Since I watch the movie “Walk the Line” earlier this week, I’ve had the Johnny Cash song ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ stuck in my head.
I hear the train a comin'
It's rolling round the bend
And I ain't seen the sunshine since I don't know when..
My climbing partner laughed at me on Friday when it started to rain in the middle of our ice climb and cold, wet and miserable, I started to sing it as loud as I could. It seemed only appropriate that we could hear the ubiquitous echoes of trains down in the valley below us. He agreed to bail on the climb and come back to the house for a warm drink and be interviewed by me instead for my podcasting assignment.
Reflection on the process of learning about the tool
I was extremely glad that I read Will Richardson’s section of “Getting started with Podcasting” in his book before attempting to podcast myself. I started out by taking his advice and downloading the open-source program Audacity. It was free, and very easy to record with. I then downloaded Audacity’s MP3 encoder (Lame V3.98.2) to translate my files into MP3s. This step took a little bit longer than down loading the Audacity program. (Due to software patents, Audacity cannot distribute the MP3 coding software themselves.) This multi-step process was explained quite well on the website, but I found that I had to keep my browser open to follow the instructions exactly. The tricky part occurred when I exported my first ‘test’ recording as an MP3 file. Audacity prompted me for the location of my “lame-enc.dll” file and if I did not have the browser still open with the instructions, I likely never would have found were it was located on my C: drive. This finally allowed me to export my recordings as MP3 files to be used on other sites or archived.
Once I had the initial set-up complete it was full steam ahead! I had a lot of fun recording and playing with the audio-editing program in Audacity. I will admit that I did end up using the ‘Help’ menu a fair amount as none of the shortcut ‘tool’ keys had symbols that I recognized. I imagine that it would be a fairly intuitive program to use, if one had any prior knowledge of ‘GarageBand’ or other music-making and mixing programs. I chose to import music from http://www.freeplaymusic.com and was thoroughly impressed with the selection of free music that was available. It was categorized by topic and mood which made it easy to find a piece that suited the interview I wanted to enhance. It was actually fun to experiment with lining up the various tracks and interview ‘takes’ and fading in music at the end. It is by no means a ‘professional’ recording, but that is what makes it feel authentic and is the charm of this type of recording I think.
What slowed me down to a virtual stop was figuring out how to post my recording to my blogger account as it does not have any automatic support for ‘enclosures’ like MP3 files.
Thankfully, I picked up speed again when my classmate Annabelle Pendry suggested a slide share presentation outlining what to do. I followed the prompts and opened an account on www.archive.org. This allowed me to save my audiofiles, and get an html code that I could then copy and embed in my blog. Voila! I had arrived at the destination! The only difficulty with this step was that it worked well only when the archive screen was open. Once it was closed, I could no longer log in and find my own archived material, no matter how hard I tried. (I guess the moral here is to get off at the right station, since there’s no turning around the train.)
Since I am such a big fan and regular user of Skype, I also decided to follow another track to see if I could record a conversation from Skype and then podcast it. I had already downloaded and installed the software for both Skype and PowerGramo, so it was easy to experiment with. I just had to dial up my friends and record; then transfer the file to Audacity, edit it, and export it as an MP3. The process was virtually the same. The only catch for me, was that the basic (free) version of PowerGramo only allows Skype to Skype calls, and if you want to call or conference with a landline, you have to pay for the upgraded ‘professional’ version.
Podcasting as a tool for my own personal learning
Since I discovered the website TEDtalks, I have been a podcasts enthusiast. I love being able to download any of the various shows to my ipod and listen to them while driving or working out. Researchers have found that "part of the appeal of podcasts is that users can listen to these audio files whenever they want, wherever they want, as often as they want and on the device of their choice" (DeVoe, p. 78). Besides the ability and ease of multitasking while listening, there is something more personal and appealing to me to listen to someone’s voice present an idea or a conversation for debate than reading about it. All week in our class discussions about how to personalize our little spaces on the web, my group has been questioning and reflecting on how to develop our own ‘voice’ or authenticating our sites through our writing styles. I can now see how effective the use of embedded podcasts can be as well, and I look forward to hearing my classmates’ voices for the first time this week.
There has also been a lot of concern about whether or not communicating online is an authentic means of forming relationships and it has been noted that the “existence of [a] sense of community in the Web environment, that it is not that far from the sense of community in real social environments”( Kyröläinen). However, many people in the class discussion felt that there needs to be a healthy balance between ‘online’ relationships and ‘real’ relationships. To me, using podcasting or Skype (especially with video) is a much better means of enhancing communication and online relationships and can actually assist with real relationships when separated by distance. I have used Skype so frequently over the past 4 years that I have purchased a Belkin Skype phone (about the size of a cell phone) that I use more than my actual cell phone. My entire family lives on the East Coast and in Ontario and this has been the best way for me to maintain communication in between yearly visits. It is fun to take photographs and record my nephews singing “Happy Birthday” to me. (I suppose I could always podcast these back to them later, when they are older.) I have also had personal relationships that never would have ‘left the station’ so to speak, if it were not for the ability to see each other and talk over Skype while separated for long periods of time.
