Radio’s “Ask the Expert” Spot

A couple of months ago I was contacted by the BBC to see if I’d appear on one of their programmes to talk and answer listeners’ questions on their “Ask the Expert” slot. The subject – Podcasting.

Following some initial toing-and-froing, I found out what they’d want me to talk about would include what podcasting is, the history of it, how to get podcasts, how to listen to them, how popular they are, what some of the good ones are, and how to make them yourself. As I’ve taken an interest in podcasts and podcasting right from when the phenomenon started, I know how they came about, which of the original podcasts are still around and how big they’ve become, along with the history of podcasting (without having to look it up on Wikipedia). Also, as I’ve run courses both in the University and the community, I know how to create and where to host podcasts if the radio listeners wanted to know any of that. Consequently, I agreed to appear on the radio.

So the day arrived, one dull and damp Monday morning in the middle of October. Great, I thought, more people might be listening in on a day like this. I arrived at the studios and waited in the upstairs reception area. Eventually it was my turn ‘on-air’. I explained to the listeners a bit about what podcasting was and my involvement with it. How back in 2005, podcasting was very much in its infancy and was just getting off the ground in the United States. I heard about it and what the pioneers were doing and decided that it was something that could have significant impact for learning. I introduced the concept of podcasting in June of 2005 to The University of Sheffield when I created a podcast internal to the University to provide wider access to interesting and noted external speakers, for example the author Joanne Harris and the Noble Prize winner Prof Sir Harry Kroto. When the BBC started a pilot podcast services I realised that this was something which would be around for a few years to come, after all the BBC wouldn’t invest in something that wasn’t going to take off. My role back then meant that I was able to provide instructions on how to receive podcasts, use appropriate software and, indeed, how to create podcasts. I became an unofficial podcast support contact within the University at that time. External to the University, back in February 2007 I developed and ran courses at BBC Radio Sheffield covering an ‘Introduction to podcasting’ and ‘How to podcast’. In addition, I produced podcasts of my own, both audio and enhanced podcasts; one provided information for others who wanted to get started in podcasting themselves.

I explained to the listeners some of the uses of podcasting in learning at a university and elsewhere, including:

  • The majority are for talk shows covering a host of different subject areas
  • Some local councils are producing podcasts for self-guided walking tours
  • Art galleries and museums in America, and recently the UK, are using podcasts to inform about exhibits and even incorporate the opinions of visitors
  • Other areas include stories for children or the visually-impaired
  • In business it is being implemented for ‘just-in-time’ training
  • It is being extensively used in US universities as a supplement to lecture programmes, and is finding a similar use in UK universities. It was timely because I could talk about the decision by Oxford and Cambridge Universities to sign up toiTunes U the previous week.

I gave some statistics on how many people reportedly download podcasts, as well as what the popular ones are beyond the BBC ‘stable’, and what my particular favourites are.

The whole interview went well.

After answering a final listeners question, I left the studio. Very satisfying.


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