Podcasting Education

By: Andrew Robertson

Podcasting is the use of a digital music player that plays downloaded files from the internet. But, how does this innovate Technical Communications? It does so, in many ways. Podcasting is being used to download news programs, radio programs, museum tours and other audio or visual files. In Tech Communication, the transmission of an instruction set, or quick guide or any other type of help file is useful for users working in their workplace. With the current trend of online documentation, users can go online to get help files and download them to a MP3 player. With Podcasting, a user can download instructions and view or listen to them on their personal computer or digital music player. 

For example, a user could download an audio help file about how to plant flowers. He or she could listen to the files on an MP3 player while a task is being accomplished. The user can repeat the file as many times as needed to complete the task. A visual Podcast is useful for a process requires complex visuals. An aircraft mechanic could download visual instructions for removing a part or other complex task. With a small hard drive visual player, such as an iPod, the user could even crawl into a tight section of the airplane, perform the task and receive instructions from the Podcast. This would be helpful for the mechanic when they need to use both hands for the task. Then the Podcast could instruct the user how to remove an avionics module or how to repair a fuel tank.

Podcasting are also used in educational situations. Students can download a podcast and listen to the lessons. The use of podcast is useful for learning second languages. The student can listen to a podcast lesson and repeat the language. With the advent of the Internet the user can upgrade to new lessons when they are ready. Home schooling education is an area can use podcasting. Education itself is also a form of technical communication. And the use of podcasting will innovate the profession, on all levels of education.

An example of podcasting in action is at Stanford University. Students can download lectures from the iTunes store. This is helpful for students that don’t have the time to sit in class and listen to the lecture.  Distance education will also become more accessible to those that want to learn via the Internet. Other uses of Stanford’s podcasting, is for students of other universities that want to learn more about a topic.  Education at Stanford has changed since the introduction of their podcasts. Many other universities are posting podcasts for students. This will alter the way that information will be exchanged  

In museums, Podcasting is used as a guide to inform patrons about the exhibits on display. This is innovating tech comm because of the user / task relationship. The museum patron learns about the exhibit and other technical information about the artist. This application of Podcasts can augment the placement of exhibitions and the related content that the patron receives at the museum. The Walker Art Center of Minneapolis uses Podcasts to inform its patrons about the center and the works on display. This is useful for patrons that want to view the outdoor exhibits and listen to the information while they are enjoying the sights.

This application could transfer over to situations that involve many people that speak different languages.  If groups needed to receive information relating to relief efforts, they could listen to a Podcast in their native language and then complete the instructions. This is useful for those that need information that is standardized. One Podcast could be recorded and those that need it could download it to their mp3 player or computer.

Podcasts will innovate education from many points of view. The mechanic will be able to bring instructions and tutorials to tight places. The student can listen to lectures on their own time. A second language can be learned with Podcasts. Presentations can be downloaded for museum functions or any type of tour.  The future of education and technical communication is with Podcasts. Those that use this technology in there communication will innovate technical communication. The true potential for Podcasts is still unknown. But more and more people are using Podcasts for communication with technical content.