Thursday, September 30, 2010

Episode 112 - Podcasting, Yes You Can

It's Thursday, September 30, 2010 and welcome to episode 112 of TechTalk4Teachers, I'm Tom Grissom and I'm Loren Lindgren. Welcome Loren. We have a guest today in the studio.

Right Click Here to Download MP3
(18 minutes 14 seconds)

Tom: Loren is a graduate student here at the ITC. So, I wanted to invite Loren in and talk a little bit about podcasting. He had expressed in interest in podcasting so I thought well, let’s just do a live show here. I also have my undergrad class, what we call our Teaching and Learning with Technologies in Classrooms class and we’re doing some podcasting in there as well. So, I thought I would just introduce some of the equipment and just bounce some of the questions, because I believe this is your first experience with podcasting.

Tom: Okay. And I’m setup probably a little bit differently. I’m certainly setup differently than whenever I started this, three or four years ago. Back when I started this, I was literally just using a regular computer and I was recording off the hard drive of the computer using a program called Audacity. I used just a very cheap, ten-dollar microphone and just plugged it into the computer, hit record on Audacity, and recorded directly to the hard drive. And that’s very easy to do. Any teacher can do that. Audacity’s a free open source program. It’s available for Mac, Windows, and Linux,so, it’s cross-platform and even today, I still use Audacity for the post-production to edit things. So that works very well. In today’s setup, however, I have introduced a mixer because I’m starting to do some interviews and I’m trying to take this to the next level. So, it did require me to get a mixer. I can bring in phone calls, Skype calls, with something called a mix-minus on my mixer. But, just for very simple two way interviews, my setup just consists of a basic mixer and I'll post some pictures out on the show notes if you would like to see the setup I am using here. We have two microphones. I have a microphone in front of me, Loren as a microphone in front of him and then both microphones are fed back into my mixer and then out of my mixer, I have a cable that plugs into a digital audio recorder. So if I've taken the computer out of the equation at this point, I'm just using a digital audio recorder that records to an SD card and that saves it essentially as a.wave file.

Loren: Okay.

Tom: So, whenever we finish with this, I'll take you through the post-production side using Audacity, but all I'm going to do is essentially pop that SD card out, pop it in my computer, and open it just like a regular file and import it into the Audacity program and we'll be able to edit sound. And then we'll do a few things on post-production, I'll add the music on that. But, that's the basic setup on doing this. Prior to this, I believe you have listened to some podcasts before though, haven't you?

Loren: Yes.

Tom: Okay. And do you have an Ipod or listen through ITunes, or how do you do that?

Loren: No, I don't. I've listened to them mostly off the Web.

Tom: Just listen off the computer, okay. In all of my research that I have done, I have done multiple studies with students and well over 80% of the students, they just go to a website like our TechTalk For Teachers, you click that little play button and you're there. I use a Zune which is very similar to an Ipod and I really like the software that comes with the Zune and it also allows me to be more portable, so that's a nice thing with an Ipod or a Zune or any other MP3 player. I also really like the creative Zune stones which are like $40-$50 devices. I've worked with some schools, like 3rd and 4th graders. You know, I don't want to hand them a $200 Ipod. I feel comfortable with a $30-$40 MP3 player. But just for that portability and we setup some learning centers, we've done a lot with our Project WOW. Any other questions as far as setup and things on doing that?

Loren: Well I guess the one thing that struck me was I don't know a lot of devices that I've used so far that use an SD card. Is that something that most of the listeners are going to be familiar with?

Tom: Well, the digital recorders, there's always different levels you know, whenever you go through. Whenever I started, I went to RadioShack, and actually my daughter when she was in school, she used it to record notes and things. She's an auditory learner, so that's how she made her study notes and then she would listen back to that. That was just a little $50-$60 audio recorder at RadioShack, which you use a solid state device to record the sound to. In that particular model, you pop off the end and it turned into a USB stick and you just plugged it in, so it was all self-contained. The SD cards that I'm talking about are exactly like, if you have a digital camera that uses the SD card, it's the same card, it's just a storage device. Now, whenever I buy all of the computers for our labs, for example, everyone of the computers in the ITC lab has the SD card readers. And like everything else, there are different flavors of cards, different sizes. We standardized on SD and they're about the size of a postage stamp. I'm holding one up here, I'll have a
picture in the show notes for that. But, it's exactly like what's in your digital cameras out there.

Loren: About how much can they hold?

Tom: You can get them in various sizes. Today typically, anywhere from a gigabyte, 2 gigabytes, 4 gigabytes, 8 gigabytes. Of course, the price is going up as I go up there on the scale. I use a 4 gigabyte, that holds a tremendous amount of audio. It really doesn't take that much room. Again, another reason I favor audio podcasts over video podcasts, because of the size. And because I'm consuming these, you do have to download. So at home, I have a very slow internet connection that takes a long time, but an audio file is very manageable. And schools will also find that. You know, they have limited bandwidth out there, especially when you have a hundred people on it at one time sharing the same pipe out there. I typically record on the 4 gigabyte and I don't know, it will hold hours.

