Podcasting Update – One Week Later

February 23, 2008 at 8:15 am (podcasting)

I came across another article this week called There’s Something in the Air: Podcasting in Education (2005) by Gardner Campbell which gave me pause for thought.  I decided to quote and reflect or respond to some parts as it provided a new and different perspective on what I learned about podcasting last week. 

Campbell’s article opens with a description of a student using podcasts in her school day, to prepare for class as well as present.  It reviews the history of podcasting as well as some of the basics of how to do it.  In discussing the place of podcasting in schools, Campbell says:

“There are many good reasons for acquiring at least rudimentary skills in “rich media” (or “multimedia”) authoring.  More and more students come to school with these skills.  This is a langauge they not only understand but use, often on a daily basis.  Some of them have been blogging, shooting and editing video, creating Flash animations, mainipulating photographs, and recording digital audio for years.  These are the tools of their native expressiveness, and with the right guidance and assignments, they can use these tools to create powerful analytical and synthetic work.  Yet even such digitally fluent students need to learn to manipulate their multimedia languages well, with conceptual and critical acumen, and we in higher education do them a disservice if we exclude their creative digital tools from their education.”

Even though Campbell’s focus is on post-secondary education, I still believe that is is relevent to primary and secondary schools.  I can’t help but think of all the people I see “plugged-in” to their iPods or other personal music players or multimedia devices.  This isn’t just at my school but people of all ages everywhere I go, at the university or riding the LRT to Teachers’ Convention or even grocery shopping at Sobey’s.  There are many possibilities for students to use podcasts to demonstrate critical literacy and learning, however, this must be modelled for them.  They can’t be expected to do it without instruction.  Campbell goes on to discuss just how powerful podcasting audio can be. 

Consciousness is most persuasively and intimately communicated via voice. . . . Photographs are undeniably powerful, and perhaps a picture is worth a thousand words, but a few words uttered by a dear voice may be worth the most of all.   

Podcasting is made even more powerful because  “. . . the persistence of content is potentially greater (yesterday’s podcast may be more worth preserving than yesterday’s newspaper) . . .”.  Further, quoting from Philadelphia Daily News, “Podcasting, done the right way, can . . . make newspaper sound like a human being.”  Students and teachers communicate their passions from their heart, “stressing the affective dimension” (my emphasis).  This can’t help but make me thing about reflection as the centre of inquiry

One of my blog posts I entitled “Podcast Consumer” not becasue I came across it in my reading and research but because I had been talking about producers and consumers with my social class.  Campbell provided some food for thought regarding this post’s title. 

“Many writers call podcast listeners “consumers” and speak of the activity as “comsuming content,” but that metaphor denies the delicate, responsive human interaction that characterizes the best communication, indeed the best listening and reading.”

When I was referring to podcast listeners as consumers I thought of it in the sense of active and critical listening of the podcast, participating by responding in one’s mind to what is heard, commenting or emailing.  I didn’t consider how this label or title could be misinterpreted or require further explanation.  I just assumed it was a given. 

My students and I were reading a book together this week, one that had illustrations with captions.  One student said she would rather not have the pictures as she likes the pictures in her mind better.  Our discussion reminded me of how Campbell describes the abilty of “a voice [to] create a theater of the mind [that] can connect with the listener on a profound level.  The theatre of the mind can be both compelling and transformative, often far more than anything witnessed visually.”  While I love this description, it implies that students see the images which may not be the case.  I think it also somewhat under estimates the power of pictures for those who are visual learners.  We can’t paint everyone with the same brush, thinking that audio will be as beneficial for everyone.  We all have different learning styles and preferences.  What works for one may not work as well for another which is why differentiation is important.  To focus on audio would be to the exclusion of other media types to suit different learners. 

The podcast is also influenced by the relationship with the person creating it and the quality of the voice.

“There’s also considerable value in what I call “the explaining voice,” the voice that performs understanding.  The explaining voice doesn’t just convey information; it shapes, out of a shared atmosphere, an intimate drama of cognitive action in time.  The explaining voice conveys microcues of hesitation, pacing, and inflection that demonstrate both cognition and metacognition.  When we hear someone read with understanding, we participate in that understanding, almost as if the voice is enacting our own comprehension.  In other words, the explaining voice trains the ear to listen not just for meaning but for evidence of the thought that generates meaning.”

This passage describes the benefits of the nuances of audio but it is dependent on active listening.  If the person is hearing but not listening, this will not happen.  Further, because the person is reading the text, they are demonstrating the skills of a good reader to phrase, pause and add inflection which I believe to be different from lecturing from an outline. 

