ESL Podcasting Project @ ISU

Research base

Grand Canyon National Park


To prepare for this project, as well as help us design and implement the materials in our ESL listening class, we needed a strong research base of peagogically- and theoretically-based articles covering issues such as teaching listening comprehension and the use of podcasts for language learning. Some of the articles we've identified include those below; we will continually add to this list with outside articles, as well as information about our project that we have published and/or presented at international conferences, as our project advances.

Dieu, B., Glogowski, P., Stanley, G., Noakes, N., and Lockman, S. (2007). Webpublishing in Open Participatory Environments.

This TESOL-sponsored online session runs from January 15 to February 25 2007. It is meant for teachers who have experienced using blogs and podcasts and would like to extend both their technical and pedagogical knowledge of these tools.

Lee, B. (2007, February 19). Podcasts transforming campus life. The Monterey County Herald.

Lee reports on the use of podcasts at Monterey Institute of International Studies. More...

O'Bryan, A. and Hegelheimer, V. (forthcoming). Integrating CALL into the classroom: The role of podcasting in an ESL listening strategies course. ReCALL Journal.

Overview of the podcasting project at Iowa State, with an in-depth look at how CALL can be integrated into the classroom.

Chinnery, G. M. (2006). Going to the MALL: Mobile Assisted Language Learning. Language Learning and Technology, 10(1), 9-16.

Review of portable media use, specifically cell phones, PDAs, and MP3 players, and how these technologies are used for language learning. More...

Hegelheimer, V. and O'Bryan, A. (2006). Making CALL an intergral part of the classroom. EUROCALL conference, Granada, Spain. (.ppt)

Overview of the podcasting project at Iowa State.

O'Bryan, A. (2006). Integrating podcasts into an ESL listening course: the what, the how, and the why. Iowa State Applied Linguistics Colloquium, Ames, Iowa. (.ppt)

Overview of the podcasting project at Iowa State.

Stanley, G. (2006). Podcasting: Audio on the Internet Comes of Age. TESL-EJ, 9(4).

When discussing audio and video podcasting, as well as webcasting, Graham Stanley touches on issues that are of interest to language teachers thinking about integrating these new technologies into their classrooms. More...

Goodwin-Jones, R. (2005). Emerging Technologies: Skype and Podcasting: Disruptive Technologies for Language Learning. Language Learning and Technology, 9(3), 9-12.

Robert Goodwin-Jones’ column focuses on using Skype, audioblogs and podcasting for language teaching and learning. More...

McCarty, S. (2005). Spoken Internet to go: Popularization through podcasting. JALT CALL, 1(2), 67-74.

Steve McCarty describes the increasing popularization of podcasts in language teaching, and discusses examples of podcasts in Japan. More...

Thorne, S. and J. Payne (2005). Evolutionary Trajectories, Internet-mediated Expression, and Language Education. CALICO, 22(3), 371-397.

This article describes the evolution of communication technologies and briefly discusses the potential use of podcasts for language teaching. More...


















Chinnery, G. M. (2007). Going to the MALL: Mobile Assisted Language Learning. Language Learning and Technology, 10(1), 9-16.

Mobile learning environments can take a variety of formats: face-to-face, online, or self-paced and deliverable. Chinnery stresses the point that language lessons should not be designed around technology, as they are merely tools; effective use depends on "the thoughtful application of second language pedagogy". After providing a brief overview of how cell phones and PDAs have been used in language classrooms, he turns the focus in iPods. For example, in 2004 Duke University's Spanish students used iPods with microphone attachments to record audio assignments and play audio feedback from the instructor. Turkish language students were able to use their iPods for listening to authentic songs and other audio materials. While uses of iPods and, more recently, podcasting are on the rise, Chinnery voices concerns about possible poor audio quality, limited availability (although mobile labs are one suggestion for combatting this problem), lack of a cultural context, and limited social interaction.

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Lee, B. (2007, February 19). Podcasts transforming campus life. The Monterey County Herald.

Lecturers are providing recording versions of their lectures in podcast format, deliverable with iTunesU. Lee interviews one ESL professor, Bob Cole, who podcasted teacher-training conferences for his graduate CALL course. Cole reported that "It kind of raised the level of the classroom discussion having it recorded." In addition to increasing the level of class discussion, students say they are using podcasts to review lecture information they may have missed; these recorded lectures come in handy when it comes to test time. Podcasting is reportedly just the beginning for online learning at Monterey's Naval Postgraduate school, which is also looking into using scenerio-based interactive games.

