Podcasts: a Great New Way to Learn for Free

By: Dominic Beaudoin

The methods we use to learn change as technologies evolve. The time when we had to leave home with our books and go into a building somewhere to attend class is almost a thing of the past: welcome to the world of Podcasts.

So, what is this Podcast thing? According to Wikipedia: Podcasting is the method of distributing multimedia files, such as audio programs or music videos, over the Internet using either the RSS or Atom syndication formats, for playback on mobile devices and personal computers. The term Podcast, like 'radio', can mean both the content and the method of delivery. The host or author of a Podcast is often called a Podcaster. Podcasters' web sites may also offer direct download or streaming of their files; a Podcast however is distinguished by its ability to be downloaded automatically using software capable of reading RSS or Atom feeds.

The name Podcast can be confusing; you do not need to have an iPod to play Podcasts although it can be useful to have one if you want to take your content with you.

Just like on the rest of the web, you can find a Podcast on pretty much any subject. There is a lot of entertainment, some tv/radio shows are converted to Podcasts, and there are also quite a few tutorials for you to learn from.

Getting started using iTunes:


  1. Make sure your have a recent version of iTunes or the Podcast feature might not be available to you. You can go to www.apple.com/itunes and download it there for free for Mac OS or Windows.
  2. In iTunes, there is a "Podcasts" icon on the top left of the iTunes window, select it and then at the bottom of the window to the right, click on "Podcast directory". It will take you a special section of the Apple Music Store. Don't worry, you won't have to pay anything unless you click on a "buy" button somewhere.
  3. Now is the time to find content that may interest you. You can click on one of the featured Podcasts on the main page or you can use the search box on the left to find a specific subject.
  4. Once you have have found something interesting, click on the subscribe button and it will be added to your Podcast library (clicking on an "iTunes Podcast subscribe button" on a Podcast's accompanying website will give the same result). By default, iTunes will download the most recent Podcast "episode". You can change this setting in the iTunes preferences.
  5. As soon as the Podcast has finished downloading, you can start enjoying the content! If you would like to download other "episodes", just select one of them in the Podcast library and click the "get" button. You can download more than one at a time but it may slow down your computer if you download too many at once.

Aren't Podcasts great? Audio and video content delivered to your computer (or transfered to your portable media player) for free... Take advantage of this new learning tool and enhance your learning experience! As Mortimer Adler once said: ?The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as long as we live.?

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