One of Campbell’s colleagues is critical of the benefits of audio, “[insisting] that audio is a poor channel for conveying information to learners because the learner cannot control the pace.  The listener is at the mercy of the speaker’s tempo.”  Campbell counters with:

“Perhaps it is sometimes a good thing for the learner not to control the tempo, particularly if one wants to lead the learner away from habitual patterns of perception and cognition.  Perhaps listening attentively to the pace of another mind, revealed in voice, can help train the learner to be more attentive generally.  One can listen to a podcast with “half an ear” just as easily as one can skim a written text, but in the case of podcast, it is more difficult to believe that one has actually attended to the words.  Moreover, effective listening is no less crucial a skill than effective speaking, and even if the learner cannot control the tempo of the speaker’s delivery, with a podcast he or she can listen again and again, in whole or in part, and thereby grow more practiced in listening.  Listening is an activity.  No good listener is passive.”

To assist reluctant or struggling readers, we sometimes have them listen to audio books (to begin) or listen and follow along in the text (after getting comfortable with listening).  Some audio books come at a slower speed.  Once students are able to keep up with this slower pace, they move on to the ones that read at a quicker pace.  Students who previously read very slow aloud quicken their read aloud pace after having this practice which speaks to the creation of new habits to which Campbell alludes.  However, if something is read aloud too quickly, I know I tune out.  If I am persisting with a topic I will listen to it again but if it is not necessary I won’t bother.  While audio books aren’t quite the same as podcasts (although I wonder if you could subscribe to an author’s latest audio book though a site like audible.com), comparisons can be made since they are both dependent on the skill of listening.  

studyingforclass.jpg

Campbell paints a much rosier picture of the use of iPods in schools than the one in the picture above.  At first I thought it was a student watching a vidcast/vodcast of a class that went along with the book reading.  When I read the description, I found out they were watching Arrested Development.  While I do agree that podcasts have great potential, I do wonder about the potential for misuse of the iPod technology in class and school.  Despite efforts to increase engagement, it could be a cover for inattention which highlights the importance of teaching students how the technology can be used to help them learn rather than isolate themselves and tune out. 

I came across another irony of podcasting – the comparison of an MP3 player to a transistor radio (Campbell quoting Udell) so I thought I would end with these images provides another example of how communication has chagned. 

transistorradio.jpg ipodlineup.jpg

Image Citations:
“Studying for class.” Jake Bourna. 6 Mar 2006. 23 Feb 2008 <http://www.flickr.com/photos/jakebouma/109039319/.>
“Funk Machine.” Monocrome. 25 Oct 2005. 23 Feb 2008 <http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrmonochrome/54715315/.>
“iPod Lineup.” Dan Taylor. 1 Nov 2005. 23 Feb 2008 <http://www.flickr.com/photos/dantaylor/58703002/.>

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Podcasting Lingo

February 17, 2008 at 3:40 pm (podcasting)

To assist my colleagues, who joke with me saying they need a dictionary to be able to understand my blog postings, I thought I would dedicate this post to them: podcast lingo. If quoted definitions are not identified, they come from Gwen Soloman and Lynne Schrum’s  web 2.0: new tools, new schools (2007) .

PODCAST
“created by combining Apple’s iPod and broadcast, can mean both the content and the method of delivery” which is “distinguished by its ability to be downloaded automatically using software capable of reading RSS feeds.”  The word was first used by Ben Hammersley, journalist for The Guardian, in 2004.  It was selected as the word of the year in 2005 by the New Oxford American Dictionary (PoducateMe).  May also be called “audiocasting” or “blogcasting. 

THE MORPHOLOGY OF PODCAST

podcastee slang for someone who listens to, or subscribes to, podcasts

podcatcher program used to subscribe to podcasts such as iTunes (loaded on PC) or Odeo (web based)

podcaster “host or author of a podcast”

podcasting “a way to distribute multimedia files such as music or speech over the Internet for playback on mobile devices and personal computers”

OTHER PODCAST RELATED TERMS
Audacity
free audio recording software 
chicklets” buttons that indicate an available RSS feed (PoducateMe)
episode one part of a podcast; a podcast could be made up of regular (daily, weekly, monthly) or sporadic episodes
hot” podcast recorded too loud (PoducateMe) 
iPod a brand name of personal music player
MP3 the file type that podcasts are available in; can be played on any MP3 players, personal computers as well as some PDAs  and cellphones (PoducateMe)
enhanced a podcast that includes images or video
embedded an MP3 file inserted in a blog post
podcast soundstage where a podcaster records the audio; comprised of a computer with an internet connection, software and some sort of recording device.
timeshifting “the ability to choose the time and place of listening to content” (PoducateMe).
Time Shift Tool in Audacity the two-headed arrow that can be used to line up the timing in different sound tracks including music, multiple voices or sound effects
vodcast a collection of video episodes

I know that this isn’t a complete list but I hope it is a place to start. 