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Stanley, G. (2006). Podcasting: Audio on the Internet Comes of Age. TESL-EJ, 9(4).

This article discusses issues related to audio and video podcasting, as well as webcasting, that are of interest to language teachers thinking about integrating these new technologies into their classrooms. Stanley begins with a brief overview of what podcasting is and how podcasts work, and then discusses possibilities for using podcasts in the language classroom, including as a supplement to textbook materials, as a source for authentic listening materials, and as a way for students to gain information on specific aspects of the language, such as idiomatic expressions or grammatical constructions. Stanley recommends many places to search for podcasts, including Podcast Alley, Podcast Pickle,  Englishcaster, or the Internet TESL Journal's links.

One other approach to using podcasts in the classroom is to have your students produce their own podcast or podcast episode. Stanley suggests starting “a podcast exchange project with another class and students from other parts of the world” (p. 4). To help teachers gain the knowledge needed to do this type of project, he outlines two ways to create podcasts: an easy way, using an automatic podcast creation tool (such as Odeo or Podomatic , or a more advanced way using Audacity to record your mp3 file, server space to house the file (he cites the free space provided by Ourmedia, where you will need to register with the Internet Archive beforehand as a possibility), and a blog from which to link the file.  Once you’ve decided to involve your students in the podcasting process, Stanley suggests that your students may be motivated by the prospect of a real audience, and recommends that teachers listen to any of Bob Sprankle's Room 208 podcast episodes to see how this has been done before. Stanley also discusses his experience of including students in the production of a podcast, and claims “[t]he attention to detail and interest is superior to when learners are producing work which is only being seen by an audience of one (the teacher). Questionnaires given to the students after the course also showed they appreciated the value of the publishing project” (p. 6).

Finally, Stanley discusses video podcasts and webcasts, live, video or audio broadcasts, and suggests using these to encourage interaction between students around the world. Stanley admits that “[l]ive interactive webcasting may be difficult to set up on your own, but a new venture through a site called EFLBridges makes it easier to involve your students in live voice and chat webcasts. Using the free Internet telephony software Skype, students can call in and chat to other students from around the world” (p. 6). While Stanley admits that new uses of these technologies for language learning have yet to be discovered, the possibilities are exciting.

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Goodwin-Jones, R. (2005). Emerging Technologies: Skype and Podcasting: Disruptive Technologies for Language Learning. Language Learning and Technology, 9(3), 9-12.

Dubbed disruptive technologies because they have the potential to "threaten traditional industries" (p. 9), Goodwin-Jones discusses how new technologies Skype, a free, Internet-based phone service, and podcasting, an online audio broadcast, can be used for language teaching. Their low cost and convenience make these technologies to teachers in a variety of settings.

Skype provides phone service using voice-over internet protocol (or VoIP) technology, allowing computers to act as telephones. To use Skype, one will need a microphone connected to their computer; headphones are not necessary, but they can help block out echos. The program can run on a variety of operating systems, including Windows and Mac OS X, and calls from computer to computer are free. Goodwin-Jones says it is possible to make calls from computer to a land-based phone, but there is a fee. For language teachers, Goodwin-Jones suggests Skype as a good alternative to other voice chat programs, such as PalTalk since the quality is better. He suggests learners connect to long-distance locations for free conversation practice and sites online class-class exchange websites (such as The Mixxer) established by language teachers to encourage learner conversation. Skype requires a fairly high-speed Internet connection and has recently added video conferencing through a thire-party add-on.

Podcasting allows users to download and/or subscribe to audio programs (in the form of MP3 files) using their computers; the files can then easily be transferred to a portable MP3 player. Goodwin-Jones discusses the predecessor to podcasting, audioblogging, where web-log users would post audio files to their blogs, but states that podcasting is different since it allows users to subscribe to the content. When users choose to do this, new audio files produced for a podcast program can be automatically downloaded to programs such as iTunes or Juice. While podcasts exist on a variety of topics, from news to travel to computer help, the number of language learning podcasts has been increasing. Some of these language learning podcasts are sponsored by schools while some are produced by independent language teachers. Goodwin-Jones provides directions on how to create a podcast for interested language teachers, as well as links to a variety of resources providing further information and possible software needed for production purposes.

