by Jim Lengel, Dean of Faculty, Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, Boston (http://www.bu.edu/jlengel and http://www.lengel.net)
The title of this week's article is a word that did not exist a year ago. A podcast
is an audio presentation that's distributed online and designed to be heard in
an iPod music player. Everybody seems to sport an iPod these days -- commuters
on my train, runners on the path, students in your class, citizens in the
streets. While many of them are listening to music or a book downloaded off of Audible.com, a few ambitious souls are listening
to educational material. This might be a recorded message from the company
president, a sermon from their preacher, or an online lecture from their
teacher. They are enjoying a podcast. This week's article looks at the
educational possibilities of podcasts, and how you might produce your own.
listened as Sir Laurence Olivier spoke the lines: "...oh that this too too
solid flesh would melt..." He had just heard Mel Gibson deliver the same
soliloquy from Hamlet in a very different way. Then he heard the voice of his
English professor ask, "How would you compare these two interpretations of
this passage? Which one seems closer to the 'Hamlet as madman' theory that we
discussed in class?" Luke was on his long walk across campus to the
science center. He rewound back to Mel Gibson and listened again.
unit test on regions of the United States was slated for Friday. Helen heard
the voice of her classmate Kyle as he summarized the economic activity of the
southeast tidewater region: "The farmland is flat, and used to grow
cotton, corn, and other crops..." Kyle had recorded these remarks the week
before, based on the research work of the small group he was assigned to. His
teacher had helped them to turn the recording into a podcast and post it on the
class web page.
trumpet played the notes quickly but carefully as Molly heard the last phrase.
"That arrangement was by Louis Armstrong." came the voice of her
teacher. "The next clip you will hear is the same piece played by the
Preservation Hall Band. How is their interpretation different from Armstrong's?
Consider rhythm, syncopation, and phrasing." Molly had downloaded the
entire set of podcasts for her musicology class, and was listening to them as
she rode in the back of the car.
Helen and Molly had been iPod users for four years, and MP3 downloaders for
five. This was not a new technology for them. But its use as a learning tool
was new, and highly effective. They prepared for class, explored new material,
and studied for their exams using audio files recorded as podcasts. For their
teachers, though, these were new technologies. Both the digital format of the
files and the MP3 player were unfamiliar. But using audio for teaching was
commonplace: all of the teachers had lectured, and used audio recordings in
their teaching. A podcast combines a new popular technology with a tried and
true method of presenting ideas.
to make a podcast
is a new phenomenon, but it's very easy for the neophyte to produce. All you
need is an idea, a computer with a microphone, and some recording software. For
this example, we'll use the program Audacity, which can be downloaded for free in versions for
Windows, Macintosh OS X, and Linux. You can find Audacity at http://audacity.sourceforge.net/
you have installed Audacity, you should plan your recording (or your students'
recording, as described in the second of the three examples above). Write a
script if necessary, or make an outline of your remarks. Gather up any music or
other sound clips you might need. It's easiest if you can find them in MP3
format. Plan for your first podcast to be brief and simple.
a step-by-step lesson in using Audacity to make an original recording, or to
combine originals with pre-recorded clips, refer to the article in this series,
Sound Education. Make your recording, edit it, and export
it in the MP3 format. (MP3 is shorthand for MPEG-3, which stands for Motion
Picture Expert Group, Audio Layer 3. That's because the compression scheme used
for MP3 files was originally developed to compress sound from motion pictures.)
you end up with is an MP3 file of about a megabyte a minute -- typical
three-minute podcast would be about three megabytes in size.
to distribute a podcast
made, you need to find a way to get your podcast onto the MP3 players of your
students. You have several ways to do this:
- Save or copy the podcast to
a CD or to a USB memory stick. From there it can be copied to the computers of
your students or other listeners, and from there to their MP3 players.
- Save the podcast to a
volume on your Local Area Network. Then let the students know how to find it,
and they can transfer it through their computers to their MP3 players.
- Send the podcast by email.
This works well only for short podcasts of small file size. Simply attach the
MP3 file to an email message
- Post the podcast to a Web
site. Copy or FTP the podcast MP3 file to your web server, and link to it from
your web page. (You can learn how to do this from your school's webmaster, or
by reading the section on inserting multimedia in the article Building a Web Page with Dreamweaver in this series.)
you can listen to a podcast of this article at http://www.lengel.net/podcast.mp3
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