Sunday, February 24, 2008

Podcast Exploration

According to WikiPedia, a podcast is "a web feed of audio files (although increasingly people are applying the term to video and other media) that is placed on the Internet for anyone to download.It's usually possible to download the files directly from the website, just as one would normally do; however, special programs called podcatchers exist that let users subscribe to podcasts in order to automatically download and store the media files for later playback."
The only podcasting I have ever encountered thus far in my educational journey was in the introduction of this course with Joyce Valenza's Podcast. I must say that I wasn't impressed by podcasting until I discovered the different ways it could be used. The first thing that came to my mind was the negativity I felt towards listening to AM radio...which is what I felt podcasting was like. I wondered how my students would learn by listening to audio files derived from sources and presented like am radio...Boy was I wrong. I will take you step-by-step through my journey into the exploration of podcasting!
Creating my Podcast
1) Google "How to create your own podcast" I always start with a brief Google is familiar territory, what can I say!
2) Looked into various MP3 recording programs after reading that podcasting involved these programs to record audio files. I was slightly familiar with some of these sites from downloading information into my ipod shuffle.
3) Checked out classmates blogs to get ideas for what a podcast was like. I felt I needed to know what my classmates were using their podcasting for...a good variety I found out.
4) Downloaded Software from the internet to start my podcast creation...The software I chose was called Audacity. Audacity is a free, open source software for recording and editing sounds. I found out about Adacity by doing another Google search on recommended software for podcasting use.
5) Audacity allowed me to create a podcast in MP3 format, however it would not allow me to export the MP3 from the program. Oh Oh...
6) So I had to download additional software called LameMP3 encoder (more Google searches). This allows Audacity to export MP3 files.
7) Once I realized I was able to record my voice I had to choose what to do my podcast on. I opted to base my podcast on a children's poem I was using in my library to teach the primaries about hibernation. The poem was not edcuational, but a good introduction and attention grabber to the unit I was going to introduce them to. I thought it would be neat to create something that would bring podcasting into the primary grades. Although I think podcasting is a valuable teaching tool within every grade, I wanted to create something visual using a talking character. Ex: Smokey the Bear. This type of character could potentially have a weekly lesson brought to the students in the form of a podcast brought to the students.
8) After looking on the internet for character podcasting I discovered Voki. Voki is a website launched by which allows you to create user profiles called "avitars". Simply put, an avitar is a computer users representation of himself/herself in the form of a 3D or 2D dimensional character (You can even upload your own photo). Ex: Video Game character.
Companies such as Burger King and Coke have using Voki for their advertising for years. An example of this type of software can be found at www.mytalking This example shows how Voki can be used in advertising as an effective tool in capturing audience attetnion. Corporate companies are also using this tool as virtual salesmen in a sense. This ties into why I would want to incorporate this type of podcast into my classroom, it would definitely get my students' attention if it is used to capture the world's attention.
9) Once I discovered Voki I literally spent several hours exploring all the possibilities it gives its users. You can create a character that looks like you, or you can create a n imaginative character. You can upload your photo and turn a character into a friend or family member too! I found a bear character that could represent me by communicating the "Fuzzy Bear" poem I was going to read. In a classroom setting I could use these character podcasts and children would get a kick out of it for sure, especially because they would hear my voice.
10) I recorded my voice using Audacity, then I uploaded the voice recording from Audacity by using the lame software. Once I had the voice recording in the Voki program I simply followed the step-by-step instructions to create my talking bear! (See Fuzzy Bear podcast)/.
Using Podcasting in the Library/Classroom