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Podcasting as Professional Development

February 17, 2008 at 3:37 pm (podcasting)

In web 2.0 new tools, new schools, Gwen Soloman and Lynne Schrum (2007) identify that podcasts allow for “individualized professional development on demand.”  I can’t help but think back to Valenza’s Manifesto: if what you need isn’t available, go out and find it!

Podcasting offers many opportunties for professional development.  One can listen, comment on a podcast that has been posted on a blog, or create an original podcast to share with others.  It can be informal, and as a result be unintimidating due to a conversational tone, or more formal such as talks or lectures.  Its purpose can be to inform, instruct, discuss, debate or entertain to name a few examples.  It can be very general or very specific.  It may be hosted by one speaker or many discussing concepts, theory, pedagogy or practice

Some edtech PD podcast options recommended by Will Richardson, either in his SLJ article or his book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, include this Ontario page (it’s nice to see Canadian content as much is American) Podcasts in EducationEdupodder, The Savvy Technologist, The Teachers’ Podcast which dubs itself as “the new generation of edtech PD or the Education Podcast Network (EPN) which is divided into students and teachers, individual or class work, and subject areas.  The professional development section alone has over 300 podcasts. 

I subscribe to EdTechTalk through Bloglines.  Subscribing through a blog aggregator is not the same as subscribing through an audio aggregator.  However, from Bloglines, I can go to the EdTechTalk website and listen online, download or subscribe through iTunes.  I’m not yet in the habit of checking iTunes for new episodes of podcasts since this is my first week as a “subscriber”!  I like EdTechTalk because it provides very brief blog updates of what’s new so I can pick and choose what I listen to.  I love it when a familiar name pops up.  I’m proud of the fact that a few short weeks ago I didn’t even know who these people were and now I get regular updates from them from Bloglines – Valenza, Warlick, Richardson!  It was interesting to listen to a review discussion of PBS’s Growing Up Online at EdTechTalk at the same time as we were discussing it in class.  I love the fact that while we are grappling with these topics in class, the experts are as well.  As we make sense of what we are learning, they are, too.  That makes me feel like we are a part of this knowledge creation. 

Examples of more general resources for professional development include LearningTimes Network which is free once you register.  I watched a vodcast called “Virtual Eye Contact,” such as emoticons, that I had never thought of before.  I also found it at Learning in Real Time Website if you would like to watch without having to register. 

There are podcasts related to our work in libraries as well.  Jenn mentioned the nine-page Directory of LIS Podcasts (PDF).  I know that this would be a good place to start listening.  For my own library professional development, I plan to listen to some of the podcasts related to cataloguing, collection management and information literacy instruction. 

There are also podcasts outside the realm of edtech.  I recently became a member of the International Reading Association and now have access to online pdf articles.  I never knew they had podcasts, too! 

Soloman and Schrum quote King and Guru (2006) who suggest thinking about how podcast “technology subtly changes the dynamics of information exchange between speaker and listener.”  Unless there is an option to blog or comment, the communication is only one-way.  Even if there is an interactive outlet, the listener may not take the opportunity.  In face-to-face PD it is more likely that through interaction the participant will ask clarifying questions which can lead to a better understanding.  Unfortunately the original article that is referenced is no longer available online, however, it does provide an interesting point to think about.  Listening to a whole bunch of podcasts doesn’t equate to improved professional development unless it is reflected upon and integrated or transfered into practice. 

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How Can We Use Podcasts In Schools?

February 17, 2008 at 3:36 pm (podcasting)

In SLJ article “iDream…stuDreams…with podcasting” (March, 2006), Amy Bowllan provides many ideas for podcasting in school.  The ideas she shares actually come from Georgia College & State University students or iDreamers.  My favorites are student created tours, library orientations, library how-tos, places to see and things to do in your community and oral histories, including school alumni, enhanced with images or video.  We want to start small so that it is manageable, however, it is okay to dream big. 

In Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, Will Richarson builds on some of these ideas suggesting recording on location using an MP3 player with recording capability on a field trip.  This way students can demonstrate their learning in real time complete with their reactions and reflections.  Students could also conduct interviews or reenactments on location or back at school.  Teachers or students could record their narration of a lab or disection for students who were absent to hear or for other students to review or relive later.  Evening band concerts could be podcasted for those who cannot attend.   

Just like the adults in their life, students can be both consumers and producers of podcasts.  They could listen to Nancy Keane’s booktalks or create their own.  I like Will Richarson’s ideas of having staff and students talking about their favorite books, featured library books, new additions, author interviews or discussions with people in other locations (think authors or students) using Skype.  I’m going to think about where I can put an MP3 player booktalk station like the listening stations at HMV that are always lined up with young people waiting to listen. 

I know these ideas work because Lisa Parisi talks about them in “A Little Help From My Friends.”  In addition to podcasting book reviews, monthly newsletter of class events, guest speakers, student fieldtrip commentaries and class discussions, Parisi talks about how beneficial it has been for special needs students who may take the lead in a group.  Further Parisi say’s that podcasts “[demonstrate] the brilliance of children when given the chance to speak into a mic.  Editing is not of the utmost importance….Just raw talent.”  As suggested in Topic 2: Professional Development “learning from reading about the experiences of others is very powerful.”  For me, the examples of others are very convincing that the benefits of providing students with the opportunity to create and share for real far-reaching audience outweigh the costs, particularly the initial time investement required to learn how to podcast.  Now that I know how, I’m sure it would be much quicker and I would be able to teach others quickly as well. 

I love Brian Kenney’s suggestion to podcast poetry.  Students could share a favorite poem or their original poetry.  Each student’s short audio recording would be a great way to start before taking on something larger.  Students could also reflect on why the poem is a favorite or what inspired them to write.  We could have a virutal poetry cafe or virtual writers’ cafe, sharing pieces created during Writers Workshop.  Mr Mayo’s podcast page, part of a larger Brandon Online Magazine, provides ideas and a suggestion for podcast sharing and archiving.  Bob Sprankle has a similar podcast page.  From what I’ve read, Typepad appears to be the only blogging tool that allows you to embed audio effortlessly for free.  I wish I’d known that earlier!  In this case, according to Will Richarson the blog RSS feed and audio RSS feed are one in the same. 

I loved learning about volcanos at Radio Willowweb Willowcast and I’m sure the students did too, while creating it, listening to it, reviewing information and sharing with friends and family from near and far.  This is only one example of a student produced Willowcast radio show that includes a did you know, poetry corner and vocabulary theatre segment all on the same topic.  Students are very articulate communicators, using the vocabularly of a radio broadcast and incorporating transitional music.  This movie shows students from a different school describing how they create their podcast.  Watching it is a learning experience in itself.  My favorite part was seeing the student walking around the classroom with an MP3 player.  I wonder what he was listening to?  This image from Ontario resource Podcasts in Education demonstrates some of items students could podcast or combine into an online radio show.

There are so many skills and process used when creating a podcast or an online radio show.  Students use writing process when brainstorming, revising and editing their outline or script.  The audience needs must be considered.  What will the audience find interesting?  How can we present our learning in the most interesting way?  What does the audience need to know to be able to understand?  How should it be organized?  How can we use transitions to unify our presentation?  Writing process is intimately intertwined with the reading process as the script is added to and rearranged while students engage in group processing of providing suggestions, feedback and involve everyone in their group.

It only makes sense to broadcast online rather than expensive traditional radio shows because it provides the benefit of time shift – selecting and listening any place, any time – which can only serve to increase listenership.  If your students really get into it, it would be worth investing in a podcast utility such as iPodcast Producer.  I like the script utility which allows you to import a text or rtf file that will appear on the screen as a teleprompter!  You can also see the students using sound boards in the movie I mentioned above.  The part I wonder about is how much time their teacher spends putting it all together which was alluded to with his coffee drinking late nights.       

