Saturday, November 26, 2011

My Adventures with Creating Podcasts

Podcasting has been an interesting Web 2.0 tool to figure out. I'd like to start by explaining my history with this tool, then talk about what it was like to create a podcast highlighting the good, the bad and the ugly, to finish off I'd like to talk about how it can be used for educational purposes. 

I hadn't really embraced the idea of podcasting as a tool I would use personally or professionally. As our mother's have told us on numerous occasions, we must eat our broccoli it makes us strong and healthy, so I thought why not give this social media tool a try, it will teach me something about the tool and about how to use it best in my grade two classroom.  I was interested in exploring it because of the possibility of capturing and engaging those students who have a difficult time with written work and for the possibility of having students explain their thinking in an audio format rather than in the written word.

I knew it was going to be a huge learning curve and I was right. I chose to create two podcasts, one in which I would use my little Sony Voice Recorder that converts the audio to mp3 format and loads it onto my iTunes account. The other I would use Audacity. You can read about my initial experience with Audacity here. I had never created any type of social media in the past, other than experimenting with AudioBoo about a month ago. I found this particular social media site to be very easy and self explanatory. I knew podcasts could be located on the Internet and I'd subscribed to several some years ago but found I wasn't listening to them so I stopped subscribing. Due to my inquisitive nature, I decided to start exploring and subscribing to the CBC Q podcasts with Jian Ghomeshi. I do not always get a chance to listen as often as I would like. Jiam's voice is captivating, so when I want some Jian and April time alone, I listen. 

My Learning
What I found most interesting in my research came from Berger & Trexler's (2010) chapter on Media Sharing. They write about how Thomas Ludwig (As cited by Berger & Trexler) traced the history of media in the classroom as being lectures with chalkboards and demonstrations with slides, filmstrips, overhead projectors, transparencies and videotapes. They go on to write about how students were passive receivers of this media distribution by teachers, up until Web 2.0 tools changed this (p. 125). After reflecting on these ideas, I would agree. As a student, I was a passive receiver and so have my students been up until this year.  Now students have the opportunities to be actively engaged and often times the creators of the social media. Students have shifted from being passive to actively involved.

Berger & Trexler also suggested tutorials from the Internet, one being, I discovered Brian Bertucci's (2011) article Planning Your Podcast. It brings to light 4 important considerations for creating a podcast:
1. Consider your audience
2. What subject areas or content will you be discussing?
3. How often will you have new podcasts? 
4. Will you be using music? This opens up a huge legal issue if you are not careful.

When creating my two podcasts, I knew who my audience was: parents and students, plain and simple. I also knew I had wanted to investigate the tool and to do so, I needed a reason. I would give a brief description of what we did in our day so students and parents could be aware if their child had missed a day or two of school. Podcasting, at this point, was not going to be a regular occurrence. It would be done for the purpose of this inquiry project and to be done when students missed school. I will continue to report about our day when a student misses school because I think the students will enjoy hearing what we did in class. I would not be investigating adding music or background sounds, etc because of the legal issues and complexity it would involve. Learning how to convert it to mp3 and get a URL address would be enough of a learning process and music would take away from what the purpose of the podcast was going to be used for.

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
Oh my goodness, was I in for an adventure with this tool. I began by simply jumping in with two feet and seeing where I landed. Sometimes this is a good thing and sometimes, well, it isn't. In this case, it all worked out in the end. I knew I had enough knowledge of how embed codes worked, how my voice recorder worked, how Audacity worked, so that I could spend time learning how to save to mp3 format, and find a hosting site so it could be embedded into a blog. There was a lot of watching You Tube video's and frustration at not getting the URL's to work properly. 

The Good
Using and speaking into the Voice Recorder was easy. I had tried to just wing it but that didn't prove to work out my favor, so I wrote out a brief outline and reminder of what we did on Wednesday, Nov 23 and Thursday, Nov 24th in the classroom. I was able to plug the recorder into my computer and it was instantly converted into mp3 format. I easily named the file and added an image. Talking into Audacity was easy as well. The sound was good and all of the buttons for recording, playback and stopping were easy to understand. Sounds simple, right...

