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ReCALL 19(2): 162-180.

2007 European Association for Computer Assisted Language Learning


DOI: 10.1017/S0958344007000523 Printed in the United Kingdom
162
Integrating CALL into the classroom: the role of
podcasting in an ESL listening strategies course
ANNE OBRYAN AND VOLKER HEGELHEIMER
Applied Linguistics & Technology, Department of English,
Iowa State University, 226 Ross Hall Ames, IA 50011, USA
(email: aobryan@iastate edu, volkerh@iastate edu)
Abstract
Despite the increase of teacher preparation programs that emphasize the importance of training
teachers to select and develop appropriate computer-assisted language learning (CALL) materials,
integration of CALL into classroom settings is still frequently relegated to the use of selected CALL
activities to supplement instruction or to provide additional practice. For the most part, we are still
quite a way from what Bax (2003) calls the normalization stage of CALL, i.e., the stage where
CALL becomes invisible and truly integrated. Podcasting, a new method of delivering on-demand
audio and video files via the Web, shows promise as a technology that may allow teachers to expand
the confines of their classrooms, and is becoming increasingly popular in educational contexts.
Current use of podcasting in education remains, however, limited primarily to the delivery of
recorded lectures in a portable, online format. We believe podcasting has the potential to not only
act as a rich source of input and instruction for students in the language classroom, but also to
transform instruction. Consequently, this paper describes a structured attempt to integrate CALL
activities in the form of podcasts into an academic English as a Second Language (ESL) course on
listening strategies. Preliminary evaluation of this ongoing project suggests that both the teacher and
the students find the podcasts to be a positive component of the course.
Keywords: CALL integration, listening comprehension, podcasting, academic listening strategies
1 Introduction
Despite a widespread abundance of CALL activities, the purposeful and effective
integration of CALL into study programs remains at the very beginning stages. Teacher
training programs have emphasized the importance of equipping teachers with the
necessary skills and expertise to develop CALL materials (see Chapelle & Hegelheimer,
2004; Egbert, et al., 2003; Hubbard & Levy, 2006), yet a general lack of support and/or
access to computer technology frequently squashes the lofty ambitions of newly
trained teachers.
The role of podcasting in an ESL listening strategies course 163
This problem, however, extends beyond these scenarios in that the integration of CALL
even in well-equipped settings (particularly university settings) is often incomplete or
haphazard and generally lags behind what pre-service teachers are told and taught. Thus, it
is the responsibility of those who are in well-equipped environments to demonstrate that
CALL can be integrated into study programs before any expectations of this nature can
even be articulated for less well-equipped contexts. Consequently, this paper outlines an
innovative attempt to integrate CALL activities in the form of podcasts into an academic
ESL course on listening strategies at a major Midwestern Research University. In addition,
preliminary feedback from six students and the course instructor is presented in order to
evaluate the ways in which podcasts were used with and integrated into the course.
Innovation, as is the case with the integration of CALL, can either be mandated
administratively or be driven by teachers, frequently through the development of
teaching materials, as is the case in this example. The technology used in conjunction
with the materials also plays a significant role in order to avoid the following fallacy
observed at a recent American Association of Applied Linguistics (AAAL) conference,
where one young adult learner of English reportedly uses e-mail only for class
assignments and to talk with her mom. This may be indicative of the fact that teachers
are often out of touch with what their students are actually doing.
Consequently, the project described in this paper was driven by the need for
technologies that (a) young adult learners use, (b) have the potential to transform
instruction, and (c) allow for the creation of innovative materials. In light of the nature
of the course, i.e., academic listening strategies, podcasting was identified as ideally
suited for this project.
Unfortunately, the use of podcasting in educational settings to date has been rather
limited, frequently only referring to the recording of class lectures and to making them
available on the Internet for later review. We are convinced that, drawing on the
popularity of MP3 players among university students, the use of podcasting can
transform classroom instruction when students begin to listen not just to music, but to
language learning materials that are integrated into the curriculum. One perhaps lofty
goal of such integration efforts is for language learners to subscribe to course podcasts
so that they become part of learners daily listening routines.
2 CALL integration
The integration of CALL into the language learning classroom is becoming more of a
focus in CALL research. In addition to it being the main theme of EUROCALL 2006,
several researchers have contemplated how CALL has evolved over the last 40 years
(Warschauer & Healey, 1998) and how CALL could or should become a normal
component of the language classroom (Bax, 2003).
Warschauer and Healey (1998) describe how CALL has shifted from structural CALL
(emphasis on drill and practice in the 1970s and 1980s) to communicative CALL (with
an emphasis on communicative tasks facilitated through CALL materials in the 1980s
and 1990s) to integrative CALL (with an emphasis on authentic discourse implemented
through an ESP/EAP approach) in the 21st Century.
