At the end of this chapter you will be able to:
- Say what a podcast is.
- List the equipment you need to make a podcast.
- Explain how podcasting can be used in the classroom.
- Make an audio or video podcast.
- Describe how you can add graphics to a video.
- Describe how podcasts can be distributed and syndicated.
WHAT IS A PODCAST?
A podcast is like a radio or TV show. However, instead of being broadcast live, a podcast is recorded and then distributed over the internet, so that you can listen to it whenever you want. You may have already seen podcasts listed on the web sites of radio and TV stations. However, there are thousands of podcasts available from other providers ranging from general interest entertainment shows to those focusing on specific topics e.g. computers or music or science or education.
Wikipedia describes a podcast rather more technically as “a series of audio or video digital-media files which is distributed over the Internet by syndicated download, through Web feeds, to portable media players and personal computers.”
The other major difference between podcasting (making and transmitting podcasts) and traditional broadcasting is that anyone can create a podcast and make it available to others without the need for the expensive technologies that radio and television use.
There are debates around the history of the word. Some sources claim it is a portmanteau word combining i-Pod and broadcasting. Others that P.O.D. is an acronym for Personal On Demand – casting. It is used as a noun to describe the content or a verb to describe the process of making and publishing podcasts.
There are many opportunities for using podcasts in your teaching. At its simplest you can just play a podcast to your class on a relevant topic. Or you can create your own podcast. Even more fun is to get your students creating their own content and sharing it with others.
GETTING STARTED WITH A PODCAST
It is easier to start by concentrating on audio-podcasts. This is what you will need:
• Hardware: PC or Mac computer, a microphone, a soundcard.
• Software: Audacity plus LAME mp3 encoder or Garage Band if you use a Mac.
• Some content: speech, sound, music.
• A vehicle for publication: A LMS, weblog or Podcatcher.
How to produce an audio-podcast using Audacity
The production of an audio-podcast is very simple. First, find the Audacity web site and download Audacity onto your computer. As with a lot of software, you may get 2 choices – choose the older, stable version rather than the more developed but flakier beta version unless you are an expert.
There are alternatives, (such as QuickTime Pro) but we recommend Audacity as it is easy and costs nothing.
You will also need to download some software that will enable you to encode your podcast in a file format that you and others can listen to on a computer or i-Pod or other mp3 player after you have made it. Install this on your computer anywhere you like but remember where it is – you will need to know this later.
We recommend the LAME mp3 encoder, which is open source, developed for educational use and available free from Sourceforge. However, you may want to check this out with your IT technicians.
Next you will need to storyboard your program e.g. if you are interviewing people or write a script if you are going to be talking directly in to the microphone. More about this later.
When you are ready, open the software, plug your microphone to the mic input of your computer. There are many types of microphone which range in quality and price. For affordable voice recording, we recommend a unidirectional, dynamic-type microphone. The computer megastores stock inexpensive ones and you’ll also find a good selection of higher quality mics at most music stores.
To record, stop, fast forward etc. use the coloured buttons with the standard symbols.
If you want to be more adventurous, you can create several tracks and put one on top of the other. For example, you can include an intro or background music to your recordings. To import a sound file click Project > Import Audio.
Be careful of the legal aspects because there may be copyright issues if you use music other than your own. The laws vary from country to country. Alternatively, find some free music at http://music.podshow.com
To adjust the volume, use the ‘Envelope’ tool. This will be one of the function buttons. It usually has two triangles, one above the other with a blue line or track running between them. Click on the tool, and then click on the part of the track you want to modify and drag the cursor up or down.
You can also re-sequence tracks and move things around using the Time Shift tool – a two way horizontal arrow.
When you have finished your podcast, you can export it as an mp3 file by clicking File > Export As Mp3. (When you do this you will be asked for the location of the LAME mp3 Encoder on your computer.)
After specifying the correct path you will be asked for the ‘ID3 tags.’ This is just a description of your podcast so that others can locate it. So write a description of your podcast and click OK. When you save your podcast you will need to remember where you saved it so you can upload it later.
Mac users and iLife
If you are a Mac user – with MAC OS X – the easiest way to produce and publish a podcast is to use the programs of the iLife Suite, which you will find already installed in the applications folder. You can record and manage an audio-podcast with Mac GarageBand (included in iLife) instead of Audacity. It has a better user interface and lots of samples to create your own soundtrack.
For the video-podcast (see below) you will need the program iMovie (also contained in the iLife Suite). The advantage of the iLife Suite is that each program is compatible with the others. For example, you can easily send the final podcast from iMovie to iWeb to publish it on the net.
How to produce a Video-Podcast
A video-podcast has visual information like animated text, graphics or movies in addition to sound. If you would like to produce video-podcasts you will need the following:
- Hardware: PC/Mac, microphone, webcam, digital video camera or digital camera, soundcard, video card, speakers
- Software: one of e.g. QuickTime Pro, i-Movie, Windows Movie Maker Adobe Premiere, Vlog, plus (optional) screen recording software (e.g. Jing or CamStudio, for Windows users, Capture Me for Mac)
- Some content: speech, music, video, graphics
- A vehicle for publication: A LMS, Weblog, Podcatcher or YouTube Account
It is far more difficult to generalise or be prescriptive about the software you may want to use.
