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Podcasting and LLL: Are You Listening?

Meg Sondey
Torreon Coahuila Mexico
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 42 No. 3, July-August-September 2006, p. 60

One of my favorite activities is to find a comfortable spot, grab a favorite book or magazine, and spend a few hours lost in a story or absorbing new information about breastfeeding, genealogy, or one of my many other interests. Just turning the crisp, new pages of a recently released book gets my heart racing! I'm definitely a person who enjoys learning through the printed word. And when the Internet developed...well, that provided me with another way to gain knowledge. Now I didn't need to have shelves of books on every conceivable topic; I could just do online searches for everything from biographies of film stars to the DNA sequence of a sheep. But as I began to learn more about the way I learned, and the way others learned, I recognized that not everyone is enamored with the printed word. Some information can be reinforced or perhaps better learned in other fashions. For example, my husband is much more of an auditory learner—he prefers learning through listening. He retains more information that way and learns more rapidly.

La Leche League International has recognized that Leaders and mothers prefer to learn in a variety of ways, too. Through the years we have published books, presented Conferences, and created a Web site so that Leaders and mothers can obtain information in ways that are most useful to them. Recently, our Web site has added information in a new format: "podcasts" (recordings similar to short radio programs). Although derived from the name of a pocket-sized digital audio player, podcasts can be accessed and played on personal computers and a variety of portable devices using free multimedia computer programs. Some people even listen to podcasts on their mobile phones and portable game players.

Individual podcasts can be accessed and utilized in three ways: "streamed" to your computer (much like you listen to your radio at home or in the car without keeping a recorded copy); downloaded to your computer or audio device, one show at a time; or by subscribing to the entire series of LLL podcasts, which are then automatically downloaded to your computer (and "synched" to your portable audio tool, if you use one) as each new episode becomes available.

The biggest advantage of downloading a single podcast, or subscribing to the entire series of podcasts, is the flexibility to listen to a podcast at one's convenience and the capability to refer back to the podcast multiple times as you would to printed resource materials. Subscribing to the whole LLL podcast series ensures that your computer will be updated automatically whenever a new one is created.

A collection of useful information on LLLI podcasts, and on podcasting in general, is available at casts.html. There you will find background information that will help you make use of the podcasts, as well as a list of all available podcasts. These podcasts are done as interviews, and this interactive style of conversation creates a lively give-and-take presentation.

Now that we have these learning tools, how can podcasts be used? For example, it is easy to think that a podcast by author Diana West, IBCLC, on milk supply issues might be of interest to a Leader who needs more information on that topic, but there are many other potential uses for Leaders, Groups, and the mothers and families whom they serve.

For Leaders who learn best through listening, podcasts are a superb learning opportunity. Multitaskers find that they can play podcasts while doing housework, cooking, or relaxing. Leaders with visual challenges have a new alternative to struggling with the printed word or waiting for Braille resources. And those who find reading takes too much time now have a quicker way to obtain information.

Podcasts can also provide an exciting basis for an Enrichment Meeting for mothers, or a Chapter Meeting for Leaders. A 24-minute podcast from Barbara Coloroso might be just the opener you need for an upcoming discussion on parenting older children. LLL Leader Karen Smith's 29-minute podcast on oversupply of milk could become the theme for a Chapter Meeting. Have you been thinking about scheduling a Couples Meeting? What about using Mary Sheedy Kurcinka's "Sleepless in America" to get the discussion rolling?

Finally, mothers and families will also find these podcasts a useful resource, too. It is great to hear the voice of a favorite author expanding on material found in his or her book. Listening to one of the podcasts about LLL itself may well inspire mothers to check out local meetings. Those who are considering whether to attend an upcoming Area Conference could be inspired by the interview with a Conference speaker to make the trip after all so they can hear more.

Although individual Leaders may choose not to use podcasts as a personal learning tool, it is important for all Leaders to be aware of their existence and share that information option with mothers. Just as Leaders have different preferred learning styles and access to various technologies, so do mothers. When sharing potential resources with mothers seeking information, we can make them aware not only of our print resources and Group meetings, but also our Web site and the variety of informational options there.

Just as we respect mothers' ability to make the best breastfeeding and parenting choices for themselves, we also need to respect their ability to make the best choices for information access. Some will have limited access to technology or may prefer in-person and Group support. Some will seek out print publications. Others will use public Internet cafes or telephones. Still others will have personal computers and be avid posters on the new mother-to-mother bulletin boards on the LLLI Web site.

Discover podcasting by going to and downloading two podcasts designed to help you get started: "Welcome!" and "What is a Podcast?" Both are by Iowa, USA Leader and LLLI Podcast Coordinator Elisabeth McLaury Lewin. Leaders who want to discuss technical questions about podcasting or who have suggestions for future podcasting topics can access the podcast discussion on the Community Network .

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