By Will Richardson
It's never been easier to create and publish your own Internet radio show thanks to the advent of “podcasting.” For the uninitiated, podcasting is the process of recording and posting audio (and, in some cases, video) content like interviews, dramatic readings, guided tours and more to the web for a global audience to listen to.
Teachers find podcasts are a great way for students to present what they are learning in the classroom. So when the kids at Radio Willow Web in Omaha , for example, produce a show about “Those Amazing Ants,” they are doing work that has a real purpose beyond the classroom.
What are the basic ingredients to a podcast? Just a computer with recording software, a microphone, some space on the Web, and something to say. Here’s how you might do it.
1. Have your students brainstorm podcast show ideas that they might want to create. Remember, the idea is that students “report” about things they know and, preferably, are passionate about so others can learn from them. Next, depending on how much editing capability you have, have students draft a script that not only includes the content of the podcast but outlines the production aspects as well. For instance, what kind of music might they want to include in their show? Who will they interview? How will they signal transitions?
2. Once the idea for the show is scripted, it’s time to start creating. The method that requires the least technology but also limits your ability to add production touches is to record your podcast right to a Web server that will publish it immediately. One such site is Podomatic.com . Just sign up for an account and go through the steps to “Create a Podcast.” All you need is a microphone (which in most cases these days is built into your computer) and an Internet connection. When finished, Podomatic furnishes a unique URL for the podcast that you can then use to promote the show. You can send the link via e-mail, or even put it on the school homepage so when people click on it, your student voices will start playing right away.
3. You can create more creative podcasts with just a couple of additional touches. First, you need some recording software on your computer that you can also use to edit. The choice of many schools is Audacity , and open source program that’s free to download and easy to use. (Note: You’ll also need to download and install the LAME encoder from the Audacity site.) In Audacity, you can record original audio, import music, create multiple tracks for mixing, add all sorts of fades and echoes and other fun stuff, and create a pretty professional sounding show without too much effort. (See the guide to using Audacity at the Audacity Wiki Home Page) When you are finished, remember to export the audio as an MP3 file to your computer. Depending on how long your show is, it may take a bit of time and space to save.
4. The final step is getting your audio track onto the web where people can begin to listen to it. The best solution is probably to work with your school’s Webmaster to transfer the file from your computer. If that’s not an option, you can upload your audio file to an online site like Podomatic or Ourmedia.org . Again, once it’s online, take the web address of the file and distribute widely.
5. If you want to grow an audience for your regular podcast, you definitely want to list your show on iTunes with the hundreds of other education related shows. iTunes is a free download, and once you get to the podcast page, find the big button that says “Submit a Podcast.” Then, people can “subscribe” to your show and automatically get any new episodes when you create them. To make this work, you’ll need a Weblog to post your podcast episodes to and also what’s called an RSS feed.
And that’s it! Podcasting can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be, but in every case, it’s a great way to get your students publishing to the world.
Return to Podcasting the 1600s.
Will Richardson is the author of the recently released Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, and of Weblogg-ed, his blog “dedicated to discussions and reflections on the use of Weblogs, wikis, RSS, audiocasts and other Read/Write Web related technologies in the K-12 realm, technologies that are transforming classrooms around the world.”