The World Wide Web has not really lived up to the promise of being a wonderful tool for educators. In part this has been because of the difficulties of getting the technology working on a home computer, but also because much of the content available has been of dubious quality. Other parts of the Internet have certainly become very useful. As an example, email is now an invaluable part of many teachers' lives.

Modems have generally been quite slow, preventing rapid download of large images and sound. Video has been next to impossible to use as even a small video clip could take several hours to downward.

Over the last few years a number of programs have been developed which show great promise in regards to delivering streaming audio and video across the Internet. By streaming I mean that when a user clicks on a file it will start playing immediately. A good analogy of this is a bucket with a hole in it. As long as you keep adding water to the bucket at a rate greater than the water is leaving through the hole, the bucket will never empty. Streaming audio and video is very similar. As long as your Internet connection can deliver the file to your computer faster than it is being played you will get a continuous stream of audio or video.

Because of the constraints imposed by modems, most video clips delivered using this sort of technology are shown at a size not much larger than a business card. The image is fairly "muddy", not of very high definition, and often the sound doesn't quite synchronize with the movement. All that aside, the technology is showing great promise. Certainly audio is now excellent. Two years ago streaming audio was only available in mono and sounded like something coming from a small transistor radio in the bottom of a bucket. The current generation of the audio players available can deliver near CD quality stereo music, in real time, from the other side of the world, all with the user listening via a 28.8K modem! I'm fairly certain that given time we will see similar improvements in the delivery of video as well.

Perhaps the best known of this sort of program is the Real Media Player, made by RealNetworks. Originally called Progressive Networks, they changed their name last year to more closely associate with their most popular program. A free version of the software is available at A more fully featured version of the software is also available at a reasonable cost from the same website.

Timecast ( lists sites worldwide which feature RealMedia content. The variety is astounding. You can listen to stations which only play Grateful Dead, or you can listen to news channels, classical music, and even the number one radio station in London.

Many media outlets making use of this technology in their websites. CNN and ABC are just two examples of large news broadcasters that have websites featuring real video.

Audio can be also use on its own, and generally works better because it uses less bandwidth. It is possible to get stereo streaming audio from Virgin Radio in the United Kingdom, playing over a 28.8 K Modem. There are a number of radio stations clean lines onto the Internet, including some in Australia. This technology is going to the very useful for language teachers as it is now possible to hear live broadcasts from radio stations in the country of the language they are teaching.

Japan, Korea, Italy, France and Indonesia are among the many countries that have radio stations broadcasting live over the Internet using Real Media. Some of the stations even accept requests by email. (see Capital FM in the UK -!

Real Media is not used just to broadcast live music, speech or video. It can also be used to play files recorded previously. The technique used for compressing the audio or video results in remarkably small file sizes, and can be carried out on a conventional computer with sound capability.

If your computer has a soundcard then you can record audio, by using a microphone attached to the computer. Alternatively, a speech or a discussion could be recorded on a tape recorder and then recorded onto the computer through the Line In socket.

Once the audio is saved as a file on the computer it can be easily converted to the Real Media format using the Real Encoder which is available as a free download from

The resulting file can be then pointed to from within a web page. If your website is hosted on a webserver which is running a RealMedia Server you could arrange for your audio or video file to be streamed through this server. This has the advantage of allowing many users to listen to, or watch, your material at the same time. Similar results can be achieved if your service provider has configured their server to recognise the Real Media filetype, but only one person will be able to use your file at any given time. If your server isn't configured to do this, the user will have to download the entire file before playing it. Even then, the file will be much smaller than if it were stored as an .AU or .WAV file and is certainly worth doing if you want to make your website richer in content without necessarily moving to a new service provider.