilised to upload pre-recorded sound files (in either MP3 or M4A format) and then publish and distribute them, organised by episodes. After that, the general public can either play or download any of those audio files/episodes. PodBean also allows users to search episodes by content.

This type of system can be useful for educators wishing to make available to students audio-based educational content. Learners can simply play or download the audio files at their convenience.

The free PodBean plan offers file storage space equivalent to an aggregate play time of 5 hours, which should be sufficient for the needs of most educators. The system’s ‘backend’ provides statistics on the number of downloads for each episode, as well as information on the most popular episodes.

Putting it to the test

As an example of how podcasts can be useful in education, the author of this article engaged on an experimental project using PodBean. The aim was to allow users easily to know how to pronounce correctly dozens of common Portuguese names.

When people recall how they acquired the ability to speak a new language, it is likely to have involved listening over and over to certain pre-recorded conversations. Gradually the person was able to imitate the dialogues, as well as the speakers’ tone and accent.

In Macao, it is common to encounter people with Portuguese names such as Carlos, Henrique, Inês, João or Sofia, to name a few. These people could be colleagues, business partners, clients, and even lecturers. For those without fluency in Portuguese, it might be difficult to pronounce their names correctly. Even if the people are formally introduced and their names pronounced correctly, those who are present might easily and quickly forget how to say the names, which could be a cause for embarrassment.

The podcast created for the small project mentioned and using PodBean – available at http://port101.podbean.com – tried to address that situation, making available audio files on how to pronounce almost 100 common Portuguese names. It was a collaborative effort, completed in just 3 months, making use of the voices of a number of Macao residents and IFT students and alumni.

As part of its participation in the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, Macao should focus on advancing the areas in which it excels, so as to better serve the Greater Bay Area and beyond. For instance, since Macao has been included in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network in the field of gastronomy, a podcast series could be developed to teach people how to pronounce correctly food- and beverage-related words and phrases, ranging from vocabulary concerning formal dining to words related to drinks. Such project could include words and phrases such as ‘à la carte’, ‘soufflé’, ‘risotto’, ‘pinot noir’, ‘sauvignon blanc’ and ‘mojito’, to name a few.

By IFT Lecturer Simon Lei

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