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McCarty, S. (2005). Spoken Internet To Go: Popularization through Podcasting. JALT CALL, 1(2), 67-74.

While podcasting is considered a new technology, McCarty notes that Internet audio files, audio conferencing and video conferencing have been around for quite a while. Audio "represents a great leap in sensory input over text" (p. 67), and recent trends in technology, including easier-to-use recording technology, high-speed Internet connections and newer versions of software available for listening to audio files has helped podcasting to grow in popularity. McCarty sites a number of resources for teachers interested in podcasting, including web-hosting services that can host and help you produce podcasts. In addition, he provides an overview of how Osaka Jogakuin College in Japan, the first college in the word to give away iPods to incoming freshmen in 2004, has been encouraging the use of iPods into the classroom. For example, students majoring in English as a Foreign Language use the iPods to download news stories needed to complete homework assignments.

In addition to providing this overview, McCarty goes into specific detail when discussing a project called Japancasting, a podcast aimed at students in Japan learning English. Japancasting, currently in progress, will contain episodes with topics such as Japanese culture and religions, as well as the educational system and ancient legends. Most episodes will contain links to transcripts, and McCarty states that students, as well as professionals, are contributing scripts and interviews. The aim for Japancasting is not merely to move existing, textual content onto the Internet in a new format, but it instead aims to add another dimension to existing content.

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Thorne, S. and J. Payne (2005). Evolutionary Trajectories, Internetmediated Expression, and Language Education. CALICO, 22(3), 371-397.

Thorne and Payne claim that information technologies are transforming the way people communicate. Because both school and university-age students have been found to spend an increasing amount of time interacting with various technologies, including video and computer games, as well as cell phones and computers (Presky, 2001 and Tapscott, 1997), language teachers, who are often not a part of this Net Generation (Tapscott, 1997) are therefore presented with a new set of challenges and opportunities.

Research on computer-mediated communication has flourished within the past 15 years. In the 1990s, much research on synchronous computer-mediated communication (SCMC), or chat, suggested pedagogical benefits for language learning. Students were found to communicate more frequently than in an oral discussion format at a sophisticated level (Kern, 1995). More recent research on SCMC (Payne and Whitney, 2002) have found significant oral proficiency gains by students using SCMC to communicate. Many researchers investigating SCMC learner data have done so from the interactionist perspective of second language acquisition (see Pelleteri, 2000; Blake, 2000; and Smith, 2003, 2004) investigating issues such as the effect of task type on negotiations. While much CMC research has focused on interactions and negotiations, research has also used SCMC and asynchronous CMC to encourage inter-cultural communication and  has especially brought about learning outcomes in the area of pragmatics (see Belz and Kinginger, 2002, 2003)

Thorne and Payne identify many recent and evolving technologies available for student members of this "digital-native generation" (p. 381) to use for language learning, such as blogs, wikis, and podcasts.

In L2 contexts, a blog, or a web application that allows users to post entries and visitors to post comments or responses to the entries, provides "an alternative to writing assignments that would normally be presented only to the instructor" (p. 383). Recent research on blogging with high-school Spanish language students (Thorne, Weber and Bensinger, 2005) found that students prefered blogging to writing traditional journal entries and most noted improvements in their writing. Compared to blogs, which are typically very personal, wikis, or web environments that allow for collaborative writing, are inherently collaborative.

While many new technologies encourage and facilitate writing and publishing student work on the Internet, Thorne and Payne identify podcasting, the provision of audio or video files on the Internet that users can download or subscribe to, as also having tremendous potential for language teachers. Podcasts can be used to provide learners with samples of real speech and other authentic materials. For example, podcasts have already begun to be integrated into Duke University foreign language courses where students download listening materials and audio flashcards, as well as record their own speech for instructor evaluation. 

Thorne and Payne claim that CMC, while referring specifically to computers, no longer requires a "computer" but really applies to many different electronic devices. Many of today's students are growing up interacting regularly with new technologies which may be impacting their cognitive development and is increasing the generation gap that exists between teachers and students. Through use of Internet-mediated communication, teachers can lessen this gap and possibly transform language teaching and learning.

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