I discovered an article called "TOOLS FOR THE TEKS: INTEGRATING TECHNOLOGY IN THE CLASSROOM" that discusses using podcasts in the classroom as learning tools. The author starts out by suggesting that 21st Century education should focus on "authentic Literacy skills" for students. This, he goes on, includes "Learning to read, write, listen, speak, critically analyze information and communicate ideas using a variety of modalities." (Fryer, 2007) This quote embodies many of the ideas we have explored within EDES 545 by suggesting the need to teach students how to critically analyze and use different modalities to express themsleves. I think that podcasting is one of the modalites that teaches students about communicating ideas in a different way, this would also definitely increase student desire to express their thoughts.For example if you asked your students to do a presentation by creating a podcast they would likely be more excited than having to write a report, or create a presentation on paper. Also the audience would likely be more involved in the presentation and the students would cater it to their audience rather than just their teacher. Fryer suggests that some students are not motivated through writing assignments and receiving high grades from the teacher. These students, she suggests, would be able to try and capture the attention of his/her classmates through using technology rather than just working to please the teacher. I think this is a brilliant way of thinking. I think we all have students that could care less about pleasing the teacher, podcasting may offer them a way to learn by keeping them self-motivated.
The website ( is one that the article suggests is a good place to find classroom podcasts. This site shows great examples of using podcasting in classrooms and it gives us a pespective of just how beneficial they are as teaching tools.
There are many other ways that podcasting would be beneficial to the clasroom/library and they are as follows (Some I learned from the article and some are my ideas);
-Podcasting is in-expensive. We all know about budget constraints in the classroom, podcasting does not require an annual fee, or any fee for that matter. Students and teachers alike can get access to podcasting at home or in school for free. The only piece of equipment you need is a microphone, which is easily accessible and cheap for schools to buy. You can find most of the sofware needed for podcasting from free software downloading sites on the internet. ( is just one example site that podcasters can use to record audio for their podcasts. "Identifying Key Researcch Issues" states that one of the reasons for schools not integrating technology into their curriculum is the cost. This would be a great example to show teachers within the school that integrating technology doesn't need to be expensive.
-Audiene is unlimited with a podcast. As a teacher you could have the whole school listen to your podcast, or just your classroom. Parents could also listen to podcasts to get a taste of whats goingon behing closed doors within their children's classroom.
-Students, and parents for that matter, can access podcasts form home, or even their ipods. This is great considering that learning doesn't necessarily need to occur in the classroom all the time. Students could listen to podcasts as they are going to bed, in the car, or even on vacation. Students could always download other educational podcasts from worldwide sources. Joyce Valenza's podcast is an example of this.
-Podcasts can be audio files or video files. Fryer suggests that programs such as powerpoint have too many gimmecks that may distract students from what they are really supposed to be learning. Podcasting is so basic, especially audio podcast, that there are no distractions for students.
-Podcasting is a way to teach or tell a story digitally.
-Podcasting is interactive. Teachers and students can react to podcasts and leave comments or idea
-Podcasting is fun and creative. It allows students an outlet for their creative energy and it is interactive, which makes it fun!
21st Century Learning- Re-thinking traditional methods of instruction:
Fryer's article, as mentioned above, suggests that the 21st Century is one in which we need to focus on "Literacy Skills." One of our article in Topic Two's readings is called "Understanding Resources: Media and Information Literacy" and gives us a better definition of just what those skills entail. The article suggests that "...helping learners understand and deal with the world of media and information" is is the new way to think about teaching literacy skills. The article goes further to say that traditionally we thought of literacy as reading and writing, but it is time to re-think that and include "listening, viewing, speaking and image-making." It also states that ..."literacy education is to build essential skills for success in a complex information-rich environment." I think that introducing your class or library to podcasting is a great way to build these skills and help students understand the world of technology. As important as podcasting is as a learning tool it also prepares students for the digital world they are growing up in and will be presented to upon graduation and joining the workforce!
I think that it is important to remember that although students will be elated about being able to use this kind of technology, it must be used asppropriately as a learning tool. Podcasting, for example, can easily be used inappropriately and taken out of an educational context. In the library I asked that my students design their own homepage for our library website on a piece of paper. I wanted to see what they would come up with if given the freedom to create a homepage. Although I did remind them that it was a homepage for a "Library" many of them just wanted to be silly and imaginative with creating characters that had nothing to do with the library. For example one student drew a naked baby flying across the sky with a sign that read "I'm naked...can you see me?" I had to remind him that creating a website was not a joke and that this theme would be innapropriate for a library homepage. "Identifying Key Research Issues" adresses this idea in their article as well. They suggest that..."learning with technology should not be about the technology itself but about the learning that can be facilitated through it." This quote is a reminder that podcasting should not only be about the fact that students or teachers can present information digitally, but rather the information that is presented is of the most importance. Initially there will likely be excitement about learning how to podcast, but when the excitement dwindles the podcasting should be a way for students to remember information and be able to access it conveniently.
Wow! Podcasting is an incredible and fun tool that I will definitely be incorporating into my teacher's tools ideas!!!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Blog Posting #3

