Aug 042010
 

Why podcasts? Why can’t kids just sit still in class in perfect rows and learn in the same way that their parents, and their parent’s parents did? Well, to borrow a phrase from one of my favorite fruit companies, they ‘Think Different’:

So, what exactly is out there? The video mentions that there are podcasts on Basket Weaving, but where can I find them? iTunes is the key. iTunes, through the front door of the iTunes Store, has a Podcast section, and a section called iTunesU. Searching in iTunes, then filtering the results to either podcasts or for iTunesU content is a very fast way to find the things that you are interested in (that’s how I found the Basket Weaving episode linked above!). Here are a few noteworthy podcasts from both the Podcast section and from iTunesU:
List of Podcasts:

iTunesU Goodies:

All of the podcasts here – both in the podcast directory and in the iTunesU directory, are all free! All of the links say ‘Get Tracks’ or ‘Subscribe’, but there are no costs involved. Click the ‘Get’ button on an episode, and it’s downloaded to YOUR podcast directory in iTunes. Click the ‘Subscribe’ button, and the latest episode and all future episodes will be downloaded each time you open iTunes. You can also get past episodes for your listening and learning pleasure.

What’s even more cool is that if you have an iPod, and have chosen to sync podcasts, each time your iPod is connected to your computer, these new episodes will be automagially transferred so that you can listen and learn anywhere, anytime.

All of the podcasts available are not only in the audio format. There are some amazing – and yet still free – video podcasts available. A few of the ones that I watch include This Week in TechMacBreak Weekly, and The Onion. They are a little geeky, but I enjoy them.

Why would you want to create your own podcasts? What are some different types of podcasts or recordings are appropriate or applicable to schools? Here are a few ideas:

  • Tutorial – describe a step-by-step process.
  • Reporting – describe how a problem was identified and solved
  • Descriptive – paint a picture with words about a place, memory, or image
  • Biographical – capture the history of the “Old Timer’s” with interviews about their life
  • Autobiographical – relate some of your own life story and discuss your family history
  • Tour Guide – make an audio tour of a local museum, describing the background of the exhibits as the patrons walk around
  • Reactionary – record your thoughts as you experience something for the first time
  • Conversational – gather a group together to discuss a topic of interest and record
  • Serial Storytelling – a series of classes each make up and record a chapter of a story
  • Screencast – Capture sound and screen shots as a process is explained on the computer about a piece of software or whats on the screen
  • Book Trailers – Instead of creating a movie trailer, have students create an interesting trailer for a book that has been read in class.
Now, if you want to join in on the fun, what does it take to create your own ‘Podcast’? It depends on how you define podcast, how you’d like your students accessing the content, and what resources are available to you. Let’s look at a few scenarios:

Bare-Bones Utah Teacher:

If you are a teacher in this category, you have absolutely nothing technologically speaking in your classroom – no projector, no SMARTBoard, nothing. You can still ‘podcast’ what happens in your classroom with simply purchasing a USB microphone to connect to your computer, or using the built-in microphone in your classroom computer (if it has one).

The solution for you to record your lectures, and even get an interactive white board out of the deal, is to utilize the Wimba room that you have access to through your MyUEN account. Every teacher in the state (that has a premium MyUEN account) has a Wimba meeting room at their disposal. Here’s how to set up your Wimba room for the first time.

Once you have that done, you can log into your Wimba room through MyUEN, and start a Meeting Archive. Anything that is said by you or any other participant will be recorded, and anything that happens in the presentation window or E-Board will be recorded as well. Once the needed recording is complete, you close the archive and now you can make a link to that archive available to anyone via email or by posting a link to that archive on your Web site.

This is not technically podcasting. A true podcast is an audio file that can be automatically obtained with the use of an RSS feed. However, this is better than nothing.

Screencasting is another option for you, if you can get a USB microphone or headset. Screencasting is the process of recording what is happening on your computer screen, and then making that recording available to others. It’s not the best solution for a standard lecture, unless you have a PowerPoint or something else that you are describing on your screen along with the voice recording. The Wimba examples and videos above are examples of Screencasting.