Bax (2003), proposing a different framework, suggests that normalization should be
the goal of technology-enhanced classroom instruction. He defines normalization as the
A. OBryan and V. Hegelehimer 164
stage when a technology is invisible, hardly even recognized as technology, taken for
granted in every day life (op. cit.: 23). However, Bax recognizes that for CALL to
become invisible, technological changes as well as changes in attitudes, approaches, and
practices among teachers are necessary, and he cites the integration of CALL activities
into the course syllabus as one key aspect of such change. As these changes take place,
Chambers and Bax (2006) suggest using Baxs (2003) framework for normalization to
guide research of CALL use and integration. Such research should include a broad and
balanced analysis of various factors and their interactions (Chambers & Bax, 2006:
467), and Bax (2003) further suggests that such implementation needs to be studied,
relying more heavily on qualitative methodologies, through which barriers to
normalization can be identified and addressed (op. cit.: 27).
While the podcasting technology is relatively new, language teachers and researchers
are beginning to see its potential. Thorne and Payne (2005) recognize podcasts not only
as excellent means for distributing audio, but also suggest that podcasting has the
potential to foster a more seamless integration of in-class and out-of-class activity and
materials (op. cit.: 386). However, empirical support for this claim is lacking in the
area of language learning and teaching. Therefore, we will look first to the use of iPods
and podcasting by educational institutions in general before addressing the use of
podcasts for language learners.
3 iPods and podcasting
The success of the Apple iPod, a portable hard drive capable of playing MP3 audio files
(among others), and other portable MP3 players spurred new iPod-related
Podcast Description
ESL Pod These podcasts usually center around a story or dialog that is
presented twice once at a rather slow pace, and once at a native
rate of speech. Between readings, some expressions or phrases are
explained. Topics range from movies to vacations to shopping for
clothes.
English Idioms and Slang These short podcasts focus on a single English idiom or slang term
in each podcast. Students can listen to an explanation of the meaning
of the idiom or slang term, as well as an example in context, and are
also provided with a transcript.
Learn a Song Podcast This website contains audio files of traditional, American songs
sung by a native-speaker of English. Some of these files are
available in a podcast format, and some are available as Flash files
which allow students to listen to individual lines of a song or the
entire song.
The Bardwell Road This podcast is produced for an English class in England and is
Centre Podcast primarily for students in the class rather than language learners who
are not in the class. Most podcasts contain interviews and dialogues
by non-native English speakers in the class.
Learn English Professionals There are a number of podcasts here designed for students learning
English. Transcripts are available, and topics range from how
students learn English (by students) to a lecture on business ethics.
Table 1 Sample ESL podcasts
The role of podcasting in an ESL listening strategies course 165
developments, one being on-demand audio. This phenomenon, dubbed podcasting,
allows persons with an MP3 player or a computer to subscribe to audio or visual
content that is automatically delivered over a network (Apple Computer Inc., 2006).
Podcasts can be thought of as online, audio or video broadcasts that contain a Really
Simple Syndication (RSS) feed, allowing users to subscribe to the podcast; once users
have subscribed to the podcast, their podcatching program, such as Apple iTunes or
Juice, automatically downloads new episodes as they become available. Users also have
the choice to listen to individual episodes. Today, podcasts have been created for many
purposes, including for use in education.
3.1 Podcasting in Education
Educational podcasts are becoming increasingly common on college and university
campuses in the United States, and the most popular use of these podcasts seems to be
for delivery of recorded lectures or speeches. Purdue University (2006) has coined the
term Boilercasts to describe their podcast-delivered recordings of lectures from more
than 70 classrooms. In addition to offering lectures as a podcast, both the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology (2007) and the University of California at Berkeley (2007) allow
for audio and video streaming of some campus lectures and events.
While listening to recorded lectures can allow students to review [lectures] at their
leisure and can be especially useful for students whose native language is not English
(Read, 2005: A39), many believe podcasts hold more potential. The University of
Wisconsin-Madison (2005) is encouraging teachers to first determine their instructional
goal before recording their podcasts, as podcasts can help to [a]rouse interest or
curiosity in a new topic, explain connections between new and previous material
help to serve as advanced organizer[s] before presenting a new topic, explain
nuances and intricacies of a difficult concept and [b]ring in other peoples
viewpoints (Five Steps to Designing Podcasts that Teach, para. 2). They are also
encouraging educators to tightly integrate a podcast into your course content and
learning activities (para. 5). Unfortunately, available publications on examples of such
integration are scarce, and initial uses of podcasts have not focused on language
learning.
3.2 Podcasting for language learners
While examples of integration are generally still lacking, ideas for using podcasting with
language learners have been addressed in recent publications. Thorne and Payne (2005)
suggest that podcasts can be used to provide learners with samples of real speech and
other authentic materials. Stanley (2006) suggests that podcasts could be used as a
supplement to textbook materials, a source for authentic listening materials, a way for
students to gain information on specific aspects of the language such as idiomatic
expressions or grammatical constructions and, with student-produced podcasts, as a way
for students to communicate with each other in other countries. Many available ESL
podcasts (see Table 1 for a sample) are produced by language teachers or native English
speakers interested in teaching English, and focus on understanding real speech (in the
form of scripted dialogues, interviews, news stories and academic lectures),
A. OBryan and V. Hegelehimer 166
pronunciation and grammatical constructs, or more entertaining forms of speech such as
songs or poems. Many of these podcasts contain printable transcripts for students to read
as they follow along with the audio. Often, the hosts of these podcasts will speak at
slower rates of speech than normal, and some podcasts provide first a slower version of
the dialogue or story followed by the same content read at a faster rate of speech.
