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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-08-004    Date:  Nov/Dec 2008
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-08-004
Issue No: Vol. 72 No. 3
Date: Nov/Dec 2008


Internet Watch

by Keri A. Woodard

Using Podcasts to Listen and Learn

Headphone wearing and rhythmic head bobbing are telltale signs. Whether walking down the street, working out at the gym, or riding the bus, Americans across the country are embracing digital audio devices, including MP3 players, as a means to listen to music and view photos and videos while on the go. These small, easily portable devices enable just about anyone to carry and listen to songs, lectures, and other audio files whenever and wherever. Although some users are listening to their favorite tunes, others are taking advantage of the growing variety of podcasts available for download from many Web sites. Podcasts are recorded broadcasts that listeners can hear on their computers or download to an MP3 player.

Because so many people are listening to podcasts, several transportation agencies and organizations have started posting these types of files on their Web sites to share a variety of information, from training seminars to interviews with highway officials.

At the Federal Level

For the past several years, participants in the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) "Talking Freight" seminar series could take part in the lessons only when seated infront of their computers or in a meeting room with Internetaccess. In spring 2008, however, FHWA began making theseminars available via podcast. Now freight practitioners and others can listen to the seminars whenever and wherever they choose. For example, listeners now can download a podcast of the "Supply Chains and Private Sector Dynamics" seminar held on May 21, 2008. To download this and other "Talking Freight" podcasts free of charge, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/freightplanning/talking.htm.

FHWA is making other podcasts available online as well. At the Web site for FHWA's America's Byways® program, users can download numerous interviews and discussions about some of the 126 distinct and diverse roads designated by the U.S. Department of Transportation as America's Byways. These podcasts include interviews conducted by humorist, radio personality, and author Tom Bodett with highway officials about the Top of the Rockies byway in Colorado and a discussion about the Native American Scenic Byway in South Dakota. For more information on these podcasts, visit www.byways.org/press/news/podcasts.

States Talk, People Listen

Several State departments of transportation (DOTs) also have begun posting podcasts on their Web sites. The Texas Department of Transportation's (TxDOT) Keep Texas Moving program offers more then 20 podcasts on its Web site. For example, users can download an interview with TxDOT's emergency management coordinator on mass evacuation procedures or listen to a podcast on public-private partnerships featuring a professor of strategic management at the College of Business Administration at Northeastern University in Boston.

The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) also is jumping on the podcast bandwagon with its MoDOT Minute program. Every Tuesday, MoDOT officials post 60-second podcasts and videos that update the public on the latest transportation news and events in the State. For example, one podcast featured a MoDOT official discussing 10 work zones to be aware of during the summer travel season. Another podcast highlights the reduction in the number of fatalities in Missouri's highway work zones. These and other podcasts and videos are available at www.modot.org/newsandinfo/ModotMinute.htm.

Connecting With Members

In addition to Federal and State DOT efforts, transportation industry organizations and publications have started using podcasts to connect with their members and readers. The Transportation Research Board (TRB), for example, released a podcast earlier this year through the Sounds of Science series that features a discussion of the TRB 87th Annual Meeting and the role that TRB has played in the transportation industry. To download this podcast and subscribe to others available from the National Academies, visit www.trb.org.

Similarly, magazines, journals, and other publications now offer podcasts as a new way to connect with subscribers and the public. The Web site ENR.com, the online home of a publication featuring engineering news, posts podcasts on a range of topics related to engineering and transportation. For example, one podcast features an interview with Joseph Toole, formerly with the FHWA Office of Professional and Corporate Development (now associate administrator of the Office of Safety), who discussed worker shortages in the transportation industry and FHWA's training programs and global partnerships. Other podcasts have included discussions with the U.S. Secretary of Transportation and officials from the Virginia and Florida DOTs. To download these and other podcasts, visit http://enr.construction.com/people/multimedia/podcasts/default.asp.

Podcasting is just one of the many new technologies that are changing the way members of the transportation industry learn and communicate. Logon, download, and start listening—anytime, anywhere.

America's Byways Website
Shown here is the Web site that hosts podcasts on America's Byways.

Keri A. Woodard is a contributing editor for Public Roads.



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