Benefits of Podcasting (in no particular order)
1. Time Shifting – Podcasts can be selected by users around the clock to download to a computer or a portable device.  They can be used for review (“studycasts“) or to catch up.  (As Jess said, she’ll never miss another episode of “Sounds Like Canada” on CBC Radio again . . . unless it infringes on copyright and they aren’t able to post it!)
2.  Differentiation – Podcasts allow us to differentiate as they can engage students who prefer to learn by listening.  Students could also follow along in text or images.  Image or video enhanced podcasts also engage visual learners. 
3. Audience – Podcasts allow listeners or producers to listen to or share locally or globally.
4.  Variety of Purposes – Podcasts can be informal or formal, for learning or for teaching, for fun or for academics
5. Diversity of Topics – Podcasts can be found for every school subject area or personal interest.  There are also podcasts geared towards young people.  They can be school related like these Audio Notes from Mrs. Oakes’ (mp3) student reflections (or self-interview – I’ve never heard that one before) on a standardized test.  Students learned how to use GarageBand and reflected all in 45 minutes.  (I think there is a political agenda in this example but it is still interesting to listen.)
6. Motivation and Empowerment – Because students are podcasting for a wide audience, it is motivating and empowering (Braun, L.W. (2007).  Teens, technology and literacy; Or, why bad grammar isn’t always bad.) 

Podcast Drawbacks 
1. Time Commitment – Unlike text which you can skim and scan, you must listen to it to see if it is what you are looking for.
2. Pace – might be too fast or too slow. 
3. Tone – may not be to your tastes.
4. Accents – may interfere with understanding, particularly for students who are not used to it.
5. Quality – there is a wide range of quality; “Cracks and pops, obscure music, and “ums” and “ahs” are all part of the podcast genre….Try not to let production value overwhelm what might be really interesting content” (Will Richardon (2006), Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts).
6. Attendance – while some thought attendance would decrease as university lectures became available online, this has not been the case. In some cases students are less likely to drop out because they are able to keep up (PodcuateMe).

Important Things to Remember
1.  Podcasts can be used to engage students in a new topic, build prior knowledge, introduce concepts, review or provide enrichment and extension of the curriculum (Adam and Mowers). 
2. Podcasting, like other web 2.0 tools, are just that: tools to help us do something better or do something we couldn’t do before. 
3. Podcasts do not replace good teaching. 
4. As Diane Chen says, podcasts can be “a way to involve students in higher level thinking skills to assess their own process and products while communicating with others.”
5. “Even today, do not assume that your students already know how to download and listen to podcasts.  If you’re going to use the medium in your classroom, always provide written instructions to students describing what a podcast is and how they can obtain them.”
6.  Model and teach students about the ethics of information and the different types of copyright when using and creating podcasts. 

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For Podcast Producers

February 17, 2008 at 3:36 pm (podcasting)

If you don’t have a microphone, headset or other audio recording capability, gcast.com lets you call in toll free and record your audio which is then saved for you even from Canada!  When you log in, you can access your file online.  I learned about gcast in Diane Chen’s SLJ article “Podcasting with No Dollars” (March, 2007).  In it she describes what she did with her students using her cell phone! 

On their wiki, the Disruptive Innovators have used two audio creation tools where you can record directly to a web intervace: evoca and voki exemplified here.  This prevents having to download and convert the Audacity file using a LAME converter, which adds an extra step.  However, technically these aren’t podcasts because you can’t subscribe to them because they don’t have an RSS feed.  I wonder if they would appear in a blog aggregator like Bloglines.  I also wonder if these are actually a different tool similar to Voicethread.  I will have to investigate further.   

I thought I would give gcast a try so I uploaded the same audio I tried on Switchpod and publicized at Odeo.  It is accessible through my gcast page or you can Subscribe From Here.  Unfortunately, the embed feature didn’t work and there was nothing about gcast in WordPress FAQ.  Gcast help didn’t offer any suggestions for WordPress users. 

One of the most important things to do after recording the audio and publishing it online is to share it with the world!  It is also possible to create, find and share with PodOmaticPodcast Central is another directory to submit your podcast. 

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Podcast Consumer

February 17, 2008 at 3:36 pm (podcasting)

There are lots of options for listeners looking for podcasts.  Anna Adam and Helen Mowers’ have a companion wiki for their SLJ article “Listen Up! The Best in Educational Audio” (December 2007) which provides links to all places mentioned in the SLJ article.  It’s convenient when all the links are together rather than spread throughout the article.  Some links take you to webpages to find out more about what podcasts are available.  Others are the direct subscription feeds for your preferred podcatcher, whether using your desktops iTunes or online through Odeo.  The benefit of an online podcatcher is that you can access your preferred podcasts from anywhere, like social bookmarks.  However, in the case of Odeo, I’m not crazy about some of the content or the advertising.   

Based on the links in the wiki I visited Learn Out Loud where I took the screencast tour, that is just over four minutes.  I really enjoyed the Art History in Just a Minute vodcast about woodcuts by Durer.  Students could create an audio MP3 to accompany their analysis of a picture that they have captioned in Flickr.