Although the podcasting technology is still relatively new, language teachers and
researchers are beginning to see potential. In addition to Thorne and Payne (2005),
Goodwin-Jones (2005) argues that the popularity of MP3 players among younger
learners might mean that they will engage in listening on the go more willingly (op.
cit.: 11). Stanley (2006) reports finding an increase in attention to detail and interest
(op. cit.: 6) when students produced and published their own podcasts online. As of
January 2007, over 105 language-related podcasts were available for subscription from
iTunes Music score. While there are many language learning podcasts to be found on the
Internet, particularly for ESL, many are for self-study. Currently, there are few
published cases of ESL classes using and integrating this new technology.
4 An example of CALL integration
One way to conceptualize the use of podcasts is to look at the relationship of the
podcasts with the syllabus or with what is going on in class. The content of any out-of-
class material in addition to needing to be of reasonable quality and relevance can
serve various functions, ranging from reviewing lecture content to exemplifying
difficult concepts through elaboration to preparing for the next class. Figure 1 illustrates
how the podcast in the first scenario duplicates the class sessions, while in the second
scenario the podcast adds relevant information to what was covered in class and thereby
provides more information (indicated by the arrow pointing back to the class). The third
scenario builds on the second one, with the difference that the podcast is also an integral
part of the subsequent class, thereby also serving in a preparatory fashion.
For the integration of CALL materials to be effective, it must occur on multiple levels.
We argue that to record a class lecture and to make it available for review would be an
example of restricted CALL (see also Bax, 2003). Adding an additional mode for (the
Fig. 1. Three schematic integration scenarios
Podcast
Class Session A Class Session B
Podcast
Class Session A Class Session B
Podcast
Class Session A Class Session B
=
+
1
2
3 +
+
+
The role of podcasting in an ESL listening strategies course 167
same) input increases redundancy and adds learner control but is not integrated into the
curriculum. The integration level increases from the second to the third scenario, with
the last scenario being the preferred approach. Following a brief description of the
course, we will outline our approach to integration.
4.1 The course
Iowa State Universitys ESL listening course is a strategies-based (Cohen, 1998: 82)
listening course for international graduate and undergraduate students. In line with
Cohens (1998) suggestions for providing strategy instruction, the course focuses on
describing and modeling examples of strategies, encouraging students to experiment
with strategies both within the listening course and in their own lecture-style courses,
and implicitly and explicitly integrating strategies into class materials in order to
provide for strategy practice (Cohen, 1998). Because this may be the last English course
these students take while attending the university, and is the only course offered that
focuses specifically on listening, the goal of the strategies-based approach is to focus
the learners attention on particular cognitive plans they can employ to help them
overcome obstacles in language use or language learning (Rost, 2002: 111). The
importance of strategy training has been emphasized by researchers such as Vandergrift
(2003). He argues that the astute use of metacognitive strategies (op. cit.: 488) is
closely connected with improved listening comprehension. Therefore, we want these
students to leave the course with a toolbox full of various strategies that they can choose
from while continuing their coursework at the university.
4.2 The students
The course itself consists of both graduate and undergraduate students from a variety of
majors (e.g., Agronomy, Economics and Mechanical Engineering) and a variety of
primarily East-Asian language backgrounds (e.g., Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese).
Students are required to take the course based on their performance in an English
placement test taken upon entrance to the university. Occasionally, students who are not
required to take the course enroll in order to gain more practice listening. Traditionally,
those in the class are highly motivated and, therefore, work diligently and participate
often. Because the students backgrounds and interests vary widely, course materials
draw from a variety of academic contexts but focus primarily on the academic lecture.
4.3 The instructor
The instructor for this course (one author of this paper) has had extensive training in
CALL design and CALL use. While firmly believing in the need to integrate CALL into
the classroom, her past use of CALL has been restricted to either stand-alone activities
taking place in the once-weekly computer lab offered to her class, or optional, online
resources that she spent class time training her students to use, but the actual use of
these resources was up to the students. Her use of technology in this way was based less
on her fear of technology, which Bax (2003) indicates is a factor inhibiting
A. OBryan and V. Hegelehimer 168
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The role of podcasting in an ESL listening strategies course 169
normalization of CALL, but more on restructuring a course to include technology as an
integral component. For the present course, the instructor created all podcasts and
assisted in the re-structuring of the course syllabus in order to facilitate the integration
of the podcasts.