Social Bookmarking Sites
Blog Posting #3-February 11, 2008
When I initially perused the delicious website I was brought back to an idea my boyfriend had shared with me several months ago. Andrew (my boyfriend) spends a lot of time (work and social) on the computer. He visits several websites daily for a variety of reasons ie; work projects or entertainment. His idea was to have a central website that opens as a homepage and have it download information from your favorite webpages. For example...He would go to his home page and he would be able to go from facebook to guitar lessons to his work inventory at the click of one button. All of the websites would be available from one page. I was surprised to see (and I may sound like a dinosaur) that something like this already existed. I initially thought that social bookmarking sites were more of a social neworking idea. Delicious, the first social bookmarking site I discovered (http://delicious/jcloke), is easy to use and very beneficial for anybody who visits multiple websites. How many times have you been playing around on the web when you come across a site that is of interest to you that you may want to go back to? This happens to me on a daily basis. I watched "Social Bookmarking in plain English" on You Tube for a brief overview on how to use these websites and then I went straight to I registered and then downloaded the tag button and the delicious button the YouTube video recommended. Then I started to think of all the websites I visit frequently and decided the best way to do this was through my "favorites". The YouTube video suggested that the favorites option was a great idea, but ended up getting lengthy and unorganized. I couldn't agree more! When I went to my favorites I had forgotten what many of the sites were because there was no notes. For example I had some favorites that said "work stuff", which I had to open to remember what they were. I am a very visual learner and am also very visually organized and so delicious appealed to me right off the bat. I tagged several websites with the tag button, which moved the site to my delicious homepage. After I had several sites on the homepage I began to "bundle" them into groups of websites that are related to one another. For example (I am a bit of a celebrity news junkie) I have a bundle with all of the celebrity websites I go to everyday and then another bundle with all of the blogs I visit weekly. They are all organized and it feels like I have completely renovated and cleaned out my disaterous favorites section. One other aspect that I discovered is that your delicious account is public. This means that others can see and use my delcious sites for their own entertainment or education purposes. This scared me at first...I felt like it may be a bit intrusive if my friends were able to see all the junkie sites I visit. Then I realized how beneficial this tool could be. I could create a delicious site for the school library which included all of the resource sites I recommend to my students everday. My students could go to the social bookmarking site and have all the resources they need at their fingertips and I could even organize the resource sights into subjects.
Delicous is not the only social bookmarking site I found...some of the others include, delirious, Digg and Most of the sites are similar, but have different ways of categorizing the sites you have tagged. Some of the social bookmarking sites, like are based on a more specific type of sites. is based on technology news and has combined that with social networking. Essentially they all work the same way and have the same advantages. I found delicious to be very user-friendly, maybe largely because the YouTube video showed me exactly how to use it. Delicious is the site that I will continue to use and I will incorporate it into my work and social lifee