Language learners can benefit from practice offered at blogs like this ESL one.  In iTunes, languge lessons like those at Chinesepod.com are among the most popular.  Madrid Young Learners Podcast has embedded podcasts with practice questions for language learners.

This iTunes U will automatically open in iTunes where you can access different categories.   I was surprised to see the mug shots of our local news anchors.  I temporarily forgot that anyone can submit their feed to iTunes or other sites for others to access. 

Nancy Keane has an extensive list of booktalks.  You can access information about how to subscribe on the bottom right hand corner of her webpage which is what I did.  When I subscribed, I could see all the available episodes in iTunes and only select and download the ones that I wanted to listen to.  I would love for them to be separated by grade level so that I didn’t have to sift through all the elemenentary ones, particularly division one. 

Will Richardson also offered a few suggestions.  An education search at PodcastAlley returned many options.  I chose “History According to Bob.”  After I subscribed to it, I saw the episodes range from 4 minutes to 45 minutes.  I chose an Aztec one as someone had just asked me for resources on this topic.  Unfortunately, I found the voice unbearable and had to turn it off!  While the Yahoo Search – Audio Search provides another option for finding audio, the links have very little discription which makes it hard to idenfity if it is really what you are looking for.  I enjoyed the alternative content of Radio Diaries and The World Behind the Headlines

Young people are podcasting, too, on their own outside of school.  Martina Butler, who started when she was 15, has been podcasting for three years at Emo Girl Talk and was the first teen to have corporate sponsorship (Braun, L.W. (2007).  Teens, technology and literacy; or , why bad grammar isn’t always bad.).

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My “Podcast Soundstage”*!

February 17, 2008 at 3:35 pm (podcasting)

Most podcasting tutorials suggest three things: a recording device,  space to upload it to and something to say.  PodcuateMe identifies the microphone as one of most important requirements.  You can use a webcam to record audio but a colleague loaned me her headset that she uses to make overseas phone calls online using Skype.  A headset is preferred over a webcam for sound quality.  A built in recorder was not recommended in PodcuateMe or the CNET tutorial as you get a lot of noise from the computer. 

After watching the CNET video and accompanying tutorial, I thought I was ready to go.  A friend had downloaded Audacity to my computer about five years ago.  I was surprised that the version didn’t need to be updated.  At first, I wasn’t able to record, or rather, I could record but I couldn’t hear what I had recorded!  Nothing that unplugging and replugging the connection from the headphones into the USB port couldn’t solve. 

Next, for something to say.  Formal pieces are scripted, informal pieces are unscripted and the rest are somewhere in between following an outline.  Although reading off of paper, or in my case a screen, was not highly recommended by Will Richardson in Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, I did choose to do this.  I figured that I am practicing how to make a podcast and not perfecting my performance right now so I opted for this time saving option.  I chose to go with a text that I had shared earlier in the course with my class.  That way, my podcast listeners could compare how they heard my piece when they read it in their mind to how I interpret my own writing.  I thought it would be like hearing an author read their own book. 

I couldn’t believe how easy it was to delete dead air or stumbles – just highlight and hit delete.  I also couldn’t believe how I could use the time shift tool to line up two tracks in sequence.  When I saved them, the two track became one.  I can see how easy it would be to interview, add music or sound effects.  I hope to try adding sound using those available available at Wikipedia Commons or Valenza’s Copyright Friendly Wiki.

The next hurdle was downloading the converter to switch the Audacity file to an MP3.  The third time I downloaded it from yet another site I was finally able to unzip it and convert my Audacity file to MP3. 

I didn’t expect to have any trouble uploading.  Little did I know you can’t upload audio files to WordPress unless you upgrade which I wasn’t prepared to do.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize this until I re-recorded my audio file from 7 MB to 1.5 MB because at first I thought the file was too big and that’s why it wouldn’t upload.   

Thank goodness for other websites that will host audio for free, such as Internet Archive, and create an RSS feed for you, like Switchpod or Odeo, so other people can subscribe to your podcast through their podcatcher.  Ovadia warns, though, that if these companies can’t make money off of advertising they will fold overnight providing a strong reason to ensure you back up your online files

*I liked the phrase “podcast soundstage” when I read it in Brian Keney’s blog.  I use it rather tounge-in-cheek as my soundstage is very primitive as are many podcasters.  This is part of what makes podcasting so great – it is accessible to everyone!

