Thursday, February 16, 2012

Reflections/Overview: Podcasting for the ESL-EFL Classroom. 2011-2012

This is the second year in a row that I co-moderate the Podcasting for the ESL-EFL Classroom session.  This is one of 13 free teacher training sessions offered by the English Village Online (EVO) this year. This year I had the pleasure to share the co-moderation with Evelyn Izquierdo and Teadira Pérez. In 2011, I co-moderated it along with Evelyn Izquierdo and José Rodríguez. 

This session aims at providing basic notions and tools to:
1.    understand what podcasting is
2.    create podcasts the easy and difficult way (Stanley, 2006)
3.    become familiar on ways to use podcasts in the ESL-EFL classroom
4.    create a podcast project

The session is addressed to beginners or - as we have noticed- to teachers who are familiar with tools like Audacity but have never succeeded in using it since, it seems to be, they are daunted by its sometimes unfriendly interface, apparent threatening look or complicated layout.  At the end of the session, they realize how easy it is to use and they can get hooked to this free software to create simple but very creative and almost professional podcasts.

EVO sessions run for five weeks from January to February. The Podcasting for the ESL-EFL Classroom uses as a major platform the old, but really helpful and reliable Yahoo Groups. We use it to communicate, announce the start of each week session, answer participants’ queries and welcome newcomers. We also use it, as part of tasks, to share recordings and blogs as well as to keep a record of participants’ information and photos. The other platform we use is Blogger for the Session blog, the Activity blog and the reading blog. Participants use Blogger to create their own e-portfolios.

Activities or tasks have been planned in a graded manner, step by step sort of approach, to help participants become familiar with Audacity (the difficult way – Stanley, 2006) along with web-based podcast services (the easy way- Stanley, 2006). Creating blogs start from Week 2 all the way up to Week 5 when participants showcase them in the Podcasting Fair in Wiziq. Readings also start from understanding basic notions related to podcasting, how it is used in ESL-EFL (Weeks 2-4) and reviewing a pool of websites about podcasting collected by Wesley Fryer (Week 5). Furthermore, tasks are planned to try to encourage participants to work on their own without depending that much on the moderators especially after Week 2. Tutorials come in handy to explore and learn all the tools introduced all along the session. They are also used to clarify certain technical problems participants report in the Yahoo groups.  Here’s a quick overview on how the content is organized for this session. (Click on image to enlarge).

You can also here to read a description of each activities done during each week.

One of the things we have learned while moderating this session is that we should take into account:

1. Operating systems (e.g. Linux,  Windows, Leopard)
2. Browsers (Internet explorer, Firefox and Google Chrome)
3. PC and Mac users
4. Participants’ IT skills or expertise
5. Best time to plan synchronous sessions in international teaching training development sessions like EVO
6. Moderator’s support (e.g. immediacy , close support)

As for the evaluation, participants from the 2011 session talked about:

1. Variety of podcast tools
2. The support of  tutors and colleagues
3. Moderators’ Immediate response
4. Challenging course design, but achievable activities
5. Well-planned and selected activities per week
6. Progression of activities (from easy to demanding ones)
7. The potential of some other tools used in the session like Glogster, Blogger, Google docs, Voicethread among others
8. The use of tutorials to provide support and feedback
9. Confidence  to show other students and colleagues how to use podcasts
10. Having access to their own blogs (e-portfolio), session blogs and Yahoo groups even when the session is over.
11. Valuable synchronous sessions focused on review and not on empty chatting.
12. Broadening participants’ knowledge on podcast tools some participants thought they knew well.

Participants from the 2012 session talked about:

1. Their favorite tool being to our surprise Audacity. One of the participants, however, reported it is not advisable to use by young learners since it might be a bit hard to master.
2. Some other favorite podcasting tools like  Audioboo, Podmatic and Podbean.
3. Challenging course design, but achievable activities. Some participants suggested advertising it as a class.
4. Offering a session on videos as the natural next step after podcasting. They especially liked the video tutorials and how they showed a step by step way to create podcasts.
5. The potential of some other tools used in the session like Glogster, Blogger, Google docs, Voicethread among others
6. Well-planned and selected activities per week
7. The support of  tutors and colleagues
8. The follow up made by tutors on participants’ work each week
9. Progression of activities (from easy to demanding ones)

As for the moderators’ feedback, it was done using screencasting. This feedback is generally given during Week 5 before participants showcase their work. It is advisable to do this to provide this boost of confidence participants need before showcasing their work in a live session. This feedback consisted in reviewing each page from the blog’s participants providing advice on adding missing information and podcasts and the project itself. 

Watch this feedback for one of the participants from the 2011 session:

Watch this feedback for one of the participants from the 2012 session:

For a future session we should include some other tools like Sound Cloud and refer to the use of mobile technology to record podcasts.

Here are some participants' podcast samples made during 2011 and 2012:

Podbean (First recording using Audacity)

About me: Chris Jeffries (2011)

About me: Kerry (2012)


Out my Window: Barbara Sakamoto (2011)

Out my Window: Janet Bianchini (2012)

MP3 Skype recorder:

Interview: Nina Liakos (2011)

Interview: Steve K (2012)


My mystery person: Maryanne Burgos (2011)

Canadian Mystery Person (mp3)

My Mystery person: Natasa Bozic Grojic (2012)

My Mystery Person (mp3)


Recordings for the 2011 session are not available.

Questions to e-moderators: Sophia Danesino (2012)


Tongue twister: Jhon Conway (2012)

Tongue twister: Marie Helene (2011)

Blog Promo

Yuly Asención(2011)

Maja Dakic-Brkovic (2012)

Here is a participant' podcast blog (e-portfolio) from 2011 session:

Here is a participant' podcast blog (e-portfolio) from 2012 session:

To check out more great participants' blogs and podcast I invite you to visit the blogs for 2011 and 2012 sessions.

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