Friday, 24 February 2012

Listen to this

The BBC World Service offers a superb range of radio programmes available as podcasts. The homepage is attractively laid out, with programmes ordered either by genre or A-Z. Each programme has an icon image, title and one sentence description, making the task of selecting a suitable podcast really quite manageable.
The value for EFL learners seems clear, for example:
  • Exposure to themed presentations and discussions on contemporary issues with an international flavour
  • Building vocabulary
  • Developing listening skills
  • Dealing with a range of English accents

There are a few issues that prospective listeners to BBC World Service podcasts need to deal with:
  • BBC iplayer - can be tempermental in my experience, doesn't seem to work on all browsers. Make sure you can resolve these issues before rolling out in the teaching session.
  • Seven day availability - there is no archive! Podcasts are avaible for download, but for a seven day window only. I'm trying to build the habit of checking for content on a weekly basis.
  • Selection - even though the podcast homepage is accessible, there is still the difficulty of choice to work through. Naming a genre, using a shortlist or setting a specific podcast could help; try running a review task of the whole index as a co-operative work; get learners to share favourites, descriptions, reviews, reasons, opinions - all this kind of stuff will be useful to build accessibility.

The Forum (45 mins) - an ideas discussion show with presenter and three speakers. I especially like the Sixty second idea to change the world item. For this, one of the featured speakers suggests a world changing idea - this will be somehow related to their talk. The presenter then leads a short exchange of opinions and ideas in response this with the other featured speakers. Listener interaction is encouraged via Twitter.
The whole thing is ripe for use in a teaching session, whether EFL or other. See this hacked out idea, 60 seconds: Change the World.

By no means have I investigated all of the World Service website or the content on offer, but recognize that this is a high quality resource to not only make use of in-session, but also to point EFL and other learners to and encourage their use of it. Do it!

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