For grandparents trying to connect with faraway grandkids, things never sounded so sweet. Imagine reading bedtime stories to your miles-away granddaughter, telling tales from your childhood to your grandson, or even strumming a homegrown rendition of Neil Young’s Sugar Mountain for them with a few clicks of the mouse.
Podcasting — an Internet technology that allows users to record and distribute audio — has created a communication whirlwind for grandparents to broadcast their voices to grandkids, wherever they reside.
“The grandparent’s voice gives the child a sense of affection, love, security, a feeling of warmth,” says Dr. Carl G. Arinoldo, a psychologist and co-author with wife, Linda, of Essentials of Smart Parenting: Learning the Fine Art of Managing Your Children (Nova Science Pub Inc., 2007). Kids notice when grandparents go out of their way for them, he adds, and this strengthens their sense of belonging to the family.
Bob Packett, an adjunct history professor at Maple Woods Community College in Kansas City, Mo., produces the History According to Bob podcast. Bob began podcasting in March 2005 after a little cajoling from his wife, Ruth.
Bob’s two daughters haven’t given him the joys of grandkids quite yet, but he’s already preparing for their arrival.
“I’ve been cataloging my knowledge for [my] grandchildren. I have a project recording all of my materials from teaching college and high school so my children will have a library,” he says. “They will have at their fingertips research materials I’ve spent my whole life gathering.”
Early on, Bob was unsure about podcasting — especially how long he should make each recording. He decided on 10- to 20-minute shows, six times a week. Now, he frequently receives e-mails from listeners requesting longer podcasts to fill hour-long commutes.
Another concern: What would people think of his podcast… would anybody be interested? Some 650 podcasts later, he no longer worries about that, he says. With 180,000 hits a month it’s no surprise. He’s hoping his future grandkids will tune in just as eagerly.
Once you get the hang of podcasting, says Bob, the possibilities are endless. Your grandkids will love it, and what’s more, you’ll stay better connected with them. “It’s a wonderful idea,” he says. “Not only can you have grandparents reading storybooks, but they can tell their own stories and have them live on forever.”
To produce his podcasts, Bob relies on the open-source program Audacity (a free program that supports independent software developers). Pre-installed Windows Sound Recorder is another solid option. To learn more, check out the second article in this podcasting series, How to Produce Your First Podcast.