4.4 The old approach
In the past, the course has been taught in a traditional classroom. The main sources of
listening input in class were the instructor and the audio cassette tapes that came with
the course textbook. Homework assignments centered around freely-available, online
sources designed for ESL listening; students could listen to passages as many times as
they wished, thereby interacting with the computer, and complete the corresponding task
or paper worksheet at their leisure. However, these assignments were rarely tied directly
to the content or the strategies that were being taught in class. Students completed the
homework in their own time, either with their own computer or in a campus computer
lab, and feedback was limited to correct/incorrect. Once students were back in class, the
homework was rarely referenced either by the teacher or by the students. The role of
technology was to provide level-appropriate input, regardless of content. While the
students and teachers attitudes were not assessed during this time, there was clearly a
disconnection between what students were doing with CALL and what was being done
in the classroom. Table 2 shows how the traditional course curriculum contained
elements from all three of Baxs stages of CALL Restricted, Open, and Integrated -
although the role of CALL is predominantly in the Restricted stage.
4.5 The new approach
The revised curriculum seeks to take advantage of the technology available to the
teachers and students in the English department
1
where the integration of technology is
seen as an important goal. Students now meet in a computer lab for each class period,
thereby minimizing the barrier between class and CALL. While the instructor and the
textbooks audio cassette tapes are still sources of input for the students in class, other
sources such as audio or video excerpts from authentic lectures, excerpts from
instructor-produced podcasts or student-produced texts, also serve as sources of input in
the classroom.
Homework assignments now center around instructor-produced podcasts (Academic
Listening Strategies Podcast, 2006) which tie closely to both the content and the
strategies taught in class. The podcasts are integrated in one of three ways: they can (i)
summarize a concept covered in class and provide examples to help students generalize
to other contexts strategies learned in class, (ii) act as a bridge between classes, building
on concepts discussed in class but also helping to prepare students for the next class, or
(iii) introduce new material that will be referenced in the next class (see Figure 1).
Because the podcasts are produced by the instructor especially for these students, they
reference activities and discussions which take place in the classroom, and expand on
1. Both authors are faculty members
A. OBryan and V. Hegelehimer 170
issues that students find especially difficult in class. In this situation, the podcasts are
treated assecondary to learning itself, and used to serve [the needs of the learners];
this is what Bax claims is the most important aspect of normalizing CALL. (Bax,
2003: 24). Table 3 shows how the revised curriculum still contains elements of all three
of Baxs stages of CALL, but the role of CALL is predominantly in the Integrative stage.
4.6 Implementation
Over fifteen weeks of instruction (two hours per week), the learners listen to fourteen
podcasts that have been designed specifically for the listening course (see the
Description column in Table 4). Of these, two are video podcasts, or vodcasts, that can
be played on either a computer or a video iPod; the remaining twelve are strictly audio
podcasts. All of the podcasts are hosted on a course weblog, and students have the
choice to listen to or view the podcasts on a computer without downloading the file,
download the podcasts to their computer or download the podcasts to their MP3 players.
Giving students a range of options regarding how they want to interact with the podcasts
is important, as not all students have personal computers or MP3 players. While the
podcasts are assigned at specific points during the semester to coincide with the topics
covered in class, all podcasts remain online and can be revisited at any time. After
listening to each podcast, students complete a task or quiz over the content in WebCT, a
course management system (CMS), in order to assess their comprehension of the
material presented in the podcasts. Such tasks or quizzes also help ensure that learners
complete the assigned podcasts, which emphasize relevant curricular points.
Students are assigned a majority of the podcasts during the first twelve weeks while
working on explicit strategy instruction in class. During the remaining three weeks,
students spend the entire class period preparing to listen, or listening, to academic
lectures. The podcasts assigned during this time serve to remind students of both
academic and general listening strategies they can use as they listen to the lectures and
take notes, as well as address any difficulties that may come up in class during this time.
In addition, students have the opportunity to review any previously assigned podcasts at
any time. It is important that the podcasts, as well as their use in class, be grounded in
second language acquisition (SLA) theory. Table 4 displays each podcasts theoretical
foundations and instructional goals (see columns Relevant SLA findings and Specific
Goals, respectively); a brief discussion of the podcasts instructional purposes follows.
4.7 Input salience
First, the podcasts reinforce strategy instruction received in class through summary,
modeling and practice. As seen in Table 4, the unit summary podcasts summarize
information about language strategies from the book and from class. Based on the
interactionist approach to SLA (Long, 1996; Pica, 1994), making input on listening
strategies salient by rephrasing key words and ideas, as well as directly repeating the
words and phrases used in the course textbook and in class, is a form of enhancing the
input (Chapelle, 2003), which can help to increase the likelihood of learners acquiring
linguistic input (op. cit.: 40), including lexical items. Chapelle (2003) points to
The role of podcasting in an ESL listening strategies course 171
Duquette, Desmarais and Laurier (1998), Kon (2002), and Smidt and Hegelheimer
(2004) as examples of CALL studies that suggested that vocabulary repeated in the
input is more likely to be acquired by the learner (op. cit.: 43). In addition, Rost (2002)
argues that [i]n order for learners to take advantage of strategy training, they need
awareness of the strategy, opportunities to see it demonstrated in actual discourse,
understanding of its potential benefits, as well as targeted practice in using the strategy
and experiencing its effects (op. cit.: 157). Extensive strategy practice can also help
students proceduralize these cognitive skills (OMalley & Chamot,1990: 193).
