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Podcasting in the Classroom

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Saved by Julie Lindsay
on March 17, 2007 at 10:13:45 pm



Podcasting in the Classroom: Tools and Techniques

Co-presentation with Chris Chater, American School of Paris.

ECIS IT07, International School Dusseldorf, Germany

March 2007


The following artcle was written in November 2006 for Coming of Age, second edition (Terry Freedman, Ed.)


Getting started in podcasting in the Grade 6-12 curriculum: the tools and procedues you need for success


Why Podcasting?

The use of audio in the learning process provides exciting opportunities for all participants. Not only can educational podcasts be found via the internet for curriculum integration but individuals, groups and classes can easily make their own podcasts for sharing locally or globally. Podcasting is a unique and accessible way to enhance your curriculum and provides an element of fun with students. Using very simple and cost-effective tools (most are free) any student or teacher has the ability to create a professional sounding audio file and upload it to a school server space or the web.


In this chapter I will describe essential tools and provide examples of procedures for getting started with podcasting. The practice and implementation of podcasting in a school environment is only limited by the imagination of the participants. I have divided the tasks required for creating and sharing a podcast into three easy steps called ‘The Three P’s of Podcasting: PreProduction, Production and PostProduction.’



Consider the following before even starting to record your podcast:

  • What is the purpose of your podcast? Does it have a name? Consider if it is for assessment of curriculum objectives e.g. alternative options where students create a podcast instead of or as well as a piece of written work, or maybe just for fun e.g. a radio show program based on school events.
  • Who is the anticipated audience for this podcast and how long will it be? The age of the audience and the depth of the podcast material will determine its length. Generally, the younger the student the shorter the length in terms of catching and maintaining attention. However, a longer podcast could be broken into various segments with interesting music excerpts.
  • What hardware do you need? You need to consider what you are going to record the audio with and then how to transfer this to be edited.
  • Who and what will be recorded? In what order? Try to map out the podcast before starting any recording. With software editing tools the order of recording is not as important as it is very easy to move segments around. If it is a radio-style podcast break it down into segments that can be recorded separately and then edited together. Always stress with all participants that the quality of the recording must be as high as possible. This means finding a quiet recording space, avoiding extraneous noises (breathing, hand on microphone, odd comments etc), and maximizing the audio input at all times.
  • What music or sound effects do you need? Consider where you will find non-copyright material and/or ask permission for use. It is also fun to create your own music and sound effects. A digital approach to this will give more satisfying results. There is a distinct art in recording live music and sound and without more sophisticated equipment the results are often disappointing.  
  • What software do you need? Consider needs for recording and editing, converting, uploading and sharing podcasts.
  • Who is responsible for the recording and who will do the final editing and sharing? Even with digital tools it can be a time consuming task preparing a podcast for release. You will need time to work with students and perfect the tasks involved in order to maintain a high quality recording. Close enough is usually not good enough when recording audio. If the quality of the recording is not good nobody will want to listen to it.
  • How will it be shared: Online? School server? Either of these choices requires setting up spaces and systems for easy access to the podcast.



Recording devices and accessories: It is best to record audio at the highest input possible. The standard is 44.1KHz input. Some devices (e.g. Palm Zire 72 with voice memo or the older

Griffin iTalk attachment for the iPod) record at 8KHz. This can be converted later, but it is a clumsy way to acquire a good sound. A recent handheld, Palm TX has a Multiconnector microphone module attachment available from Tech Center Labs (http://home.earthlink.net/%7Egmayhak/catalog.html). This turns it into a personal recording device. With the correct software this can have high quality results. SoundRec is freeware (http://www.infinityball.com/article.aspx?articleid=3) or there is the inexpensive Personal Audio Recorder Pro at (http://www.toysoft.ca/par.html). 

There are a number of excellent portable voice recorders available that are not expensive to purchase. I can recommend the Olympus WS100 (mono) and also the WS300 range (stereo). These are portable, easy to use and provide good quality recordings if used thoughtfully. They also have a USB interface with a PC for quick downloading of files. However the file format will have to be converted from WMA to MP3. This is easily done with the encoder winLame (http://winlame.sourceforge.net/) Otherwise attach a microphone to a PC or use a built in microphone with a laptop. I have had success with quite inexpensive microphone models. Consider purchasing a simple mixer that has 4-6 inputs for a group recording session.


