Podcasts are like radio shows that are available over the internet. Wikipedia explains that “A podcast is a series of digital computer files, usually either digital audio or video, that is released periodically and made available for download by means of web syndication.” The word podcast came about by combining iPod and broadcast but it is not necessary to have an iPod or other MP3 player to listen to podcasts and as long as you have access to a computer and the internet you can access podcasts and listen to them. To begin receiving podcasts you require podcast software before you can subscribe to podcasts and then once you select a medium for viewing or hearing your podcasts you will be ready to enjoy podcasts. Just as you can subscribe to a blog you can subscribe to your favourite podcasts. iTunes from Apple is one example of a free software that you can download and it and similar software are often termed podcatchers or a podcast-client.
There are multiple podcast-clients online and PodcatcherMatrix is a website dedicated to podcatcher selection and with their Choice Wizard it is simple to find and choose a podcatcher to match your needs. The wizard lists the most common podcast-clients, such as raggle, RSSRadio, iTunes, Doppler, jpodder, juice and gPodder to name some from the list and it provides visitors the ability to select from the list in order to compare the features of your selected podcatchers so you can find the best choice to fit your requirements. With so many podcatchers available, the task of comparing products on your own would be daunting but this wizard not only puts your choices all in one place, it prompts you with questions to discover your needs along the way and enables you to compare against each other it also explains the features and options in simple terms and thus serves as a great starting point for jumping into the podcast world. To give you an example of the process, one question I was asked was whether I wanted Free and Open Source Software (F/OSS), and the wizard provided a succinct explanation and allowed me to then choose whether I wanted to see only F/OSS, commercial software only or if I wanted to proceed to look at both. I chose F/OSS. My wizard choices came back with a list of 10 podcatchers that all met my initial criteria, “Free and Open Source with which you can import and export OPML data and which works on Windows XP” that I could then compare. On the comparison page, in addition to being able to see definitions of the various features by holding the mouse over a feature, the wizard also allowed me to hide features that were equal across every podcatcher and then I was able to remove podcatchers one by one until I further narrowed down my choices.
Once you have chosen a podcatcher you can subscribe to and manage your podcast feeds. Web feeds are the primary way to subscribe to podcasts but you can also enter a podcast’s RSS feed URL and your podcatcher will make the podcast available. Subscriptions enable you to receive new podcasts automatically when they are ready and they can be stored on your computer or on your chosen MP3 player for offline use. In Emerging technologies changing our service delivery models Kajewski (2006) writes about the benefits of subscribing to feeds, “Each show consists of a series of individual episodes that you can listen to however, whenever, and wherever you want. You listen when it is suitable for you” (p.425).
Creating my first podcast
- Awareness of podcasting has increased from 37% to 43%; and
- The percentage of Americans who have ever listened to an audio podcast has grown to 22%.”
These statistics show that podcasts are reaching the mass public and from my findings it is evident that they are also being integrated into post-secondary education.
Since I am studying about web 2.0 technologies and am considering how we might use these technologies for our cooperative education program, I need to make my first podcast in order to assess and understand the ins and outs for podcasting. Getting started took a lot of research and preparation and then planning. First, I read about podcasting to find out what it was about and how I should approach creating my first podcast. Kajewski’s (2006) list of the required equipment I needed to start recording set me at ease while I went about on my mission to get the essentials in order, here is what was required:
- speaker or ear/headphones;
- software for recording and mixing (Audacity or Odeo are both free to download);
- software for encoding (LAME MP3 Encoder is free open source software); and
- a podcatcher or podcast client (iTunes, Juice and Odeo are all free).
I have the computer which has a microphone and speaker but also have my blackberry headphones with a microphone on them, so next I set out to look at the recording software. I decided to go with Richardson’s (2008) recommendation and downloaded Audacity, a free sound editor. Audacity does not have the software patents to distribute MP3 encoding software and thus I also had to find and download a free LAME encoder that can be added into Audacity so that I can export MP3 files with Audacity, once done my recordings. From my podcasting experience thus far, I have the audacity to say that LAME is good, when it comes to using F/OSS to create a podcast. I decided that I would create my podcast in Audacity and with the LAME encoder I was able to save my recording as an MP3 so that I can host it on my newly created PodBean site. My podcast Feed is: http://blogon2point0.podbean.com/feed and I have embedded my first podcast below.