What tool do I use for this job? Jing! Thankfully, there is a very good version for free, and the ‘pro’ version is only $15/year. Once you download and install Jing, you are prompted to set up an account on Screencast.com – DO THIS! This is basically free hosting and distribution of your screencasts! Once you Jing-ify something on your computer, you can send either an image or a video (up to 5 minutes long) of what happened on your screen and your narration. Once it’s uploaded, the link to it is automatically copied to your clipboard for pasting in an email or to insert it on a Web site. Here’s an example of how Jing works.

5 minutes not enough for you? There is some great screen capture and screencasting software for the Mac called ScreenFlow. It’s $99, but it is a great piece of software, and there is a 10% educational discount available.

I also promised that I’d give a link to a great wireless microphone that was not much money… Well, I guess that my memory had failed me on the cost part. The mic is the xTag Wireless Microphone from Revolabs. It’s a USB microphone that will work on both the Mac and PC, with a wireless range of about 65′ from the mic to the base station. The base also charges the microphone, which is very nice. I thought that the price was around $50, but, alas, it is between $185 – $240 on Amazon.com…. Sorry… It is a great solution, but I’m not sure how many teachers will be able to fork out that kind of dough for a mic.

Phone-Enabled Teacher or the Quick and Easy Podcaster:

You might have some technology in your classroom, but you just want the fastest, easiest way to create a recording of your lecture. TalkShoe could be your solution! All TalkShoe requires is access to the web, and at least one phone (any phone will do) for recording. Here’s a step-by-step of how to start a new podcast recording. Once you have some episodes recorded, your students can ‘sign up’ for your podcasts in many ways – traditional RSS, via iTunes, or by subscribing via feed readers or text!

Another alternative could be GabCast. It was at one time a free service, but has now started to charge for what they offer. Setting things up and recording episodes are a little simpler than with TalkShoe – you’ll have to give it a try to weigh the cost of playing vs. ease of use. They do have a Beta that you can try for free that uses other access numbers from around the country and world (San Francisco is the closest). However, once you have TalkShoe set up, it’s pretty easy to use.

Wait! I have a SmartPhone! Can I do it all from there? A SmartPhone, or an App Phone like the iPhone, Android, BlackBerry – any phone that can use Apps, can handle this task directly. On my Droid, I have downloaded an app called Voice Recorder that has one simple job – to record what comes through the microphone and allow that recording to be ‘shared’ via email, text message, or some other service. In this case, I chose to email it to my Posterous blog, and in just a few steps, I am podcasting! Have an iPhone, BlackBerry, or other App phone? Lend it to me for a few hours, and I’ll figure out how to do it for that phone as well!

Want to create a video podcast with just your phone? Oh, it can be done! Qik is a video sharing site that has apps for all of the major phone platforms that will allow you to quickly and instantly record video on your phone, save it to the web site, and even allow people to view a live stream of the audio and video! Once the video has fully uploaded to the Qik site from your phone, you can send the video link to your Posterous blog and Voila – a video podcast! (look for the instructions for this last step below)

Techie-Teacher or Enhanced Podcaster:

The methods that I have shown so far are for capturing just raw audio of a classroom lecture or discussion. But, what if you would like a little more control over how your recordings turn out, be able to edit out some of the “Ums…” and “Ohs….” during the recording time? What if you’d like to add some visuals or even video to the mix?

For this person, we’ll look at a combination of tools that are available to just about everyone (minus the audio and video recording gear). The tool to create the ‘podcast’ part is available via simple email – Posterous. For the content creation on a PC, you’ll need Audacity or Windows Movie Maker. On the Mac, you can use GarageBand for audio or “Enhanced” podcasts that incorporate still images. For Video podcasts on the Mac, iMovie is the tool.

Sadly, Audacity, Movie Maker and iMovie are all subjects for another day. Today, we’ll attempt to create a quick podcast with GarageBand, and then podcast it with Posterous. For this sample, humorous podcast, we’ll use the script below (if needed), and the following sound effects:

RKO Theme

Now, for the last step – taking your Posterous blog address or URL, and turn it into an iTunes-friendly version that with a click – your audience will be subscribed to your podcast and will have the latest versions delivered right to them.

Lastly, here are some documents that may be of use to you after our time today:

Audacity 1.2.4 Tutorial