Loren: Okay.

Tom: Longer than our podcast is going to last here. Just like pictures on a digital camera, you do have to clear it off every now and then. But the way, the workflow that I have setup, is we'll do this recording here, we'll stop the recording, I will pop it into the computer, copy the file and import it into Audacity and then we'll go through there. Now, this coming week for my undergrad class, we're actually going to get into some of the editing with Audacity and I'll show you that here as soon as we finish. You know, it's one of those things, I've done it for so long and have helped so many people, it's always nice to have a fresh perspective. We just had this discussion in class last week. I'm giving my students a lot of freedom as far as what type of project. Prior to my assignment, I had a WebCT discussion where I required them to listen to at least three podcasts, fifteen minutes or longer and then comment on somebody else's review of those podcasts. So, I was trying to get them into the podcast genre and one of the comments was, well some of these are really long and it's a little bit boring, it's like how do you make this a little more exciting? Well, the nice thing about podcasts is it's voluntary. You pick the subject area that you listen to, something you're hopefully interested in. And now then, the challenge in my class is, okay now that we've had those comments, how are you going to not make yours?

Loren: Right.

Tom: So, shoes on the other foot there. So, I'm looking forward to some of those. I've given them options, anything from, I said, we'll you can do a 30 second public service announcement. I've had other students do that in the past. And there eyes kind of like, wow, thirty seconds and I'm done. So, they'll be experiencing the post-production edit, as you will here in a minute. We'll record this for, you know, ten-fifteen minutes and it's probably going to take another hour on top of that to do the production, to get it the way you want. Some people do a lot of editing. I tend to not edit as much as I probably should because it's very time consuming. But, with the setup that we have here with you and I recording going into the mixer, we're recording live to hard drive as they say here. Or in this case the digital audio recorder. Do you have any other questions?

Loren: Yeah. I am sort of curious as far as what the next step is. What makes podcasting different than just making a recording of yourself on your computer? How do you distribute it?

Tom: Okay. Without getting too technical, there's something called RSS feeds. And the real technical definition of a podcast is, we'll use audio for example since this is an audio podcast. It's an audio file on the internet that can be subscribed to through something called RSS. It stands for Really Simple Syndication. And that's getting way more technical than most teachers ever want to know or the average person wants to know. But, the advantage to that is, instead of you going out to a website, as you said you listen to them on a website. But instead of you going out there next week, is there anything new? Is there anything new? The RSS feeds will agrugate those feeds and send them to you. And the most common one is the iTunes program.

Loren: Okay.

Tom: So you go out to iTunes and it's actually, I don't know on the new version 10, but on the older versions, it was underneath the advanced tab, second or third choice down it says subscribe to podcast. And if you go there and if you know the RSS feed and if you're visiting these websites, you'll probably see an orange symbol with like little waves coming out, which is the universal symbol for RSS. So, if you click on that it will say here is the web address for the RSS feed. You just need to copy that into subscribe to podcast in ITunes and then click okay and you're subscribed.

Loren: And so then every time, as long as you have live internet connection?

Tom: Exactly. Every time you open up iTunes or as I said, I use Zune. It's even simpler in Zune. You open up the Zune software and they've got a link across the top that says podcast and then a button in the lower left corner that says subscribe to podcast and you either type out that RSS feed or just copy and paste it into that. And everytime I open up the ZOON software in my case, the podcast is automatically downloaded. I subscribe to both audio and video podcasts and the video ones can be very large. You know, the advantage here at the University, is we have a huge internet connection so it's really nice. Once again, at home, my internet connection is much slower and it takes a long time to download the video. That's why I usually stick strictly to audio.

Loren: Okay. Where are most of these posted? The internet is a very big place. So, do you just browse until you find them or are there any central location for podcasters?

Tom: Yeah, several different ways. iTunes has its own catalog. Here at the University we have Eastern Illinois University iTunes U, so that's available. We have an actual site, I believe. We'll put a link in the show notes for that. As far as hosting, the files actually reside locally wherever the podcaster chooses and if you're a hobbyist podcaster there's a company called Libsyn which is very popular for like six bucks a month or something, you can host your files out there and they provide the bandwidth and everything to do that. Here the University we have our servers locally so the MP3 files are stored here. All iTunes is and all the Zune marketplace is, is just a catalog that points to those files. It's a missed number and people think we just upload it and it's out on iTunes server somewhere. It's not. It's local, it's just a pointer. That's good for iTunes because they don't have any storage costs distributed every different place. So, that's a way, we call those podcatchers, the way that they work.

Loren: Okay. I forget the name of the company you mentioned, Libsyn?

Tom: Yeah. L-I-B-S-Y-N.

Loren: Okay.

