This paper discusses podcasting and its potential for learning English. A survey involving 298 students at Hiroshima University and Hiroshima Jogakuin University was conducted, and the popularity of digital audio players (DAPs) was analyzed.
First, we take a brief look at the history of audio media and English learning. Compact cassette tapes had long been used to record and play audio materials to learn English in classrooms and at home until the late 1990s, when the spread of Mini Discs (MDs) and CD-R/RWs gradually made it difficult to use compact cassette tapes in LL/CALL classes. Now, such package media are being replaced by more versatile and flexible digital files, such as MP3 and AAC, which can be played on PCs and DAPs. In fact, digital media and DAPs are gaining popularity among university students, as seen in Nakanishi and Uematsu (2007). The digital files and the RSS technology have enabled podcasting programs to be automatically delivered in the "push"-style, which is useful in language learning in that it helps subscribers concentrate on learning by leaving the daily updates to the servers.
Next, the results of the survey "Digital Audio Players and English Learning" are reported. They show that 664000f the students have either a DAP or a music-enabled mobile phone. Among those students, 3027777713660wn an iPod. These facts mean that the majority of the students are ready to use Podcasting in language learning. Despite the popularity of DAPs, however, only 1016436062516f the students have listened to podcasting programs; furthermore, 7415035020054f the podcasting users listen to the programs on their PCs rather than on DAPs. As for the non-user group, which accounts for 9014534420145f the whole, very few of them know what podcasting is like. On the other hand, the students generally show a high interest in learning materials downloadable on the Internet.
The survey results will give some future tasks to those who want to use podcasting for English education: (1) to develop materials for podcasting which meet the students' needs; (2) to provide an easy access to developed materials on PCs as well as on DAPs; (3) to encourage students to learn English through podcasting; (4) to see if and how the "push"-style delivery of podcasting will help students continue language learning.