January 10, 2010

The Joy of Podcasting

Filed under: Tech Tutorials — admin @ 8:45 pm

by Isa Kretschmer

Learn about free tools to create podcasts in your classroom.

There are audio podcasts and video podcasts constantly being transferred from the web to devices everywhere without us having to do a thing.  Learn a language on your ipod at the gym, get the latest science news on your computer in the den, and stream technology tips through a web browser in the classroom. But what if you want to make your own? Fortunately you and your students can create podcasts almost as easily as you can receive them using equipment that you probably already own.

A podcast is a digital recording of an audio or video broadcast that is available through the Internet and downloads automatically to your personal audio player. Most podcasts are free and save you the time and energy of checking and rechecking your favorite websites for new content. You simply go to your favorite websites, subscribe to their RSS feed and the new content downloads to your ipod or computer automatically.

Many teachers are finding that creating podcasts can enhance the learning experience in the classroom. Teachers can record lectures, review material, or tutorials and post them online for students to listen to at their convenience. Students can share projects, news, and presentations that can be automatically linked to a classroom website.

The first step to creating your own audio podcast is recording. You will need to find a microphone and software such as Audacity (for Mac or PC users) or Garageband (for Mac users) to record and edit your audio file.  Most modern laptops have microphones built in.  You can also buy inexpensive headsets that can work well too for as little as $10.  Another option is to use the built-in audio recorders featured in modern phones like the iPhone, or even the newest iPod touch.

Once you have your audio recorded, you will need to edit out sections you do not want – bad takes, dead silence, the “uhs” and “ums” for those who do not have perfect diction.  To make these edits you will need a good audio editor.  For Macs you can use the included software called Garageband which you can learn to use using tutorials at Apple’s website. For Mac and PC you can download a free open-source program called Audacity.  To learn how to use Audacity there is documentation at this link and specific podcasting tutorials here. If you choose to use Audacity you will need to install a plug-in called the LAME encoder to make podcast-compatible mp3 files.  For instructions click here.

To spruce up your audio podcast a bit you will probably want to add some music.  The best way is to create your own, but if you are not so musically inclined you can find free royalty free music online.  The websites Jamendo and Garageband feature music that you can download and reuse under the Creative Commons License.  Make sure that the music you download has a creative commons license that allows you to “modify, adapt, or build upon” the content.

Once you have an mp3 file ready you will need to upload the file to a podcast host. You can go to the trouble of setting up your own podcast server, but luckily there are much easier and free solutions online. Podomatic and Gcast host podcasts for free and make it easy for listeners to subscribe to your podcasts.  Podomatic lets you record and upload video and audio directly from your browser.  Gcast lets you upload podcasts via regular telephone calls.  Once you have uploaded your video or audio, these sites will include the links your listeners will need to subscribe to your podcast in iTunes or any podcatcher that accepts an RSS Feed.  You can paste these links to a class website or send them in an email.

Soon your students, parents, community members and fellow teachers will be able to listen to you and your students podcasts wherever they go.

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