Vlog is quick and easy and designed particularly for video blogging – or ‘vlogging’. You have to buy it but it’s cheap – about £15-20. There is no editing facility.
QuickTime Pro is about the same price and records and edits.
Garage Band and iMovie (see above) will probably be the choice of Mac users as the software will be pre-installed on their computers.
Movie Maker is the equivalent Windows package and can be downloaded free or it will be already pre-installed. It enables you to create, edit and share your videos.
Each one of these looks rather different so you need to find a tutorial that you can download or read on-line for extra help.
However, it does not matter whether you use a Windows or Mac, there are certain rules for creating a podcast, which are independent of the operating system or the software.
Pre-Production Phase: Storyboarding
Make a script of your content (a draft on a paper can save a lot of time in the production process) and bear in mind the length of the podcast. Keep the key messages clear and simple.
Storyboarding is the process of producing sketches of the shots of your script. The end result looks like a comic book of your film. It helps you think about how your film is going to look.
Choose the media (e.g. video, audio, text, stills) that will convey your message. Arrange the content files where you can find them easily – preferably in one folder
Create or import the content elements (video, audio, text, stills) in your storyboard.
When taking your shots, bear in mind your target media – for many students this will be an iPod or mobile phone. The small screen will not be able to display too many details so it is a good idea to get close when shooting. Do not use the wide-screen mode but use the standard mode instead. Optimize bandwidth and battery power by shooting several short segments instead of one full-length film. Small screen viewing will not show text clearly unless they are large enough. Also bear in mind that fast motion and high contrast will not show very clearly on the small screen.
Look at examples of other video podcasts designed for educational use on You Tube. There are many interesting and simple techniques.
Experiment with simple animation using stick men or use cut out drawings or stop motion animation (pictures or objects filmed against a background then moved and filmed again)
Try looking at the following URL for ideas.
Add music to your podcast. Check on the copyright restrictions for your own country. Go to http://music.podshow.com for royalty-free music samples. Edit the length of the visuals (e.g. to make them fit the music). Add graphics
Adding graphics to the film using Jing
Jing is a software application that enables you to snap a picture of your computer screen, record video displaying on your screen and share the images over the web. The ‘entry level’ software is free and can be downloaded from the Jing website. It was originally designed for adding visuals to your online conversations but it is particularly useful for making video podcasts as it enables you to add graphics, notes, voice-overs, speech bubbles, still pictures and so on to your video film.
The tutorial on the Jing site is excellent and easy to follow. Again, Mac has its own equivalent product http://www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/video/jing.html
Compressing the finished video podcast
After you have made your video, it will need to be compressed into a file format that can be played (as we used the LAME encoder for audio podcasts). However, it is actually easier with video. If you have a MAC, you can compress and export your video using iMovie HD6 simply by clicking the following: FILE>Export>iPod>Share. It’s as easy as that – the software automatically converts the file and shares it on iTunes. For PC users, you can also use QuickTime Pro. Again, simply click Export > Using Quick Time Conversion. The resulting *.m4v file is the one you will upload to your web server.
Tagging your video podcast
Describe or tag your video. This is very important as all the information you supply will be the basis of searching for it later on. This is how your movie can be found. If you’re using the latest iMovie version, all you need to do is drag the file onto iTunes and click the Info Tab. Then enter the necessary information. You can also change the filename. For PC users, create an XML document or follow the instructions on your software (Ð).
Publication and storage of podcasts
Once you have made your podcast, you will want to share it with others. You can publish the podcasts by using:
Websites a Learning Management System Weblogs RSS Feeds Podcatchers (iTunes)
Podcatcher or Podcast-Clients are programs to download, play and subscribe to podcasts. Most of them can sync with an mp3 player. This means that the podcast can directly be copied to your portable device.
iTunes is free software from Apple which you can use to play, manage and buy music, games and movies. A disadvantage is that you may only sync with Apple’s iPods or watch and listen to the podcast in iTunes. However, the software also works on Windows 2000 and above. You can also find and download podcasts easily or buy music with a credit card from iTunes Store
Juice is free and works on every portable device and operating system (Windows, Unix/Linux).
Doppler is a popular open-source podcatcher for Windows.
You can usually listen to podcasts directly on the websites of those people who make them. However, you can also “subscribe” to podcasts using software like iPodder and iTunes. These programs will automatically download the latest shows and you can then listen to them on your computer and / or mp3 player. To subscribe to a podcast, you need to know the RSS feed (this information should be on the podcaster’s website). iTunes has its own directory, where you can subscribe to a show, simply by clicking the “Subscribe” button.
USING PODCASTS IN THE CLASSROOM
Podcasting is a great way of allowing students to share their work and experiences with a potentially huge audience over the Internet. Schools are increasingly using the internet to promote what they do and to celebrate the achievements of their pupils, and podcasting is an excellent way of doing this.
