I’ve Recorded a Podcast, Now Why? by Wesley Fryer

Wesley Fryer presented a session entitled I’ve Recorded a Podcast, Now What? He focussed on tools that are free or low cost that teachers can use to post their podcasts. I’ll post some of his links below in case you want to follow them.

Though I enjoyed Wesley’s presentation I’m not convinced podcasts hosted outside of our school is the right way to go at ISB. Externally hosted sites help with some of the support issues of local hosting and lessens the load on our school’s servers/bandwidth but local hosting is better for us. By hosting locally we don’t have to worry about the slow connection speeds we face when we try to surf outside China. Also, we don’t have to worry about investing a lot of time into a site to suddenly find China has blocked it and we can no longer access our content. Finally, we learned from the earthquake north of Taiwan in December 2006 that it’s best to keep our content close to the principle users. For several months many of us had trouble getting to our wikis at http://wikispaces.com because of a broken pipe. Lesson learned, keep content close to those that need it.


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How To Listen To A Podcast

I like podcasts. I listen to them all the time. I just got back from a week in Vietnam and I looked forward to the flight so I could catch up on my podcast listening. Also, I listen to them when I run. I’ve even had to get a little external speaker for my iPod so I can finish listening to podcasts when I’m stretching after my run. Having said all this, podcasts are a slow way to get information. They’re not very efficient. Reading or more specifically skimming, is much quicker.

This is why it’s important to have a finger ready by the fast forward button when listening to podcasts. When podcasters are taking their time getting to the point, hit the fast forward button and get to the point for them. Just a tip for how to listen to a podcast.

By the way, when watching a recorded TV program, I always fast forward through the commercials 🙂

The Show With Ze Frank

I’m not a fan of video podcasts or vodcasts as some people call them. I enjoy listening to podcasts but watching someone sit in front of his computer and yak, just doesn’t work for me. That is until I discovered The Show with Ze Frank. I’m a little late to the party on this one.

Ze Frank is a humourist, satirist, musician, and web designer that set out in March 2006 to produce a video podcast each weekday for a year. I found myself at his site after reading a reference on a tech site. What got me watching his show was his use of his camera. Though Ze sits in front of his computer and yaks, the images are not static. Careful and quick camera changes make his work visually interesting. His sense of humour is what keeps me going back each day.

It has an “explicit” tag at Apple’s podcast directory so teachers will have to be careful which episode they use with students but it’s worth a look for those that have older students and kids using video. For those teaching media studies the following the show has garnered is fascinating. Fans of the show are known as “sports racers” and each show is introduced by a sports racer. Racers record their intros and send them into Ze’s wiki. Another phenomena is the sports racer Running Fool. Running Fool is making his way across the US by being passed from one sports racer to the next. He’s totally reliant on sports racers for his transportation and accommodation. It seems to be working.

Lively camera work, quirky humour and a new twist to audience participation make The Ze Frank Show worth a look. The whole thing may turn out to be no more real than The Lonely Girl but hey, it’s no less real than reality TV.

Podcasting and the KISS Principle

There’s plenty of buzz about podcasting these days. It makes me wonder why and is this just a fad? What is compelling within the medium that will make it become embedded in current pedagogy? Should it become embedded? I won’t answer these questions here—at least not today. Today my advice is to think small.

There are teachers out there that are doing elaborate podcasts, complete with theme music and transitions between stories—great. But it’s time consuming. My guess is that teachers that do complete polished shows, do so on their own time. They’re not doing it during school hours. Assuming podcasting deserves to be an embedded pedagogy, time is what will prevent it from becoming one. So here’s my tip, keep it simple. Use the KISS principle. Rather than trying to do elaborate polished shows, do bite sized chunks. Have a show that contains one small bit of information. Because of RSS this is entirely doable.

One small chunk can be published one day and the next chunk can be published the next day. Because of RSS iTunes can pick up the chunks when they’re ready. Here’s an example from one of our music teachers.

Each autumn our school has a concert involving choir students, band students, orchestra students, and members of the community. There’s a guest conductor. It’s no stretch to say it’s a really big deal. The final couple of pieces involve the entire ensemble. The choir teacher had the added challenge of getting community members and choir students to learn their respective parts with as few rehearsals as possible. Enter RSS. The teacher recorded each part—soprano, alto, tenor, and bass—as mp3’s. It was nothing fancy. She just plunked them out on the piano. As each one was completed she uploaded it to the school’s server and updated an RSS feed for the project. Choir members subscribed to the feed in iTunes and their parts arrived on their home computers. They practiced at home, got together for three rehearsals, and did the show. I was in the audience that night and I assure you. It was fantastic!

From a podcasting point of view it was pretty easy to do. There were no introductions or conclusions to write. There were no transitions or fancy effects to use. All was done with a minimum of editing. The lesson to take away from this is to keep it simple. Use the KISS principle.

RSS and Our High School Choir

Here’s a quick and relatively simple example of using rss and mp3’s in the classroom.

A music teacher at my school creates mp3’s for her students so they can learn their parts in the high school choir. She plunks out each part—soprano, alto, tenor, and bass—on the piano and records them on a minidisk player. (Usually, she only records the tricky parts in each piece.) She has been putting the files on a shared drive so that the students can copy and paste them to their USB drives or e-mail the files to themselves.

The process has been relatively successful but class time is lost while the students download the files or sometimes students “forget” to download them. There is a community choir event coming up. Continuing the present process would mean members from the community would have to have access to the school’s network or some other way of accessing the files. Burning CD’s is an option, but it would be time consuming and a waste of disk space because each person only needs two or three small files.

After listening to the teacher it struck me that this would be a good application for rss. I helped her move her existing files to space on the school’s webserver, and showed her how to set up an rss feed using Listgarden. Now people can subscribe to the feed in iTunes or the podcatching software of their choice. The result?

It’s too earlier to tell but I anticipate no excuses from students who “forgot” to download the files and less class time lost to the management of mp3’s. Once students subscribe to the feed, they’ll automatically receive new files whenever the teacher posts them. Simple but cool!

Win A Free Passport to NASA’s Space Camp, A Macbook or an iPod!

NASA is sponsoring the 21st Century Podcast Competition! To enter you must create a podcast that is one minute or less in length that answers the question: How will space exploration benefit your life in the future? The competition is open to US citizens between 11-18 years of age. Head to http://www.explorationpodcast.com/ to learn more!

Thanks to Bob Sprankle and Cheryl Oaks at the Bit by Bit Podcast for this!