Prior to the invention of the television, audio entertainment such as Batman, Gunsmoke, The Shadow, CBS Radio Mystery Thriller, and Abbott and Costello are just a sample of popular radio shows from back in the day. The invention of the television added a visual element to entertainment, and television has since flourished with at least three units per household in the US and other countries averaging one or two. However, a 2015 Pew Research study indicates that there is a current explosion in the production and consumption of audio entertainment. In the past couple of years, audio books have so increased in popularity that many authors are opting to publish straight to audio, bypassing paperback and eBook publications. The Podcast, a name that is derived through the combination of the words iPod and broadcast, is another form of audio entertainment currently on the rise. Although sometimes available in video and other file formats, the most popular Podcasts today are in audio form.
The component driving the popularity of Podcasts can be summed up in one word: convenience. Podcasts are increasingly popular due to ease of access to them via mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Public radio is now expanding by offering new podcast-only networks, allowing listeners to enjoy podcasts during long commutes. Podcasts are similar to talk radio, but rather than existing only on radio airwaves, they can be searched, downloaded, and listened to via the Internet. Considering all the devices available today that require user attention, it is convenient to be able to have an assortment of methods through which to learn or be entertained. For individuals who work fulltime using a computer, in addition to heavy computer work for school, computer eyestrain can become a real problem. Podcasts can be a nice alternative to relieve your overworked eyes, and they can be just as informative as reading an Internet article or watching a YouTube video. Podcasts are now available across a wide range of interest categories, including small business, motivational, innovation, tech news, sports, and celebrity talk shows, to name just a few.
Distance learning educators can recommend that their students listen to a specific Podcast network or to specific episodes as part of the class curriculum and answer discussion questions on virtual discussion boards. The Podcast is as legitimate an instructional method as assigning reading or providing a video lecture to watch. The only difference is that students are listening instead of reading or watching. Language instructors may want to consider using or asking their students to use Language Pod 101, a Podcast that offers approximately 31 different language choices. What better way to learn a language in a virtual setting than through listening? In fact, it may be more effective to learn a foreign language through listening than through reading a textbook. Following the popularity of lectures available on YouTube and other sites, many Podcast lectures are now being created and published by top-tier universities. Using Podcasts as a part of instruction is a great way to ensure that teachers accommodate the variety of learning styles that may exist in their classrooms.
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