The Bad
I thought iTunes created a URL for me but I was wrong. This Apple help page was telling me to create RSS feeds and something about Metabata. WHAT!!! I knew I was entering into uncharted and scarey territory so I ditched this idea and began searching again. I knew once I got a URL I was in business. It become frustrating and in my searching, this video proved to help, simple, straight forward and to the point. 

I found this video to be the most helpful out of all that I watched. I knew how Dropbox worked, which made me confident in the end result. After uploading the widget, problems occurred with getting it to play. After reading comments after comments, it occurred to me, the URL that Dropbox gave me was too long,  I eventually got the widget to work buy shortening the name of my podcast, recopying the code and posting the widget again.

What I didn't like about the Voice Recorder was the scratchiness in the sound at the very beginning and end. The sound is me moving my hand along the device, which you wouldn't think would make that much noise but it does. Can you image the scratchiness you would hear from kids holding it? I don't think this is the best tool to use for a podcast. I feel the buttons are small and cumbersome for young hands, the excess noises of touching it along with classroom noise would distract the listener, and the complexity in uploading it to the widget each time are just some of the reasons why I wouldn't use a voice recorder for podcasting. It's too much work for teachers and students, they are busy and need to be able to podcast with few steps, ease, and efficiency.

Audacity co-operated with me and actually prompted me to install LAME, which I did. I wanted to really get a feel for what this process was like. I knew it was going to be difficult because of watching video's and seeing all of the steps I needed to go through in order to get this podcast up and working on my blog.  There are way too many steps for young children to try to do themselves. Recording is simple and easy but I don't know if the process of saving it as an mp3 file would be easy for them to do. I could see students reading into Audacity and then listening to it after words to help with their fluency.

The Ugly
The amount of steps it took to come to a final product were and would be daunting for the average teacher. This process needs to be easier. There are so many hosting sites for podcasts and knowing which one to use can be discouraging. I used Podbean on Berger and Trexler's recommendation. Once the account was created and I'd gotten my password through email, I signed in and this image page appeared.
If you've ever used Edublogs, this page looks very much the same as this blogger site. I'm thinking they are one in the same company. I uploaded my podcast because it had been saved as an mp3 file, thanks to LAME. After some monkeying around, and yes this is the best way I can describe it, I created a post called "Here's what we did while you were away" because it seemed to be prompting me to do so. It's called 'publish a podcast' and I've since discovered Podbean is a Pod blogging site. I knew I needed a widget and I found this site by clicking on the 'embeddable player' link under my post on the home blog page, I copied the link and embedded it into bloggers 'edit HTML' section, that way it appears as a post and not as a widget. 

Here is the final product:

 Here are a few suggestions to get you started in a primary classroom?
1. Have students read into Audacity from a book or their own story so they get the opportunity to hear their own voice. They can hear the fluency of their writing or the fluency of their reading.
2. How I used the tool, by creating a simple breakdown of your classroom day and what the students did and what they learned.
3. Have students explain their thinking to a math problem, then post it on their blog to keep for their eportfolio.
4. As a teacher, you could record your sub plans on a podcast, embed it into your classroom blog and have your substitute go to the link.
5. Have them do #3 post it to the blog and have students respond to what the child said through comments.
6. Have students record their favourite daily 5 or subject and tell why. See what my students said.

I could continue with a multiple ideas but I think my point is clear. Podcasting allows for multiple uses in education and the classroom environment. The choice becomes the teachers, do you always require paper and pencil work? Or would accept a verbal responses from students in the form of podcasts? The choice becomes yours and your students. I believe primary children would benefit from using social media but I do not believe the tools I chose were the best for them to use.
• See my next post on how this process can be done in less steps. 

Adamdacutie. (Producer). (2010). How to embed your own mp3(s) to your website.  [YouTube video].  Retrieved from

Berger, P., & Trexler, S. (2010). Choosing web 2.0 tools for learning and teaching in a digital world. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.
Burtucci, B. (2011). Podcasting. Retrieved from
Gigifide. (Producer). (2008). How to create a podcast. [You Tube video]. Retrieved from

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

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