Why Podcasting?

A podcast is typically an audio file that one downloads and listens to. People generally produce podcasts to share ideas, presentations, or music. Typically podcasts are linked from a blog, so “podcasting” is often used to denoteaudioblogging. Podcasting combines the words “iPod” and “Broadcasting,” but you don’t need an ipod or a Mac to produce, or listen to, a podcast. (There are also video podcasts (vidcasts) and Photo podcasts (photocasts), so the definition of a podcast is evolving.)

Podcasting is useful for recording a teacher’s lesson or a student conversation. It can be used to create a homework assignment or even be part of a test. (Students in Tom’s class would listen to and anlyze historical speeches and readings.) Students can use podcasts to interview each other about what they learned during the week. They can create a newscast, hold a debate, or run a radio show. Schools can use podcasts to make announcements via their Web site. Students could read their own essays or stories. Podcasts can also be used to record guest speakers and make their presentations available online.

Tools to Record Audio

In podcasting, the producer first records the audio. After audio is recorded it can be distributed to others, or edited before distribution. Podcasts sometimes resemble radio programs as some podcasters add music and various sound effects to their recorded audio.

The podcast file type is very important. Naturally the listener must be able to play the podcast file and it must be of acceptable audio quality. Yet, the better the audio quality the bigger the file, and that can be a problem when downloading from the Web or distributing via email. So, the MP3 file format is widely used in podcasting because it is both of good audio quality and it’s compressed audio, which makes it a smaller file (to download or email.)

Keep in mind that when recording audio the podcast producer often wants a higher quality file format than MP3. A high quality file format can enhance recording preformance and clarity. So, a high-quality file type is typically large. Fortunately, with iTunes and other software you can convert a large high-quality audio file into a compact MP3 file. You can also use the free Zamzar program to convert your audio files into different formats. You can then upload the MP3 file to a web page, email it to someone, or download it to an iPod. In this way it is available to many listeners.

Here are some ways you can record audio:

  • Vocaroo is a truly unique and quick podcasting option. Audio is recorded live on the website and then available to email or embed in a website or blog. This is a great option for a classroom without any podcasting software. Recordings can also be downloaded for future editing.
  • SoundCloud is a unique podcasting option that integrates a social commenting aspect to podcasting that is unavailable on any other podcasting platforms. You can record live on the SoundCloud website, or you can upload an existing audio file. Once uploaded, the file is displayed on your page on the SoundCloud web site. When students listen to the podcast on the SoundCloud web site, they are able to post a comment at a specific location below the visualized audio file. SoundCloud also has an iPhone application that allows podcasts to be created and uploaded directly from the mobile device. Visit the SoundCloud 101 page for more detailed information.
  • iPod recorder (Belkin or Griffin) Turn an iPod into a recording device with any number of iPod recorders. A big advantage to recording with an iPod is that it is extremely portable, unlike a desktop computer or even a netbook. Griffin technologies iTalk Pro and Belkin’s Voice Recorder for the iPod work well. You simply attach the external microphone to the bottom of the iPod and record your voice. The iPod will store your recordings into a special ‘ voice memos’ folder. You can then download its contents directly into your itunes account by syncing the ipod to your computer and transfering the voice memo files. If you decide that you do wish to edit the audio you recorded, you can always move the files into an audio editor like GarageBand or Audacity.
  • iPad/iPod Touch voice recorder – Newer versions of the iPad or iPod Touch have a built-in microphone. The iPod Touch comes with a free voice recording app. There is an app that can be purchased for the iPad.
Belkin Recorder Tutorial

  • Chirbit allows you to quickly share the recordings via facebook, twitter & through short urls. With Chirbit you can also enable typed comments to be quickly turned into audio.
  • Audio Pal is a free web based service that enables users to create recordings through phone, mic, upload or text. You can also embed the recording onto a web page.
  • Yodio – With Yodio you can use your cell phone to narrate pictures. Create a card (one picture & one recording) or a tour (many pictures and multiple recordings). Create a free account and include your cell phone to quickly call and record a yodio.
  • Google Voice – Google Voice is free with a google account. Create a unique phone number through google that students can call. Calls placed to a google voice account are stored in an email-like inbox that can then be downloaded as an mp3 file, or embedded. The mp3 file of the voice message can be edited or combined with other voice messages to create a larger podcast by using an audio editor such as Garageband or Audacity. A unique benefit to using Google Voice as podcasting option is that every student cell phone becomes a podcasting device in your classroom.
  • PowerPoint By recording narration on a slide, PowerPoint presentations can become stand-alone works that can be viewed by anyone, anywhere and can still carry the distinct voices of their authors. A simple recording tool is built right into PowerPoint, so this is fairly easy to do as well.
  • VoiceThread VoiceThread is an online presentation platform. VoiceThread’s appeal is that you can easily upload pictures to the presentation and record audio within the presentation to accompany the uploaded pictures. It’s a great digital storytelling tool and while it doesn’t strictly fit into the definition of a podcast, it is a fantastic platform to create presentation that include student recorded audio comments.