4.8 Enhanced input
In addition, the course podcasts allow for the provision of information in multiple
modes in order to enhance students understanding and retention of listening strategies.
Much of the research on using multiple modes of input to aid language learning and
comprehension (see Chun & Plass, 1996; DeRidder, 2002; and Jones, 2004) has been
based primarily on both the dual coding theory of memory and cognition (Paivio, 1969;
1971; 1978; 1986) as well as the generative theory of multimedia learning (Mayer,
1997; 2001). Both of these theories suggest that the minds two processing systems the
verbal system, which processes linguistic information, and the image or imagery
system, which processes perceptual information regarding objects and events and
generates corresponding mental images (Paivio & Desrochers, 1980) are thought to
function as alternative coding systems for a single piece of information (Paivio, 1969:
243). When a learner uses these two coding systems and makes referential connections
between them, they are thought to learn and retain the information better than when only
one system is utilized. By providing students with video or audio modes of input, such
as modeling note-taking or demonstrating on-line listening strategies with real examples
in a video podcast (see Table 4), students are gaining access to the same information
they may read in their book or hear in class in a different mode, which can allow for
better understanding and retention of the listening strategies.
4.9 Authenticity
Another function of the course podcasts is to give students access to outside
perspectives, whether from other language learners or professors, that stress the
importance of the strategies they are learning in class. Table 4 displays three such
podcasts (i.e. Student Interview, Outside Instructor Interview, and Interview with
Professor) offered to students in the listening class. One unique feature of delivering
content via the Web is that instructors can invite guests to speak to their students at any
time. The delivery of interviews and tips from guests in a podcast format enables
students to easily download the audio or video file, listen to it at their leisure, and keep
it for further reference later in the semester or even once they have completed the
course.
Finally, the podcasts provide examples of lectures or conversations by native and non-
native English speakers. While strategy instruction is important, language learners need
to practise putting those strategies to use and receive feedback on their developing
A. OBryan & V. Hegelehimer 172
Description Relevant SLAfindings Specific Goals
Welcome podcast Orientation to podcasting, how they Students will become
will be used in class familiar with an integral
component of the course.
Lecture excerpt Targeted practice (OMalley Additional practice on
& Chamot, 1990; Chamot & identification of lecture
Rubin, 1994; Rost 2002); introductions and cues to
(Chapelle, 2003; Rost, 2002) cues such as cues to topic
topic conclusions.
Unit 2 summary podcast Redundancy (Chapelle, 2003; Summary of strategies and
Rost, 2002) concepts covered in unit 2,
as well as examples of these
strategies in use, help make
important concepts salient.
Note-taking vodcast Demonstration (Chamot &Rubin, Demonstration of how to
shows a student taking 1994; Rost, 2002); Multiple modes visually represent relationships
notes while listening to a of input (Paivio, 1969) in their notes makes this
lecture (both a good and strategy salient and provides
a bad example) students with another mode
of input. This demonstration
will likely increase motivation
based on the SLAliterature
(i.e. Brett, 1995).
Student interview: Tips Outside perspective-other This authentic input serves to
on taking notes in class international students increase the salience of
(UW-Madison, 2006); strategies learned in class, such
Understand potential benefits of as noting key words and
strategy (Chamot & Rubin, 1994; re-reading notes immediately
Rost, 2002) after the lecture is finished, as
well as additional strategies the
interview adds, such as comparing
notes with other students.
Unit 3 summary podcast Redundancy (Chapelle, 2003) Summary of strategies and
concepts covered in unit 3, as
well as examples of strategy
use with authentic lecture
excerpts, helps make important
concepts salient and generalizable
to other contexts.
Outside instructor Outside perspective This authentic input also serves
interview: Tips on (UW-Madison, 2006); to make strategies learned in
listening to numbers and Understand potential benefits class, such as paying attention
statistics podcast of strategy (Chamot & Rubin, 1994; to word stress and using context
Rost, 2002) clues, salient.
Listen to a situation: Targeted practice (OMalley Additional practice on listening
Grocery store podcast & Chamot, 1990; Chamot & to numbers and statistics, focusing
Rubin, 1994; Rost, 2002) on listening for word stress.
Unit 4 summary podcast Redundancy (Chapelle, 2003) Summary of strategies and
concepts covered in unit 4,
as well as examples of strategy
use with authentic lecture
excerpts, helps make important
concepts salient and generalizable
to other contexts.
Table 4 Course podcasts
The role of podcasting in an ESL listening strategies course 173
listening comprehension. By receiving these lectures and conversations in a podcast
format, students can listen to them as often as they like, and instructors will be able to
use valuable class time to help students practise using strategies, and for additional
listening practice. After listening to the podcast, comprehension quizzes delivered
within the CMS will allow students to test their understanding of the lecture or
conversation as many times as they wish and receive immediate feedback.