Podcasting as a tool for teaching and learning
I was ‘derailed’ this spring for several months when I injured myself rock climbing. I was on crutches and unable to return to the classroom for the last two months of the school year. This caused an incredible amount of disruption and frustration for my students who had to deal with and adapt to a number of different substitute teachers. I only wish I had read the article “Injured educator teaches her students via 'Webinar'” while I was stuck on my couch! In that particular article, a teacher taught her class from home while recovering from knee surgery. Her students really “liked the idea of connecting with [their] regular teacher from home instead of relying on a substitute and felt that if their teacher was “unable to be in the classroom, a teleconference [was] the next best thing” (White). I wish that I knew then what I do now, and could have podcasted some key lessons for them that proved to be so frustrating. It would have also served a good purpose for reviewing before the provincial exam, and hopefully would have avoided the additional stress and aggravation that they felt in my absence. At the very least, it might have served to lessen the transitional disturbance between myself and the substitute teachers if they heard from me personally why I was away, and that I did indeed miss them!
In the library, there are several possible applications for podcasts that could also change the way we communicate. There have been some “early developments by public libraries which are starting to use podcasts to advertise library news, market services to library patrons and develop audio books” (Berk et al). Podcasting could also be very relevant in school libraries to ‘host’ book talks with authors via Skype, alleviating the cost and travel inconveniences for author visits. Student reviews of books and recommendations could also be recorded and archived to help other students choose reading materials.
In the classroom, the possibility for engaging students and appealing to different learning styles, especially the auditory learner, is seemingly endless. Researchers have commented that when “teamed with other support material such as print or online guides and face to face classes it can be a valuable addition to the learning process” (Berk et al). However, to appreciate the true value of podcasting as a classroom activity, we have to move away from the common definition of podcasting as a means of speaking our minds or ‘lecturing’ and “consider it as a way for a student to express creativity and share it with others” instead (Criswell). The real power of podcasting as a tool for teaching and learning is that allows students to create material or contribute ideas to a larger audience or store it for future audiences to use (Richardson p. 113). Some of the possibilities for student participation as noted by Richardson include; Language teachers could record and publish daily practice lessons to aid in acquisition of a new language; Social studies teacher could have students do oral histories, reenactments of historical events or interviews (as I’ve done in my podcast embedded below); Science teachers could have students narrate and record observations for lab experiments or dissections which could be too messy to write down; Music teachers could record recitals or concerts or showcase music solos that cannot fit in a major concert (Richardson, p. 114)
We should also consider these additional creative ways that Criswell suggests using podcasting to enhance student learning in the classroom:
• as remedial assistance for special needs students
• as makeup work assistance for absent students
• as a way to provide validation for grades
• as a visual/audible way to share a student's progress at conferences
• as an incredible public relations tool.
In my opinion, the simplicity of equipment needed for digital recording, the low cost involved, the immediacy of producing results and the fun involved make podcasting one of the most powerful classroom tools that we have considered to date in this course.
Berk, Jaya. Olsen, Sonja. Atkinson, Jody. Comerford, Joanne. Innovation in a podshell: bringing information literacy into the world of podcasting. The Electronic Library. Oxford: 2007. Vol. 25, Iss. 4; pg. 409
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Criswel, Chad. The Value of Podcasting. Teaching Music. Reston: Oct 2008. Vol. 16, Iss. 2; pg. 26, 2 pgs
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DeVoe, K. (2006). Innovations affecting us - podcasting, coursecasting, and the library. Against the Grain. Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 78-79, 85.
How to embed a podcast into a Blogger. (n.d.). Slideshare [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/Paty.Savage/how-to-embed-a-podcast-into-a-blogger
Kyröläinen, Satu Suvikki. (2001) Sense of Community in Web Environments. Master’s Thesis. Department of Psychology, University of Helsinki. Retrieved from
Richardson, Will. (2009). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press
Rumpler, A. (2007). Podcasting in Library Research: A discussion of three projects developed using new audio technologies. International Association of School Librarianship. Selected Papers from the Annual Conference. Retrieved from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 1563504601).
White, Davin. Injured educator teaches her GW students via 'Webinar'. Saturday Gazette-Mail. October 18, 2008. Retrieved from: http://wvgazette.com/News/200810170678