VoiceThread for Podcasting

VoiceThread is a great Web-based digital storytelling program that enables users to upload pictures or documents, record accompanying audio (or video) commentary, and invite others to record commentary as well. Its simple combination of visual and recorded media is perfect for creating multimedia presentations in a relatively short time frame using simple tools. With VoiceThread teachers and students can create virtual tours, report on books they’ve read, comment on historically significant photographs, debate a topic, and more. Its uniqueness lies in the ease in which audio commentary can added to images and documents and the ability to add multiple commentaries to a single artifact. VoiceThreads can be hosted free of charge at VoiceThread.com and each VoiceThread has its own unique URL. A VoiceThread can be embedded in blogs, wikis, and other types of Web sites and even downloaded.

To Get Started, go to Voicethread.com. Once you’ve filled out the brief registration form and signed in, apply for the free education upgrade. Click on the K-12 link on the home page and then click Single Educator. Apply for the free “VT Educator” license or upgrade to a Class Subscription.

To add commentary, go to VoiceThread you will need a microphone. If you use an external microphone make sure it is turned on and turn up the sound input volume on your computer if it is low. Make sure your speakers are turned on so you can hear the recording.

Designing your own VoiceThread might take between 10-30 minutes. You will upload pictures or documents, add audio (or video) commentary, and invite others to comment. If you invite students to join your VoiceThread you will want to come back to listen to the comments students leave. VoiceThread has a moderation features that allows you to delete or hide commentary. If you use class time, budget 15-30 minutes to let students record their own commentary. Note that they might also do this at home as part of an assignment.

Introduction to Using VoiceThread (by Radford Education)

This You Tube how-to video provides an overview of VoiceThread tools.

VoiceThread Tutorial

This tutorial shows you how to create an account, create identities, record voice, add text, and annotate.

Video Tutorials: Garage Band & Audacity

Recording into a Web program or into an iPod is quick and easy. You can learn the basics of simple recording in minutes. It’s audio editing that can take a lot of time. If you really need to edit the audio, plan on a few hours to learn how to work with either GarageBand or Audacity.

GarageBand (Mac only) GarageBand, part of Apple iLife suite of programs, is a music studio in your Mac that can be used to make professional, high quality podcast & audio recordings. You can use existing mp3 audio files that students recorded or the built-in mic to record. To enhance your podcast, choose from the built-in Garage Band Apple “Loops” or sound effects for background music. Garage band is an extremel intuative program, that allows you to drag and drop audio files into the podcast track, edit and export the file.This tool is easy to pick up and comes with great built in help and support.

Garage Band Tutorial

Audacity (PC & Mac) Audacity is a free download for Windows or Mac that has all of the necessary features to create podcasts. Audio can be recorded live, uploaded, mixed together, cut and remixed easily.

How to Create a Podcast (with Audacity)

Places to Upload your Podcast to the Web

Once you are finished recording and editing the audio for your podcast, it needs to be uploaded to a podcast distribution or hosting website so a larger audience can find and listen to the recording. When the podcast is uploaded it can be embedded or linked in your blog or website to allow students to easily access, listen to and download the audio content.

Keep in mind that public places on the Web may contain content inappropriate content for children. Fortunately many offer areas expressly designed for educational content.Below is a list of places to upload a podcast.