Description Relevant SLAfindings Specific Goals
Interview with professor re: Outside perspective-other This authentic input also
organizing/giving lectures international students serves to make strategies
(UW-Madison, 2006); learned in class, such as how
Understand potential benefits of awareness help students
of lecture organization can predict strategy content,
(Chamot & Rubin, 1994; salient.
Rost, 2002)
Unit 5 summary podcast Redundancy (Chapelle, 2003) Summary of strategies and
concepts covered in unit 5,
as well as examples of
strategy use with authentic
lecture excerpts, helps make
important concepts salient
and generalizable to other
contexts.
Online-listening strategies Demonstration (Chamot & Rubin, Students will become familiar
video podcast 1994; Rost, 2002); Multiple modes with both freely available
of input (Pavio, 1969) and customized online
listening resources. Training
on how to effectively
exploit these online
resources will help students
to benefit from interaction
with online materials
encountered both in class
and in the future. In
addition, this podcast provides
students with a visual mode
of input.
General listening Provide awareness of general An introduction and review
strategies podcast listening strategies (Chamot of listening strategies, such
& Rubin, 1994; Rost, 2002) as paying attention to content
words, will help increase the
salience of these strategies.
End of semester podcast Redundancy (Chapelle, 2003) Summary of strategies and
concepts covered in the
course, as well as examples
of strategy use with authentic
lecture excerpts, helps make
important concepts salient
and generalizable to other
Table 4 Course podcasts contd
A. OBryan and V. Hegelheimer 174
4.10 Motivational appeal
In addition to the podcasts instructional goals, the instructor-produced podcasts also
serve to motivate students by given them control over the input they receive and taking
advantage of a popular technology that has potential for helping students improve their
listening comprehension. Ehrman, Leaver and Oxford (2003) cite two primary models
of motivation: intrinsic, when tasks are interesting and challenging [and] the reward is
the enjoyment of the activity itself (op. cit.: 320), and extrinsic, when grades or praise
are the reward for learning. The podcasts used in this course are likely to increase
intrinsic motivation by including both authentic texts, such as interviews with guest
speakers, as well as by embracing the motivational appeal inherent in many multimedia-
based language learning tools. Future podcasts may offer a broader selection of topics,
which Ehrman et al. (2003) feel will also contribute to increased intrinsic motivation.
Brett (1995) cites a number of advantages to using multimediabased language
learning tools, one being degree of learner control. In multimedia, and certainly online,
language learning tools, learners can often choose modes of input that cater to their
learning styles and learn about what ways of learning benefit them the most (Brett,
1995: 84). Because new podcast episodes are automatically downloaded to students
computers once they have subscribed, students can control when to listen to/watch the
episode and how often to listen to/watch it. One other advantage Brett cites is that of
motivation. In the piloting of a multimedia program, Brett found that Initial reactions
of learners suggested that the use of this program was more attractive to them than
combinations of books, tapes and videos. This may be due to the way in which
individuals can tailor their learning or may be a case of novelty, a matter for further
investigation (op. cit.: 84).
4.11 Classroom integration: unit excerpt
While Table 4 shows an overview of all of the podcasts offered to students throughout
the semester, a sample excerpt from one unit (see Table 5 for complete unit syllabus)
describes how CALL has been integrated into the syllabus. The goal of this particular
unit, which focuses on taking notes, is to provide students with strategies they can use
while listening to an academic lecture, including noting key words, using symbols and
abbreviations, and visually representing relationships in their notes. Therefore, class
discussion centers around these strategies and time is spent practising them in class. The
Notetaking vodcast that students watch in preparation for day two briefly reviews
strategies for taking notes discussed in class and in the textbook, and then shows two
students, one after the other, taking notes while listening to an authentic academic
lecture (the Spider lecture) on spider silk. After one student ends up with a good set
of notes (i.e., one where key words were written down, abbreviations were used, and
relationships were visually represented), while the other has a not so good set of notes
(i.e., the student tried to write every word and wrote in a paragraph format rather than
visually representing relationships), the learners can download both sets from WebCT
and put their notes to work as they take a short quiz over the content in the lecture. In
the next class, students are prepared to talk about the differences between effective note-
taking and ineffective notetaking. The instructor is able to launch into a discussion on
The role of podcasting in an ESL listening strategies course 175
visually representing relationships in notes and then have students practise this new skill
in class without needing to spend a substantial amount of time reviewing it.
5 Evaluation
Two important aspects which shape the degree to which CALL can be integrated into the
course are teacher attitudes and applicability to students needs (Bax, 2003; Warschauer
& Healey, 1998). While the evaluation of this project is on-going, it is worth sharing
preliminary feedback, which is collected on a continuing basis from the instructor
(through a reflective journal) and from the students in class (through structured
interviews and surveys).
