The rising worldwide popularity of MP3 sound files and the iPod makes it possible for sound files to be easily added to articles in an ESL Journal site. (Example)
A teacher can use MP3 files - which can be downloaded to a simple device called an "iPod Shuffle" - in two basic ways. UPDATE: Since the original publication of this article many additional small MP3 players have become available. Playback is not limited to a particular device. Most mobile phones are now (2013) capable of handling podcasts. It may be necessary to interpose another device such as a desktop computer as the interface between the source and the player. The most commonly used is iTunes (www.apple.com/itunes).
First, the sound file can be recorded and stored on the web server as source material. The students then download the file to their own iPod Shuffle, listen to the message, and write articles about the message in their journals.
Second, a brief article in the teacher's journal can be read aloud by the student in the laboratory, captured to a sound file, and uploaded to a web server. A link to the file is then submitted to the teacher, who evaluates the student's verbal skills. Many variations are possible.
Sound-related services are an upgrade to the ESL Journal service and require special arrangements if the sound files are to be stored by ESLjournal.org. Ask your representatives for details.
More about podcasting
A podcast (the near homonym to broadcast is no accident) is a new form of dissemination of news. Many radio stations around the world now prepare their stories both for immediate broadcast and for distribution over the Web as podcasts. Podcasts have the advantage that they can be read at any time and not only when the original broadcast occurs.
By adopting the combined written and spoken exercise technique described here, the classroom experience is made very real, as the same phenomenon is becoming part of young people's daily lives nearly everywhere.
One can also play a sound file within one's web browser if the computer is equipped with speakers and the appropriate browser plug-in. This is a good alternative if you or your students do not have access to iPods.
To hear a portion of this article read aloud, click the play button (arrow) on the control below. If your browser is correctly equipped, the reading will commence in a few seconds (depending on your connection speed); if not, your browser will display an error message, and you will have to add a plug-in to your browser. Because of the wide variety of plug-ins and computer systems we cannot be more specific. If you are unable to play the sound file ask your local technical support person for help.