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Podcast Debut – Keeping With A Polar Bear Theme

February 17, 2008 at 3:34 pm (podcasting)

polarbear1.jpg

Even though it is supposed to be easy to add MP3 files to a blog post in WordPress, there is a $50 cost associated with doing this.  So I followed Elizabeth and Rhonda’s lead, and posted my Podcast to free space hosted by the Internet Archive.  I would love to include the XSPF Web Music Player (I learned what it was called in Ovadia’s PoducateMe) that is used at the Internet Archive into my sidebar like Rhonda did but sadly, WordPress does not support any Flash.  I’m beginning to think that WordPress may not be the best blogging option since it does not allow for any Flash extras that I would love to incorporate. 

Depending on which source you consult, some say a podcast is any audio individuals make available online.  Others say that technically it’s not a podcast unless you can subscribe to it through podcatcher RSS feed.  Since this is my debut podcast, I’m going to go with the first definition . . . for now!  Unfortunately, none of the three RSS options provided by Internet Archive would work in my blog.   

It took three hours from start to finish to learn how to create a podcast, create one, upload it and link to it from my blog.  I watched the Brian Cooley’s “Weekend Project” series at CNET which was recommended to me by a colleague.  Cooley estimated that it would take four hours so I’m happy I did it in less time, although as Elizabeth mentioned on WebCT, this took a lot longer than the other tools we have learned about thus far.

Determined not to give up on an RSS feed, I searched podcasting at School Library Journal which led me to a very short post called “The Podcasting Diva!”  This then led me to the Rambling Librarian at which I noticed an Odeo icon button.  Looks to me like Odeo is an online version of iTunes, a tool to subscribe to podcasts, but Odeo lets you access your podcasts from any internet connection.  Odeo suggested trying Switchpod for free hosting so I did.  In addition to Internet Archive, my podcast is available at Switchpod.  This makes me happier because I now have a podcatcher RSS feed: http://www.switchpod.com/users/arllennium/feed.xml. I tried Feedburner that Will Richarson recommended but, sadly,  I couldn’t figure it out.

I then added my RSS feed to Odeo and now have another podcatcher feed: http://odeo.com/profile/Arllennium/rss.  This one is a little different in that others can subscibe to what I subscribe to – kind of like a social bookmarking of podcasts.  It can also be linked to directly and played off of this webpage.  I wish I could customize my “podcast social bookmarks” and that it didn’t have all the advertising like the Rambling Librarian but to do that you need to pay a fee.  I like that Odeo also offers this tool so that you can listen to my audio in my blog even if you can’t subscribe from it.  I tested both the Switchpod and Odeo podcatcher RSS feeds in iTunes and they worked! 

[odeo=http://odeo.com/audio/17758833/view]

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The Irony of Podcasting

February 17, 2008 at 3:34 pm (podcasting)

antique_radio.jpg 

I find it ironic how even though podcasting is one of the latest Web 2.0 tools it is compared to an “old-time radio show.”

While we move forward in 21st Century learning, we also look back fondly at some of the original media communication tools and reminisce.  I can picture everyone sitting around the radio listening to evening programming such as a radio play or Hockey Night in Canada.

*I’m always rather envious of how David Warlick or Will Richardson spice up their posts with images so I thought I would give it a try.  I began my search at the Flickr Creative Commons page then searching through those with Attribution Liscence, those I can use if I credit.  This is as close to an image that I could find of the radio my grandparents had.  I followed Warlick’s citation format. 

Image Citation:
“Radio.” Filmore Photography. 27 Mar 2007. 17 Feb 2008 <http://www.flickr.com/photos/fillmorephotography/414308213/&gt;.

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Social Bookmarking – A Powerful Research Network

February 10, 2008 at 2:18 pm (social bookmarking) (, )

Chris Harris asks a very important question: Why is social bookmarking so important?  More specifically I wonder why is social bookmarking important to teaching and learning in classrooms, schools and lifelong learning in general? 

The answer I believe is in the potential that social bookmarking has to be, what Harris calls, a very “powerful research network.”  I emphasize potential as this won’t happen by itself.  Students and their teachers must have a basic understanding of how it works and be active participants. 

The obvious next question is how does it happen?  What does it look like and what can it look like in a school setting?  Until I saw examples of what I was reading about I didn’t know the power of what was being described. 