Monday, February 4, 2008

Blog Post #2

Blog Post #2
Video sharing sites.
Several months ago a few teachers and I were in the staff room (enjoying our third cup of coffee) chatting about YouTube. One of the teachers was adament that the program be taken off of the school computers. I wasn't surprised, as I too felt that the students abused this video sharing site when they were on the computers. We decided to do some research in this area and find out if our students were using this tool educationally, or abusing it. We created a communications book and we kept it in the computer lab. Every time one of our classes had computers we would jot down a few bits about whether or not our students had used YouTube and if so to what extent. Several weeks later we met to dicsuss it and several of us were not surprised at what we found. Most students were using YouTube to try and watch innapropriate music videos or other videos of silly and innapropriate nature . Not once did we record students using it in an educational way. It is easy to think that we, as the teachers, weren't particular about what our students were doing in the computer room, but we were. However, when students are in the computer lab for research purposes they are allowed to use most internet sites that are appropriate, YouTube included. To make a long story shorter we all decided to do a workshop for students on the ins and outs of researching on YouTube and other video sharing sites. We covered things such as how to search for videos related to curriculum content and how to share videos you thought were educational, with a friend. We didn't expect too much to come from this workshop, but we thought we would try one last thing before we forbid the use of YouTube in our school (it was a small school). The results from the workshop were turns out that the students loved researching curriculum content on YouTube once they knew how to do it. It is much funnier to watch a short video on something than it is to read about it in an encyclopedia (frogs for example). Needless to say we did allow our students to use YouTube for the rest of the year in appropriate ways that they had been taught about, and it went well.
Doug Achterman, an author of one of our class articles "Surviving Wikipedia..." also suggests that it is important to improve the search habits that students use when exploring websites. He discusses collaboration amongst teachers as being a way in which they can plan together to gather "information literacy skills" in order to educate themselves and their students in regards to imroving search habits.Although Achterman's article focuses on Wikipedia searches it brings up the importance of realizing that not everything you see on these websites should be taken at face-value. Videos on most of these video sharing sites, like Wikipedia, can be posted by anybody. This increase the risk that many of them will not be accurate or factual and need to be looked at in a critical manner. As I noticed when I typed in a few subjects in the YouTube search engines much of what came up was there to get a few laughs. We need well-informed students who don't just believe everything they see, but rather look closer through a lens. This, Achterman suggests, is a student that is "information literate."
While exploring video sharing sites for EDES 545 I came across Teachertube, which was mentioned in the outline. This site is YouTube without the ridiculous content. I love how you can type anything into the search engine and a listing of videos related to that topic comes up....and it doesn't have anything to do with pornography or incredibly gruesome topics!!! Not to say that this is all that YouTube has, but it is a more difficult website to narrow searches within. I immediately set up a profile (search jcloke) and began my journey into educational videos. I cannot believe there are even channels you can visit. For example if you are interested in getting information on something within the Science field you simply go to the Science channel and explore what they have...or even search within it for something more specific!! The tutorials are can actually watch tutorials on other teachers instructing their classes to get ideas for your class. There are student movies, groups for individuals to gather and chat, teacher blogs and even "recently updated" and "most watched" videos. A very convenient video sharing site for everybody, especially teachers. I could even see myself bringing my mac computer into the classroom and showing one of the videos on a projection screen. That is actually an idea I am considering for a unit I am doing on hibernation. The site also gave me many ideas that other teachers have used successfully in teaching their hibernation units.
I researched a few more video sharing sites once I discovered that there were several different "types of them" 1 User generated video sharing 2 Video Sharing Platform / White Label Providers 3 Open Source Video Sharing Platforms 4 Web based video editing 5 See also . Although YouTube was definitely the most widely used, I found the following quite useful; IFilm, GoFish and EngageMedia. I also came across an interesting article entitled "The Value of E-Learning with YouTube: Video Sharing for Education." The article reminds us of how mainstream YouTube has become and how easily accessible it is for everyone to upload or download videos. It also dives into an important issue that never really crossed my mind too much concerning video sharing sites, which is their advertising techniques and the effects of these on students. This likely caught my eye because about a year ago I came across a class (I was a Teacher-on-Call) that was doing an assignment on Reality versus Media. The students were to divide a paper in half and compare what media portrays and what was a reality concerning the same topic. Several students discovered through this that what the websites and tv comsider reality are actually just ways to sell things to people. Students discovered that what was really "cool" was being an individual and not following others. Although this seems slightly off-topic it made me realize just how much media messages on sites such as YouTube affect the students. I think it is important to cover the fact that this is all done to sell, sell, sell, and that just because you don't do it or have it doesn't mean you don't fit in.
Anyways back to the rest of the article...The article also mentions that class projects and presentations can really be enhanced by using video sharing sites. For example, the article suggests showing an instructional video on the step-by-step instructions for doing something that is related to their topic. The article also discusses the collaboration that these sites allow between groups of people that use them. I noticed on most of the video sharing sites they have places for you to join groups of people that you likely have things in comon with
Video Sharing sites are definitely useful in schools as long as they are being used appropriately, like anything on the internet really. Educating students on the ways to use these sites for research purposes is helpful because we cannot assume that they already know this. In fact many students probably only know how to search for a few types of videos, like music videos for instance, from watching their classmates or friends. Educating them about the possibilities of using these websites, like learning how to do origami step-by-step for example, will help them use it appropriately for school.