Pirate Radio for the 21st Century

July 20, 2009

In 1990, Christian Slater starred in the movie Pump Up the Volume.  The film tells a tale of Mark Hunter and his radio personality Hard Harry.  Mark has recently moved to Arizona and is shy in his new surroundings.  Mark’s parents give him the gift of a short-wave radio.  With his new technology, Mark begins his own radio show.  Mark uses his technology to speak his mind on topics of importance to him.

I contend that podcasting is the Pirate Radio of the 21st century.

Flanagan and Calandra (2005, p. 21) state, that podcasting “may be a cost-effective way to deliver instruction…”  The authors are very much correct.  For a relatively small amount of money, and individual can easily make podcast.

What is a podcast?

According to Wikipedia, podcasting is series of audio files that are released on a  regular basis and are available for download.  Where podcasts differ from regular audio file downloads is that a podcast can be retrieved using a podcatcher due to web syndication.

Gathering podcasts

I decided to use the Apple product iTunes to catch podcasts that were of interest to me.  One iTunes was open, I simply click on the podcast icon within the program and I was sent to the iTunes store.

Apple iTunes Podcast Home

Apple iTunes Podcast Home

Under ‘Categories’ select ‘Education’ and further refine the search under ‘More Education’ by selecting ‘K-12′, “Educational Technology’, ‘Higher Education’, ‘Language Courses’ or ‘Training’.

When clicking on one of the categories a list of featured podcasts becomes available and is displayed through the use of icons representing each podcasts.  After clicking on an icon a description of the podcast is given and a ‘subscribe’ link is displayed.  By clicking on the ‘subscribe’ link, the podcast is added to the podcast library within iTunes.  iTunes gives the user the option of automatically checking for updates and downloading them if there are new episodes.

Podcast Gallery in iTunes

Podcast Gallery in iTunes

I chose to browse and subscribe to tech related podcasts in the K-12 category and the Educational Technology category.

This is a great way for me to get personal professional development.  Once I sync my iPod with iTunes, I will be able to play these podcasts in my car or while I am doing other work.

I can listen, can I create?

As I introduced this posting with, I believe that the podcast is the 21st century pirate radio.  The podcast is a forum for adolescents to share their thoughts.  Educationally, this means that teachers can have their students create a podcast to show their learning, thoughts, and opinions on curricular topics.  I decided I would post some information for my audience.

Below is my first podcast.


The Process

The path to taking over the airwaves is not an easy one.  I watched the YouTube video A Podcast Tutorial [Podcasting 101] and Integrating Podcasting Into Your Classroom to get a few tips and hints.

After watching the videos, I downloaded Audacity and its related plugins.  I never did download the extras other than the MP3 encoder.  When I tried to install the plugin software, my computer kept getting an error.

The first thing I did because I thought it would be fun is find some intro and outro music.  The music I used was found at http://www.ccmixter.org.  It is called Broken Poems Beat and is a piece of work of Evrim Sen.  Lamb and Johnson (2007)  suggest the use of music and sound effects to add to the podcast and attract more users.  I struggled to find sound effects that would be appropriate for the topic.  This is something I will need to try and incorporate into any future podcasts.

I thought of a name for the podcast – Techno Babble for Educators and started babbling.  I wrote out the text that I was going to say for the first couple of sections and then just tried to wing it.  When I podcasted with no script the “ahhs” and “umms” seemed to creep into my speech.  I think that I would improve in the unscripted reading with more practice at it.  I would hope that eventually, the script would not be a necessity.

After recording all of the segments in Audacity, I used Podomatic to host the podcast.  This process was fairly easy.  I did struggle with how other people were going to download the file, however.  Okay, maybe it wasn’t fairly easy.  I uploaded the wrong file (not a problem with the website, just me) the first time and decided to try PodBean instead.  I found that for both sites, Podomatic and PodBean, there is a substantial wait.

Practical Uses

I could definitely see this type of technology being used in my classroom.  I think that as a class we could create an audio science reference resource.  Students would work as a team to develop information on a topic and then create a podcast of the information.  All of the topics could then be added together to create a larger resource.  Students who are absent for extended periods of time could access the information and use it as a way to keep up to date with the information.  In mathematics, students sometimes have difficulty writing out their reasoning behind a word problem.  By podcasting, the student could simply talk through the issue and would gain a better understanding of the content that you are dealing with.  Borsheim, Merritt, and Reed (2008) suggest that students creating podcasts are more involved in the process and are more willing to participate in the project.


There is definitely some challenges to this type of activity.  I think the technological aspect of the process could be daunting for some students.  I had issues getting the podcast uploaded and embedded into my WordPress blog.

The process is time consuming.  It would not be feasible to ask students to complete this type of project in a small amount of time.  The students would need a few days to develop content and record the material as well as edit it so that it sounds just right.


I found the podcast process to be enjoyable even though it was time consuming.  As students develop their ability to create podcasts their creativity and skill will flourish and they will soon be producing high quality bodies of work.


Borsheim, C., Merritt, K., and Reed, D. (2008). Beyond technology for technology sake: Advancing multiliteracies in the twenty-first century. The Clearing House, 82(2), p. 87 – 90. Retrieved July 20, 2009 from CBCA database.

Flanagan, B. and Calandra, B. (2005). Podcasting in the classroom. Learning and Leading with Technology, 33(3), 20-23.  Retrieved July 19, 2009 from http://eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/1e/1d/f3.pdf.

Lamb, A. and Johnson, L. (2007). Podcasting in the school library, part 1: Integrating podcasts and vodcasts into teaching and learning, Teacher Librarian, 34(3), p. 54-57. Retrieved July 19, 2009 from CBCA database.


  1. Hi Dan, I had some trouble listening to your podcast. Even when I had my computer volume and the volume on your podcast at high, I still could barely hear it. Does this have to do with the settings you used when recording it? Aaahh, the frustrations of technology.

  2. I agree with your concerns about time, but now that you have experience with making it work, and as long as the same sites are available at your school, I’m sure students would be very quick to catch on as they are with any new tech tool and may even teach you a thing or two about how to make them work better. It’s been my experience that students are not afraid to tread “where no man has gone before” – seems like their philosophy is pretty much trial & error.

  3. Hi Dan,

    I too had problems embedding my podcast directly into my blog – how did you overcome this? Luckily for me, I was able to place the link and the podcatcher I am using has teh “Misty” template that was created by the same designer as my blog template so it works for me to have the link. I used the html embed code and all that was embedded was the link to PodBean. Oh well, another complexity to overcome and I see that there is hope because you did get your player and podcast embedded – feel free to send tips to me for that!

    ~:) Heather

  4. Hi Dan,

    I liked your idea about podcasts being used as professional development for teachers. This could be called PD on demand. Something like the Just-in-Time learning model that was mentioned in earlier blog posts. Perhaps you could create a series of brief podcasts to explain the Web 2.0 tools we have been learning about.

  5. Yes, Dan, I am becoming more and more focused on applications for the Web 2.0 features that we are exploring and experimenting with. PD or inservicing seems like a great idea. Our librarian created a podcast for us to post in our Moodle sites. In it, she provided users with instructions for accessing our electronic databases.

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