Social Bookmarking as A New Search Engine
Harris identifies social bookmarking as a human powered rather than a predominantly math powered search engine.  Will Richardson describes it as not just information, but information in the context of a network:

“In a nutshell, the operating principle behind [social bookmarking, tagging and folksonomies] is this: if I find something interesting enough to save, odds are good that you will, too.  And together, using these tools, we can build comprehensive lists much more effectively than any one of us could working alone.  Exemplifying the wisdom of crowds, these applications are fast becoming an important resource for relevant information.”

Richarson says that it’s important to be able to find information but it’s even more important to find people who can connect you to the information.  For example, if I am looking for something related to next weeks topic of podcasts, I can search through Jenn and Joanne’s del.icio.us bookmarks, those of my classmates or the bookmarks of other reputable individuals in the field (whom I’ve noticed sometimes link to their bookmarks, have a feed identifying recent additions in a sidebar regularly post new links from their bookmarks to their blog).  I could also search the social bookmarking service experts use and scan for names of people that I recognize who have saved links.  If my colleagues are looking to learn more about how to use a Web 2.0 tool, they could search my bookmarks knowing that I have explored the tools.  When collaborating with a colleague on a unit or professional development topic, we could Furl websites into one folder on that topic, describe, annotate or ask thought provoking questions of students or colleagues, then print it as a handout or resource list. 

If you create a uniqe tag that students can save bookmarks to, like apcalc06, which is then dropped into the sidebar of the class blog using an RSS widget or blogged as a separate post identifying new links, students can then contribute to a bank of resources to turn to when they need support or enrichment in a class.  (The drawback in this example, when using de.icio.us, is it is possible that inappropriate sites could be tagged and listed and then fed or posted on the blog.)  Penn Tags does what apcalc06 does on a larger scale.  It acts as a central location for many topics or projects that students can contribute to and access.  Students choose the content of interest to them which best meets their needs.  This is powerful stuff! 

More On RSS Feeds
Rather than searching through social networking sites, RSS feeds can be set up on tags of your choice, from specific users or the social networking community at large, from one social bookmarking site or many.  Richarson says its like having others do the research for you, going so far as to compare his aggregator to a textbook.  Could student textbooks one day be a thing of the past?  Instead, a class RSS feed or individual student feeds could provide up-to-the-minute information on curricular topics for class discussion, debate and analysis.  Talk about connecting learning to real life!  I agree with Elizabeth that when using an RSS feed there is potential for information overload (I have to get over the fact that I have 88 messages in my aggregator that I haven’t read) and with Jess that you still need be able to search and filter though the information (I can actually skim and scan them very quickly and mark pertinent ones as unread).  For me, the benefits of social bookmarking far outweigh the costs. 

Active and Critical Reading
With some social bookmarking sites, such as Diigo, it is possible for students to highlight text for specific purposes such as finding the main ideas, identifying key vocabulary or discussing bias.  Students can also add “virtual” post-it notes.  Using this technique, students are able to demonstrate active reading and use of reading strategies: questioning, clarifying, predicting, summarize, connecting to text, self and world, and tapping into prior knowledge.  It is kind of like a ThinkAloud but on paper!  The best part is that on a return visit the highlighting or post-its will still be there and they can be forwarded and added to by someone else.  Students can collaborate, adding post-its of their thoughts and questions to those of their peers and teachers or teacher-librarians can provide digital feedback.  This way, as Dave Ehrhart identifies, you are able to differentiate instruction by “ensuring that students actually read, understand, and comment on the text.  Through their feedback, I can check their research and respond directly or pose a question of my own.”  There is an IE or Firefox Trailfire plugin that can keep track of the sites users visit (your “trail”) and add post-it notes (called “marks”) to webpage.  I haven’t tried this one yet but I want to as it would help me to remember what I was thinking on my internet “road trip.”

Social networking draws upon individual strengths, interests and passions.  By saving links to a common location or making them public it has the potential to help everyone find the best information available.  A further benefit that I see is that the researcher can spend more time reading and analyzing then seeking and finding potential sources of information.  The ability to comment or question pushes people to think critically about the information that they are encountering and consider information and perspectives that they may never have found otherwise when completing independent research in isolation. 

The speed at which tagging has permeated all types of content available on the web means that it is here to stay.  Social bookmarking capitalizes on this.  It is transforming the face of research from using formal academic taxonomies to informal, individualized, user-controlled, spontaneous, non-linear “browsing, searching and finding based on user perceptions and needs” (The Horizon Report, 2006).  In order for this world to be opened up to students and for them to be able to access it as it continues to undergo transformations, students should be introduced to it in schools.  As Richarson says, “we have to help them experience the value of being embedded in communities of practice that can sustain their lifelong learning needs.”

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