One of the main benefits the instructor has reported is that the podcasts have allowed
her to extend class time. The limited contact hours (two per week) contrast with the
expressed need of students for more audio input to practise their listening skills. The
podcasts allow students to spend additional time working with the concepts taught in
class outside of class. A related advantage is the option to include portions of the
listening passages covered in class in the teacher-produced podcasts, thereby reacting
immediately to the perceived needs or difficulties of the students. This is facilitated by
the ability to narrate the podcasts to encourage students to think about how to apply the
strategies addressed in class. Thus, the students work on concepts taught in class when
they listen to the podcasts, which extends the limited class time to work on
understanding and using strategies in class. A second benefit the instructor has reported
is that through the podcasts, she is able to give the students an opportunity to gain more
exposure to different types of spoken English since some of the speakers on the podcasts
have heavier accents than others, some are native English speakers and some are
international students or non-native English speakers.
While the instructor kept a reflective journal throughout the semester, students
completed two semi-structured interviews in which they discussed both how they felt
Topic Homework (due on date assigned)
Unit 3: Key words, symbols and abbreviations Read unit 3
Unit 3: Visually representing relationships Download notes for podcast from WebCT, or get
notes in class; Watch video podcast Taking
notes during a lecture; complete quiz with the
notes you downloaded in WebCT
Taking notes: In-class Practice Review video podcast
Taking notes: In-class Practice Listen to podcast Tips on taking notes in class
Unit 3 quiz; Non-academic English Listen to Unit 3 summary podcast and watch
part 2 of the Spider lecture. Take notes, and
bring notes from video podcast and also your
notes to class
Table 5 Sample integration
A. OBryan and V. Hegelheimer 176
about using the podcasts for class and how they interacted with the podcasts. During
these interviews, students were also asked to fill out a survey ranking each podcast on a
variety of factors displayed in Table 6; any questions students had about the survey were
addressed by the researcher at that time.
2
Student interview data (see Appendix A for a
list of interview questions) in week five, after the students had listened to four podcasts,
suggests that the students viewed the podcasts as a very positive component of the course
(see Table 6). Of the four podcasts, students indicated that, on average, the Notetaking
vodcast was the most interesting, while the Unit 2 summary podcast was the least
interesting. This may be a result of the modes of information in which the material was
presented the Unit 2 summary podcast was audio only, while the Notetaking vodcast
was audio and video. In addition, the Notetaking vodcast provided a demonstration,
where the learners were watching a student taking notes as she listened to a lecture, while
the Unit 2 summary podcast contained concepts largely covered in class.
On the second survey question, how informative was the podcast, the Notetaking
vodcast again ranked highest, followed by the Lecture Cues podcast. All four of the
podcasts provided students with some degree of new information, although the
Welcome podcast and the Unit 2 summary podcast primarily reviewed and expanded on
concepts covered in class. The two that were the most informative to the students were
ones where the focus of the entire podcast was to either demonstrate how students could
put the strategies learned in class to use in an authentic situation (Notetaking vodcast),
or provide input for the students themselves to demonstrate how they could put to use
the strategies learned in class (Lecture Cues podcast). Therefore, students seemed to
Prompts Welcome SD Lecture SD Unit 2 SD Notetaking SD Total SD
podcast Cues summary vodcast
1. How 4.17 1.33 4.00 1.48 3.83 0.98 4.33 0.82 4.08 0.31
interesting?
2. How
informative? 4.00 0.89 4.17 1.73 4.00 0.63 4.67 0.52 4.21 0.55
3. How closely 4.50 0.55 4.17 1.73 4.33 0.52 4.50 0.55 4.38 0.60
tied to class?
4. How often 3.17 0.98 3.33 1.00 3.00 0.63 3.50 0.84 3.25 0.17
did you listen?
5. How much 41.67 44.35 50.83 41.89 44.17 40.05 46.67 38.82 45.8 2.41
time? (minutes)
Table 6 Survey responses. Note. The first three questions were rated on a Likert type scale, with
1 meaning not at all and 5 indicating very much so. Question 4 asked students to indicate
frequency and the last question time in minutes; N = 6
2. As stated earlier in the paper, the authors had two separate roles. While one was the primary
instructor for the course and designed the podcasts, the other conducted individual interviews
with each of the six students. We believed having students interviewed by a neutral party was
essential in obtaining honest feedback.
The role of podcasting in an ESL listening strategies course 177
feel that the podcasts with a demonstration component of some sort were more
informative than the podcasts which summarized and expanded on concepts previously
covered in class.