The Downs FM is one of our favourite audio podcasts (Google it!) ‘Mr Warner’ (his blog is mrwarner.com) who teaches at the school provides the following advice – and we cannot improve on it.
How do children benefit from making a podcast?
- It gives them a potential audience of thousands for their work.
- It is great for developing literacy skills (writing scripts, setting up interviews etc.), allows pupils to develop and practise their speaking and listening skills, and they also learn some amazing ICT skills.
- Podcasts can be interactive and the audience can be invited to send their comments, giving valuable feedback to the children about their work.
- Making a podcast is also great for developing teamwork skills. The students usually work together really well as they are always keen to make a great show.
A school podcast can range from a single recorded story which is put onto the school website, to a weekly radio show with music and interviews which visitors can subscribe to using an RSS feed. How you make up your podcast is up to you.
You could then develop your show by trying some of the following:
- Jingles – Use software such as eJay (PC) or GarageBand (Mac) to create jingles. These can be used to introduce particular features to the show.
- Try an outside broadcast – Use an mp3 player with recording facilities to record a feature “on location” around the school, or on a school field trip. You can then download this to your computer and add it to your show.
- Adding podsafe music – Let your DJs introduce some copyright free music into your show. • Promote yourself – Register with the various podcast directories (see below) to get more listeners!
What can you put in a podcast?
- School news – a great way of telling pupils and parents what is going on at your school.
- Pupils’ work – children love sharing their work. Ask them to record their own stories, or write reports about an activity they have tried at school.
- Interviews – with members of staff, children, members of the community and visitors to school.
- Music – Please be aware that you will not be allowed to use commercial music in podcasts for copyright reasons.
(However, some artists allow their music to be played in podcasts. You can find this “podsafe” music in special directories (e.g. music.podshow.com)
- Their comments on local, national and international news – be aware of any copyright regulations when finding sources of news. … and whatever else you feel may be appropriate!
A few other tips…
Let your pupils listen to and watch a few other podcasts before they start. This is a great way of finding out what pod- casts are all about and discovering what it is possible to do. You may discover some great ideas that you could try to yourself.
Bill Ferriter (who helps to create The Blurb) has offered this advice:
“Introduce web feeds and aggregators to your students while creating your podcast: Feed readers are becoming one of the most essential tools for internet users simply because of the almost overwhelming amount of content available on- line. Unfortunately, many people haven’t got “hooked into” subscribing to a site’s content yet. This is a skill that is easy to teach along with a classroom podcast and it is an essential one to our kids’ ability to navigate and access information on the web.”
“Discuss good blogging practices while creating your podcast: Because many podcasters post their work in a blog anyway, blogging practices can be introduced through podcasts as well. Emphasizing the importance of including links and responding to content found in other places are skills that show children how to “connect” the information that they are dis- covering and to continue conversations with others. The skills necessary for effective participation in threaded (cf. thread) conversations can be taught while commenting on blogs/podcasts as well.”
- Listen to The Downs FM podcast
- Watch Podcasting in Plain English’ at http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=y-MSL42NV3c
- Produce an audio-podcast or a video podcast yourself
- Get your pupils to make a podcast
RESOURCES AND REFERENCE MATERIALS
A 3 minute video explanation of podcasting:
COMMONCRAFT (2008) ’Podcasting in Plain English’ (WWW). YouTube, LLC: www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-MSL42NV3c (26.05.2009)
Creating Video Podcasts – Overview:
NATIONAL MEDIA EDUCATION WEEK (s.d.) ’Overview’ (WWW). Media Awareness Network: http://www.mediaeducationweek.ca/mymedia/create_overview.htm (09.06.08)
Down FM: www.downs.kent.sch.uk/page_viewer.asp?pid=10&type=podcast#podcast_43
Juice (iPodder): http://juicereceiver.sourceforge.net/index.php
PODCASTBLASTER (s.d.) ‘Video Podcasting – How to make a Podcast’ (WWW). PodcastBlaster: www.podcastblaster.com/video-podcasting.html (25.05.09)
Podsafe music network: http://music.podshow.com/
Poducate Me (Podcasting in Education): http://poducateme.com/
The Blurb: http://guysread.typepad.com/theblurb/
The Education Podcast Network: http://epnweb.org/
WARNER, M. (s.d.) ‘Podcasting’ (WWW). Mark Warner/Teaching Ideas: www.teachingideas.co.uk/ict/podcasting.htm (27.05.09)
WIKI PODCAST (s.d.) ‘Podcatcher’ (WWW). GNU Operating System: http://wiki.podcast.de/Podcatcher (09.06.08)
[…] When taking your shots, bear in mind your target media – for many students this will be an iPod or mobile phone. The small screen will not be able to display too many details so it is a good idea to get close when shooting. Do not use the wide-screen mode but use the standard mode instead. Optimize bandwidth and battery power by shooting several short segments instead of one full-length film. Small screen viewing will not show text clearly unless they are large enough. Also bear in mind that fast motion and high contrast will not show very clearly on the small screen. […]