Tom: With the popularity of all the Smart Phones and everything or 3G services, the wireless world, and we need to be careful here to differenciate. In the 3G phone company world, they have their own build-out network. And in my case, I have Verizon, and I have a cap that I can't download more than 5 gigabytes worth of data a month or they charge me a quarter a megabyte for every megabyte I go over or whatever. So, I watch that very carefully. Which again is another reason for the audio versus the video. I cannot watch very many YouTube videos over my 3G connection or I'll go over my cap very, very quickly. And again, I don't think the average consumer understands that. But, if you're using 802-11, what we call B, G, or N, those are like Starbucks. You know, you go in there and setup your laptop. That's an 802-11 service, so you're not capped with that. And it's much faster speeds than what you get over 3G. Now, the latest with Verizon, they're coming out with 4G and then what they call LTE, which is even a higher speed network. So you're going to see things explode. I mean what's holding us back right now is the bandwidth, the availability for this. On my Droid phone, I subscribe to podcasts, I use the Listen service. Again, I just go out there. It says what is the RSS feed? I type it in there and then every new episode will be downloaded to me automatically, I never have to check again. Every time I turn on my Droid, it goes out and checks. Do you have anything new for me? Yes. Download it? No. Skip go onto the next one. But these subscriptions really make it nice, because I essentially have a catalog of different things. And again, another reason I like the audio format is, you can be driving down the road listening to it or doing the dishes, laundry, or whatever at home, exercising, whatever it might be so you're multitasking. And in my world of EdTech, I have to, to keep up. Every week I subscribe to several different tech projects and listen to those just to keep up with all the changes in the world. For the person starting out, I say, you know, just forget about that because 80-90% of the people just go to a website and click. If you want to take it to the portability level and either download it to an Ipod, a Zune. or creative Zune, or whatever MP3 player you choose, that gives you that freedom to move around. So, right now we're in farming season, I can be out there on the tractor, doing the harvest and things and catching up on the latest in EdTech.

Loren: Very efficient!

Tom: Yes. There's only so many hours a day, so you've got to work it in there where you can. Okay, anything else Loren?

Loren: You already mentioned the different variaties of podcasts are limited as the number of people that want to podcast. So it seems like a pretty broad, diverse...

Tom: It's very diverse. The simplest definition for a podcast, it's like a radio show with a pause button. It's on demand. So, those are two big pluses for podcasting. And for education, to be able to listen to something, hit pause, hit rewind, it's like while I didn't quite understand that point. Let me rewind that and listen to that again and again. That repetition, coming back, which we don't have when we're in the classroom doing a lecture. I'm guilty of it myself. I will go through some things and just skip over some things and then you start seeing some glazed eyes or some questions and it's like, somebody didn't catch what I said. So, that's where the student needs to raise their hand and say, hey you through out a term there that I don't even know what that means." So, they're sitting there trying to figure it out, yet you're going on down the road. So, the advantage to be able to pause is great. Okay, now we'll go ahead and wrap it up here. We've got a lot of work to do. So I'll show you all of the magic on the post-production side here.

Loren: Exciting!

Tom: Yeah. And we'll get out of here. The other thing that many of the listeners may not know is it does take quite a bit of work. If I wanted to, I could just go out and publish this without some of the oohs and ahhs and some of the other mistakes that we may make here along the way. But, I also add the music and then I provide what we call ID3 tags, which with an MP3 file, it's like meda-data. So, I'll put my show number, the name and the title of the show and all of that. So, if you do use and Ipod or even like Windows Media Player, or Quicktime, whatever you will see the show title, the author, all those tags you see on the portable players. So, those are done in post-productions.

Loren: So will it show up as Unknown artist, Track 1 of 1?

Tom: Exactly. And I've got a lot of those too. It's like poulporie, what are we going to get here today? Okay, well. Thank you very much and as we go through the semester I wanted to introduce you to this, so hopefully we'll get you started here. There are all kinds of applications.

Loren: Yeah. Sounds very exciting.

Tom: Okay. Thank you.

Loren: You're welcome.

EIU iTunesU

Technology Pick of the Week

My technology Pick of the Week this week is Kindle for the Web.
Kindle for the Web

Tom: My technology pick of the week this week is a new beta version of Kindle for the Web. Listeners of TechTalk for Teachers will know that I am a big fan of the Kindle reader and E-books and this week, Kindle announced a new Web version. Now the advantage of this version, is that you will be able to read a book sample from without leaving your browser. You do not have to download any software. Share book examples with your friends via email or social networks. So Amazon is building out their infrastructure so that you can easily look at samples and if you so choose, click on the bye button and in less than a minute, you will have that book delivered to you. You can embed a personal book sample in your personal blog or website and there is a website out there specifically related to Kindle for the Web and I will provide that in the show notes.

That wraps it up for episode 112 of Tech Talk for Teachers. I want to thank Loren Lindgren our Graduate Assistant this year in the ITC at EIU for taking the time to talk with us about podcasting. To leave a comment or suggestion, please send an email to or leave a comment on the Tech Talk for Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom.
Keep on learning…

Tom Grissom, Ph.D.