When I first started working with middle school students to create a class podcast, I didn't really know what I was getting myself into. That was in 2005, before iTunes became a podcast aggregator. Few student podcasts were available at that time, so I didn’t have anyone to rely on for support or guidance, for either the curricular or technical aspects of the show.

So we learned as we went, using trial and error as our guide. My podcast journalism students, who dubbed themselves the Podsquad, created the CDS News podcast. CDS News is completely student written, filmed, and edited.

It was the Podsquad that decided to add a new dimension to the newscast by embedding video, thus turning the podcast into a vodcast. I upgraded my basic journalism class, changing both the curriculum and teaching methodology to support the transition to video.

The students have benefited greatly from their involvement in the show. I have seen each group of students improve writing and speaking skills, become more comfortable in front of the camera, and grow as journalists. I have seen their confidence and maturity develop as they have taken control of the show and made it their own.

My experiences teaching pod- and vodcasting to my students prompted me to create an instructional podcast called Teach with Video to support my recent publication of the same name.

If you are considering pod- or vodcasting with your students, here's a guide to the tools I use and the steps I took to get started.

Getting Started

I created all of my podcasts using Garage Band, which comes free with a Mac. For PC users, I recommend using Audacity, which also is free and easy to use.

After recording voice and adding music and sound effects, I export the audio file to iTunes and add the show title and logo to the file. Then, using iTunes, I convert the file to MP3 format.

I use Fetch, a simple FTP program, to put the MP3 file online so listeners can access it. I purchased Web hosting for my websites from siteground.com, and I upload the vodcast there. If you do not have a server to host your podcast, I recommend trying out one of many free podcast-hosting services, such as Libsyn or PodOmatic, or adding your podcast to your blog. One advantage of free podcast hosting services is that you upload using a Web browser, and the hosting services will write the feed automatically, saving you the hassle of doing it yourself.

I use a basic cut-and-paste for the RSS feed, changing only the file name, description, and show title. If you have never dabbled in writing an RSS feed, don't. It is extremely frustrating because one typo disables the feed.

I recommend downloading Podcast Maker. I input the information about the podcast, select the MP3 file, and publish the feed to my website. It is quick and easy. Podcast Maker has a free 30-day trial and costs $30 if you choose to buy it. It is worth every penny for its ease of use. I will never write another RSS feed again.

Getting Data

When I started CDS News, I had only a vague idea of how many people subscribed to the show. I wanted to get podcast statistics, such as the number of subscribers and the number of downloads. Once I got Podcast Maker to create my podcast feed in XML, I set up a Feedburner account, which was time consuming but not difficult. It allows me to analyze traffic. I can check the number of subscribers whenever I want and find out which episodes were downloaded on any given day.

Once I got set up, I submitted my podcast to the iTunes Store. Next, I set up a WordPress blog for the CDS News show and added podPress, which also provides tracking information.

CDS News has been averaging more than 170 views per show, which I think is excellent considering there are only about 180 students in our middle school. I have been so happy with the statistics from podPress that I recently started using it with my Teach with Video podcast as well. It is a great complement to FeedBurner. I suggest using both.

The process of setting all of this up (Feedburner and podPress) can be frustrating because very little support is available. A great resource for help is Tony Vincent's Learning in Hand blog. The site has video tutorials on podcasting.

Resources

Audacity: http://audacity.sourceforge.net
CDS News: www.cdsnews.net
Feedburner: www.feedburner.com
Fetch: http://fetchsoftworks.com
GarageBand: www.apple.com/ilife/garageband
iTunes: www.apple.com/itunes
Learning in Hand: http://learninginhand.com/podcasting/booklet.html
Libsyn: www.libsyn.com
Plurk: www.plurk.com
Podcast Maker: www.lemonzdream.com/podcastmaker
PodOmatic: www.podomatic.com
podPress: www.mightyseek.com/podpress
SiteGround: www.siteground.com
Teach with Video: http://teachwithvideo.com/podcast.html
Wordpress: http://wordpress.org

Steven Katz is director of educational technology at Country Day School in Escazú, Costa Rica. He maintains three websites: www.teachwithvideo.com, www.stevenkatz.com, and www.cdsnews.net.

Copyright © 2009, ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education), 1.800.336.5191 (U.S. & Canada) or 1.541.302.3777 (Int'l), iste@iste.org, www.iste.org. All rights reserved.

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