Computer and audio recording/editing software:  I recommend the open source Audacity (http://audacity.sourceforge.net/about/) as it has a simple GUI (graphical user interface) and you can get good results without using any advanced features. It also caters for recording from a CD or another device through line in. Remember that all projects are saved as audacity format files. To convert to MP3 files you must export as MP3 and will need the MP3 driver found at http://www-users.york.ac.uk/~raa110/audacity/lame.html (Once downloaded this needs to be kept in the same folder as Audacity and accessed when needed during the exporting step).

What if you want to add some music or sound effects to your podcast? A selection of royalty-free music can be found at: Freesound (http://freesound.iua.upf.edu/index.php), Common Content (http://commoncontent.org/catalog/audio/), Podshow (http://music.podshow.com) and Incompetech.com (http://www.incompetech.com/m/c/royalty-free/).


PostProduction Now that you have created your podcast and converted it to an MP3 format, you need to consider where you are going to publish it and make it available to others. Audio files can be quite large but luckily there are now available on the internet a number of excellent places to share multimedia. You also need to consider providing a feed to your podcast so that listeners can subscribe to episodes.


Tools for Uploading and Accessing Podcasts Online

I have been using archive.org (http://archive.org) with great success.Archive.org allows free server space for storing multimedia files. To use this you must join archive.org (click on Get Library Card). When logged in as a member, click on Contributions to access help on how to upload files. The easiest way to upload your podcast is by using the ccPublisher software downloadable from archive.org. Follow the instructions in ccPublisher for uploading your podcast and wait about 24 hours for it to become available. It takes this long for the processing of the file into different formats and for your own page to be created. Check on its progress by logging in and going to http://archive.org/contribute.php When your podcast is ready you may copy the link location (choose between the different file versions e.g. 64Kbps or 128Kbps) and set up an online interface for access to the file.

Podcasts can be shared by setting up a blog (such as at Blogger http://blogger.com).  Create a new posting and use the link location from the archive.org page as a hyperlink to text on your blog for users to access and download your podcast. I would also encourage you to go that extra step and create a feed for your blog through Feedburner (http://feedburner.com). There are options for creating an XML feed that allows podcasts to be recognized and accessed correctly. Users can then subscribe to your blog feed through an RSS tool such as Bloglines (http://bloglines.com). Audio files appear as enclosures and are easily accessible. Even better, you can add your podcast to the iTunes set of free podcasts and have it universally accessible through the Music Store.

There are also a set of online options that have similar features and essentially allow for the entire recording and sharing process to be done very easily. Evoca is one of my favourites (http://evoca.com). It allows you to upload MP3 files or to record directly into their online interface. These files can then be shared via your own page, or by joining and/or creating groups (great social networking facility!). You can even podcast using a mobile phone!  Podomatic is another place where you can create, find and share podcasts (http://podomatic.com/). I like Podomatic as it provides an effective personal ‘blog’ type of page where podcasts can be accessed and subscribed to therefore saving you the effort of setting up your own blog. There is even a set of themes to choose from for the page. Another great tool is Odeo (http://odeo.com) that works in a similar way to the previous two.


Another way of sharing a podcast is to use a wiki. Wiki spaces for teachers at http://www.wikispaces.com/site/for/teachers100K is one example that uses easy embedding tools to access online multimedia files.  The best way to get the HTML text to embed podcasts into a wiki or a blog or a webpage is to upload them to one of the online sites discussed above (e.g. Evoca) and then copy and paste the HTML. This will provide you with a type of skin for playback right on the web page!



I started my podcasting and Web 2.0 journey by reading the book by David Warlick, “Classroom Blogging: A Teacher’s Guide to the Blogosphere”.

More recently I also use Will Richardson’s book “Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts”.


My Podcast Resources: http://podcastjazz.pbwiki.com/  

My Podcasting and All That Jazz Blog: http://podcastjazz.blogspot.com

My Podomatic page: http://flatclassroom.podomatic.com/

My Evoca page: http://evoca.com/julielindsay

My delicious tags for podcasting

My delicious tags for best practice podcasting


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