Interview With Creators Of “Podcasts In English”, Part 2

In Part 1, pie creators Richard Cain and Jackie McAvoy described how they got started with pie and the challenges and rewards it entails. Why and how – in their words – are podcasts beneficial to both learners and teachers?

“For anyone learning a language they need input – to read or listen to the language. Most people learn from course books or phrase books, but podcasts open up a new realm. A fault with many course book listenings is that they are stilted and often only exist to present a grammar point. This is a hurdle especially for students learning in a non-English environment. Podcasts are generally much freer in their content. For us, we don’t script our podcasts so they sound more natural but we also try to grade our language so they are accessible for lower level students. We want students to be exposed to the language we really use, this includes interrupting, false starts, and slang. Also, rather than use the language to present a grammar point we just think of an interesting topic and then design communicative activities to exploit the language rather than the other way round.

For teachers we hope that the podcasts can provide an interesting alternative, or additional support, to the course book listenings they already use in class. Teachers can also suggest the podcasts for additional listening practice if the language school has a language lab.”

Teachers who are a bit, ahem, technologically-challenged like myself should note that you most certainly can already use podcasts in your classroom even if you don’t have internet access. Simply download podcasts at home, or in the school staffroom, and burn them onto a CD which you can (hopefully) use in class.

Last but not least, I was curious to hear how the pie team envisions podcasts in the future: how will podcasts themselves develop and how will their role in the classroom change over the next five or ten years?

“I’m not sure; their role in the language classroom now is practically non-existent so that can only increase. However, at the end of the day podcasting is just listening. It’s the flavour of the month like blogging was a year or two ago, but like blogging it will probably settle down to become one of many tools available to teachers and learners of English. Podcasting as a technology has been led by amateurs broadcasting from their living rooms. A few dedicated teachers seem to be leading the way and their podcasts are the dominant players at the moment but many teachers still have no idea what podcasts are, let alone how they can use them with their students. Some big corporates such as the BBC are introducing podcasts for learners of English but these are not designed for classroom use. Whatever happens I’m sure both can live side by side though and there will be room for everyone. Whether educational publishers will introduce more natural conversations into their course books is another matter. The important thing is that with the huge growth of the web and bandwidth more material is becoming available to more people. Like so many things with the web it’s just accessing the good stuff that will be the challenge, but as far as listening and learning is concerned the more the merrier!”

I’d like to thank pie creators Richard Cain and Jackie McAvoy for sharing their experience here. To see what it’s all about you should of course visit the official pie site, and find information on how to become a member here.