Interestingly, students felt that the Welcome podcast and Notetaking vodcast were
most closely tied to the course content, and the Unit 2 summary podcast did not follow
far behind. Again, the Welcome podcast and the Summary podcast were primarily
informative, as they repeated information discussed in class and expanded on it with
additional examples. The Notetaking vodcast was a demonstration of a concept covered
briefly in class before students were assigned to watch it. Only the Lecture Cues
podcast, where the focus was on an applying strategies to an actual lecture rather than
on concepts, contained completely new information. While the underlying concepts in
this podcast were the same as those practised in class listening for a series of
designated lecture cues in order to facilitate predicting content and taking notes
because the entire podcast did not focus on this directly, perhaps it was not seen to be
tied as closely to the course content as were the others. Indeed, what was tied to the
course content was not so much the material in the podcast, but the task students were
assigned after they listened to the podcast. In WebCT, where the companion website for
the course resided, students were asked to complete a written cloze activity in which
they listened to the lecture specifically for the lecture cues discussed in class and then
typed these words into the cloze box. Perhaps students were focusing more on the
material in the podcast rather than the podcast and accompanying task when ranking the
degree of connection between the podcast and the class.
The students also indicated how many times they listened to each podcast and how
much time they spent on each podcast. Interestingly, all of the students listened to each
podcast more than once. On average, students listened to the Notetaking vodcast more
frequently than the others. Again, this distinction between the more informative or
summative podcasts and the demonstrative ones is seen in the students responses.
Perhaps because of the task associated with each podcast, or perhaps because of the
actual content in the podcast, students chose to view these demonstrative podcasts more
often than the purely informative ones. Importantly, students listened to the Welcome
podcast, the first podcast which provided a brief overview of what podcasts are and how
we were going to be using them in class, more times than the Unit 2 summary podcast.
This may be because this component of the course was explained in detail and students
felt they needed to pay special attention. They may have also listened to the first podcast
more often because students wanted to make sure they were able to actually listen to the
audio file. Time of engagement with the podcast was assessed through the last question,
where the students indicated how much time they had spent (in total) listening to each of
the podcasts. This estimated time ranged from 120 minutes per podcast to 10 minutes,
resulting in the high standard deviation reported in Table 6. This table also shows that
students estimated they spent more time listening to the two demonstrative podcasts
than the two informative podcasts.
Additional anecdotal evidence suggests that the present approach appears to be
successful in integrating podcasts into the listening course. For example, one student
who initially reported not owning a portable MP3 player has purchased one and has
downloaded the podcasts to the MP3 players so he can now listen to the podcasts on the
bus, in the apartment, and before going to bed.
A. OBryan and V. Hegelheimer 178
6 Conclusion
The podcasts were viewed, overall, very positively by the students, and there were
relatively few technical problems during the implementation phase of the new syllabus.
Chiefly, some students remarked on initial technical difficulties when accessing the
podcasts. Although the small number of participants in this research (6 students and 1
instructor) is a limitation, this paper provides a detailed example of how CALL
integration might be achieved.
In reorganizing the listening course curriculum, a number of important issues were
raised, and suggestions for future research were identified. For one, the instructor needs
to be well-trained in realistic uses of CALL in the classroom, which can help to alleviate
the attitude of fear or awe that Bax (2003) sees as inhibiting normalization.
Additionally, being in a computer lab for each class period helped both the instructor
and the students bridge the gap between what goes on in class and what they are doing
outside of it. Thus, daily access to computers and multimedia files (e.g., videotaped
lectures and role plays) allows the instructor to make podcasts and CALL an integral
part of the course. Echoing Chambers and Baxs (2006) call for an illumination of ways
in which factors such as the technology, the teacher, and the setting can impact CALL
normalization, future research could investigate classroom CALL integration in settings
that are not in a computer lab each class period. In addition, because the podcasting
technology is inherently mobile, future research could look at how using MP3 players
outside of a lab setting affects the integration of podcasts into the language classroom.
Additional curricular integration research using qualitative and quantitative data can
shed light on the successful integration of this type of CALL into a study program and
inform similar efforts.
Acknowledgements
The authors wish to thank two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments that
helped improve the paper, as well as the Liberal Arts and Sciences Center for Online
Learning at Iowa State University for providing us with support for the creation of the
podcasts.
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Warschauer, M. and D. Healey (1998) Computers and language learning: an overview. Langauge
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Appendix A: Student Interview Questions
1. What are your strengths and weaknesses with regard to your listening ability
2. In the past, how have you approach listening comprehension how have you tried to
improve your listening comprehension? What strategies have you used?
3. What were your goals for the course before you started the course?
4. Has the content and the activities in the course helped you to achieve some of these goals?
5. How much time do you spend on this class outside of it?
6. Do you listen to the course podcasts?
7. How many times do you typically listen to them?
8. Do you listen to the podcasts even when theyre not assigned for that unit?
9. How do you listen to the podcast? For example, do you download them to your computer?
To your MP3 player? Do you pause, repeat, etc. ?
10. When and where do you typically listen to the course podcasts?
11. What do you like/dislike about the podcasts?
12. Are the 4 podcasts youve listened to informative? If so, what have you learned from
them?
13. Are the podcasts interesting? If so, why?
14. Have you noticed a relationship between class and the podcasts? What do you feel the
podcasts add to the class?
15. What kinds of listening strategies have you learned about so far?
16. How did you learn about them-in class, through podcasts, or both?
17. Are you using any of these strategies in your other classes? Which ones?
18. Do you feel that the strategies are helping you with your listening comprehension?