  • Podbean This is a great option for uploading your mp3 podcast files. Once the editing is complete on your podcast you can create a new site with Podbean and every time a new podcast is uploaded it will appear as a new post in the Podbean site.
  • Google Documents Google Docs now allows any file type to be uploaded. When a podcast is edited, upload the file to your google docs account and it can then be shared with a link and anyone can download the podcast. Here is a brief tutorial on uploading mp3 files to google docs. Click here to learn more about google documents from THWT.
  • Blip.tv Although Blip is primarily used for independent television producers to host their shows, it also allows users to upload mp3 files. Once uploaded, an embed code is provided for the audio file which allows you to embed the podcast directly in your blog or web site for students to access and listen to easily.
  • Youtube It is possible to upload mp3 files to youtube, but they must be converted to a movie file format first (avi, mpeg, mov). When you are finished editing the mp3 file podcast, it can be easily converted to a movie file using Zamzar and then uploaded to youtube.
  • Pod Press is an “add-on” to a Word Press account that enables you to add podcasts to a Word Press website.

Sample Podcast Activities

Read more about these project on our Lessons & Activities page.

“A Day in the Like of a Hobo” Project
This interdisciplinary creative writing/historical simulation activity calls on students to research the plight of homeless teenagers during the Great Depression and then create their own fictionalized account of a day in the life of a Hobo. Students post their story on their blog and read each other’s work. Students comment by stating what they liked about the story they read — and what made it seem authentic. The blogs provide a public form to present and share student work. Students are then interviewed in character and recorded as part of a “1930s Radio Show” podcast.

“Social Mobility” audio blogging
Tom’s group audio blogging activity calls on students to compare social mobility and social inequality in America today with the “Gilded Age” of the late 19th century. Students used VoiceThread to record their commentary.

“Interview a Boomer” with ipods
Tom directed his students to find and interview a “likely but unsuspecting” Boomer — a parent, teacher or family friend born between 1946 and 1964. Equipped with a mic-enabled iPod, each student asked their interviewee ten questions — five required and five of their own design — about their perceptions.

“Unit Wrapup” cell podcasting
Tom used his cell phone in class to record a unit-ending conversation that was immediately posted to the Web. Students were preparing to write an analytical essay and Tom wanted his students to listen to the classroom conversation later on and revisit the different points made in class before writing their essay.

Eastern Religions Conversation (podcast on iTunes)
Students used iPods and Belkin voice recorders to create these unit-ending hypothetical conversations between members of various religous groups. Students prepared by studying and learning the basic concepts and foundations of each religious group, determined key similarities and differences between each group and then wrote scripts for the podcast. These projects were edited using Garageband and were then uploaded to blip.tv

Finding Podcasts with RSS- Real Simple Syndication

Related to both blogs and podcasting is RSS, known as Really Simple Syndication. Through RSS, information can come to you without you actively searching for it. This is accomplished through an RSS feed, a source of information that is regularly updated and to which you subscribe to. You select the type of information you would like to receive and the updated information is sent to you by what’s called an RSS aggregator. There are web-based aggregators, and downloadable aggregator software. Both enable users to subscribe to select RSS feeds.

Here is a simple and easy way to select and receive RSS feeds: Google Reader is a news-based web aggregator that enables you to make your own personalized news page tailored to your interests from millions of live internet content feeds — including articles, blogs, images and audio. It’s free and you don’t need aggregate software to use it. Google Reader will constantly check those feeds for changes or additions and send new information to your Bloglines personal page.

Mind you, you don’t need Google Reader to subscribe directly to a blog. Many blogs contain a reference to the URL of their RSS feeds. Major newspapers such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and others also offer RSS feeds of major sections in their papers. Even Amazon.com offers an RSS feed.

For a more detailed explanation of RSS see: RSS: A Quick Start Guide for Educators by Will Richardson

How to Integrate Podcasts in the Classroom

Here are some specific ideas for the history/social studies classroom:

  • Students interview relatives about their life histories, and then combine the audio interview with family photos in an iMovie project.
  • Students write a radio drama based on a historical event and record their show (complete with commercials) using an iPod and a voice recorder.
  • Students learn about a different country by interviewing a recent traveler. They record the interview and then create a digital travel album.
  • Students create a faux advertising campaign to convince immigrants to settle the new American colonies.
  • Students use an iPod and a voice recorder to interview sources for articles for a class newspaper.
  • Students write and record short stories and add music and sound effects.
  • Teacher records a tutorial that students listen to on their own
  • Present student writing through a class radio drama or a poetry slam.
  • Teacher records and broadcasts group discussions.
  • Using an iPod and a voice recorder, the teacher records each student telling a story and then saves the recordings in iTunes for assessment purposes.
  • On a field trip, students use an iPod with a voice recorder to take notes and a digital camera to take photos. They then create a guided tour in iMovie.