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 search...it 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 www.oddcast.com 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 stain.com. 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 (http://epnweb.org) 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. (http://www.podifier.com/) 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!!!

5 comments:

Linda Morgan said...

Okay - I LOVE the Voki suggestion! Can't wait to check it out! Thanks so much.

Podcast Coach said...

Great insight into Podcasts an education. If you need more "step by step" videos of Audacity and other podcast resources check out www.schoolofpodcasting.com

Arlene said...

Jean, I love the links to authors and the book slideshow in your side bar. I plan to check out mytalkingstain.com, oddcast.com, epnweb.org and podifier.com. Thanks for the link suggestions. Arlene

Jennifer said...

Your new blog format is gorgeous and I love your Voki too. I am going to work on that. Great thoughtful blog this week with lots of great information.

Cindy said...

Hi Jean,

That's it ...I am definitely going to check out the Voki idea, it sounds like alot of fun!

Cindy