For my first podcast, I decided that I would be most comfortable talking about something I am familiar with and so I worked up an outline for promoting and explaining why prospective University of Alberta Bachelor of Commerce degree students should consider the optional degree stream of Cooperative Education. I provided myself with speaking point reminders more so than an entire script, upon recommendations from Richardson (2008, p. 117) and Jack Herrington’s article, Ten Tips for Improving Your Podcasts where he states, “I recommend against completely scripting your podcast. A personal podcast having a script that you follow completely will end up sounding stiff. The one exception is audio theatre, where a script is essential because it’s an on-air play that requires choreography between the players.”
With my podcast studio set up and my message organized and ready to record I began my first recording. I fumbled, jumbled and sped through about five attempts before having a first complete recording that I did not delete and could play back. The first recording was very poor and my phone’s headset proved to be inadequate. I asked the members of my household if anyone had a better headset and microphone and an amazing USB headset used for gaming was mine to borrow. After many more recording attempts, I finally adjusted the volumes to a level that sounded adequate for play back and soon I created a recording that I am now willing to share. It is not fancy but it serves to share the topic I chose to do my first show on which you can listen to now, it is titled, Consider Co-op .
Future considerations on podcasting for my work in cooperative education:
Podcast recording and distribution to post-secondary students for university seminars and lectures is now occurring in some universities and higher education institutions. From the Open Culture website I came across a list of free educational podcasts from universities and colleges and also found a Business School Podcast Collection where you can download MBA Podcasts and other Business Podcasts. We are not yet podcasting in our program but I see that it is yet another tool to engage our students in their learning and development. An article in Education Business Weekly reviewed the use of podcasts in educational settings and looked at the effects of podcasts on learners’ outcomes and other aspects of podcast usage. “Findings suggest that the most common use of podcasting is limited to either instructors distributing podcast recordings of lectures or supplementary materials for students to review subject material at their own time and place. A majority of the previous studies were descriptive, and were conducted in higher education and traditional course settings. Students generally enjoy using podcast, and tend to listen to the podcasts at home using desktop computers, rather than on the move (e.g., commuting to school) with a mobile device. Probably the main benefit of podcasting is that it allows students to listen to specific material that they missed or did not understand multiple times. The availability of podcast does not appear to encourage students to skip classes (Hew, et al., p. 68).”
We could set up a regular podcast schedule and brainstorm with staff and stakeholders to generate show ideas. Perhaps, we could have a question of the week and seek and record responses or we could accept podcasts from students, staff, and co-op mentors on specific topics. I can imagine seeking contributions from students on topics about co-op and other work related ideas, i.e. how to get and keep a job, how to dress for an interview… Alternatively, we could have an open approach where broad topics are determined but podcasts are totally left in the hands of contributors, and we only provide some fairly simple guidelines/recommendations.
For employers, information podcasts that promote and explain cooperative education could be created and could take an approach similar to faq’s that proactively answer the common questions that new and continuing employers have on a regular basis. For example, we could create a podcast on how to hire a co-op student. Additionally, we could offer advice on providing feedback to co-op students in the workplace or we could provide tips on becoming a successful mentor.
One of the most beneficial uses for podcasts that I see would be the ability to get our content from our seminars and workshops to the students in a format that they can easily access and then review at their convenience. It is often the case that some students have scheduling conflicts with our workshops and seminars and currently we record the seminars on video and burn them to a dvd that students can sign out the day after the missed seminar. The quality is often not the best and it is difficult to hear. With the purchase of a quality microphone though we could take a computer and have our audio recording software ready to record the seminars in their entirety. Students who attend the seminars may even find the podcasts helpful because they can return to any point in the seminar they desire to hear again. The best part for students will be that they can listen to the podcasts when it fits their schedule. Another benefit is that they can return to content when they need a refresher, for example, if they are preparing for an interview they can return to the seminar which covered that topic in order to reconsider how they can best prepare.
I do see that this technology could easily find its way into various uses for our coopertive education program.
Anonymous, (2009). Educational Technology; Studies from K.F. Hew et al have provided new data on educational technology. Education Business Weekly. Atlanta: Jun 17, 2009. p. 68
Kajewski, M. A. (2006). Emerging technologies changing our service delivery models. The Electronic Library, 25(4), 420-429.
Richardson, W. (2008). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. (Second Edition.) Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.