Podcasting for Education

I just wanted to capture some possible compelling uses for podcasting in an educational setting.

  • Lectures. Imagine students being able to subscribe to an RSS feed, and have recordings of every lecture automatically stored on their hard drive or iPod or whatnot for review. This would remove the need for the dozens of recorders at the front of a large lecture hall, all getting crappy and redundant audio. Why not produce a single quality feed, and let everyone use it? (on a related note – why not share a single high quality set of notes, rather than making lectures a speed-writing test…)
  • Interviews with external resources – an instructor could interview a scientist, or someone practicing whatever the subject is, and add that recording to the RSS feed for the class – making it available to all students. Something like a Campus iTunes Music Store could do something similar, but everyone would have to go to it and grab the files, rather than have them quasi-pushed out to them.
  • Lots of other things I haven’t come up with…

It’s the second point I’m hoping to play around with – documenting some of the thinking and developments by some of the folks in the learning technology field – hopefully I’d be able to do something like an ITConversations for educational technology stuff. If it works, and doesn’t completely suck, I’d use that as an example for faculty who are interested in the concept. If it doesn’t work, or completely sucks, well – that’s a valid data point as well… The shared lecture audio is a no brainer, in my mind…

The various bits that make up podcasting have been around forever (digital audio, internet distribution, RSS syndication), but the combination of the three makes for a system that approximates a personalized radio station. Imagine each institution having its own podcast directory, and students (as well as faculty) could select which ones they wanted automatically downloaded for review, in their own “university radio station” aggregation…

And Steve Sloan offers up these ideas:

  • for distance learning
  • to facilitate self-paced learning
  • for re-mediation of slower learners
  • to allow faculty to offer advanced and or highly motivated learners extra content
  • for helping students with reading and/or other disabilities
  • for multi-lingual education
  • to provide the ability for educators to feature guest speakers from remote locations
  • to allow guest speakers the ability to present once to many sections and classes
  • to allow educators to escape the tedium of lecturing
  • to offer a richer learning environment

Simple Podcasting Setup

I was just messing around with some of the various options for recording a podcast, and think this solution will work quite nicely: Snapz Pro X 2.0. It is usually intended to be used as a screen recorder, but also does an excellent job of recording both system sound and microphone input. I set it to record a 1×1 screen capture movie, and discard the video track when saving. Then, the .mov file is brought into iTunes, where I convert it to MP3. (set the encoding options properly, and the Advanced menu contains a “Convert selection to MP3” option.

It looks like Snapz Pro will let me record the incoming audio from iChat (or Skype, or whatever), and mix it with the microphone input, and any other system sounds (like iTunes, or any other source…)

Anyway, if anyone is looking for an easy podcast recording system, this looks pretty good. I’ve got no idea how it works in the field yet, but it worked great in the tests that I ran (just remember to use headphones, so the mic doesn’t pick up the system audio as well)

UPDATE: I just did some testing, and it looks like it’s possible to use freeware for the whole recording/publishing system. I just used Rogue Amoeba’s LineIn program – it is an app that lets you pass the input from the microphone through the speakers, and Ambrosia Software’s WireTap 1.0 which lets you record all audio to a file. The combo works pretty well, and it’s free. WireTap 2.0 was wrapped into Ambrosia’s Snapz Pro 2.0 product, which explains why it does such a nice job of recording all system audio. If the free stuff turns out to not work so well, I’ll go with Snapz Pro 2.0

In my little experiments, I’ve found it really hard not to sound like some brain-dead radio DJ, especially with my voice echoing in my headphones (trick there – get real headphones, or turn down the volume so you can hardly hear it… oh, and remember to talk normally… 😉 )

Podcasting coming to WordPress!

There are some hacks to get RSS enclosures into WordPress 1.2, but I just came across this on the WordPress support forums: TextDrive Community Forum / Request for enclosure_type and enclosure_size fields

It’s already baked into WordPress 1.3-alpha-4, and so will be available in the next version. I’m not quite ready to start messing with alpha software (well, not someone else’s alpha software…), but am looking forward to this… If I give podcasting a shot, I may just bite the bullet and upgrade to 1.3-alpha… Or, I may just try this mod for WordPress 1.2.

UPDATE: I decided to install the hack mentioned above – didn’t want to mess with alpha software, and didn’t want to bork my customizations (and Kubrick) yet… This post now has an enclosure attached, and it should be visible in the RSS feed. Any podcasting experiments I do should automagically appear in that feed…

UPDATE: 2005/01/19 I just upgraded to WordPress 1.5 (nightly build of the alpha) and support for enclosures is now included out of the box. If it doesn’t pick up the .mp3 link and create enclosures automatically, just add a custom field to the post, as described here.


I’ve been listening to non-commercial programming on my iPod for a few months now, being totally hooked on ITConversations. It’s extremely refreshing to have compelling, intelligent content that isn’t full of ads and BE THE 9TH CALLER AND GET TICKETS TO AVRIL LAVINE!!! and mindless DJ drivel crap.

Over the weekend, I played around with iPodderX – an RSS aggregator for these “podcasts” – holy crap, there is some awesome stuff out there! iPodderX checks a bunch of feeds, and automagically downloads the audio linked to each – sort of an on-demand radio station aggregator, without all the suck.

My previous “broadcast” listening experience was typically something like this (in the car, since that’s the only radio I bother to listen to):

  1. Turn on car.
  2. Stab 10 different station presets until something sucks less, or is at least not offensive, or at least provides acceptable background music, or (hopefully) provides some intelligent conversation – occasionally from CBC AM
  3. More often than not, mutter “Gwah! RADIO SUCKS!” before settling on some mindless inane DJ-infested commercial station that brags “Your station is a STANDARD radio station!” – like that’s a good thing
  4. Put up with that crap for the next 5-10 minutes before repeating from step 2 until reaching our destination.

After getting hooked on ITConversations, Adam Curry’s Daily Source Code, and any number of “podcasts”, the process is more like:

  1. press play
  2. enjoy/think/relax

The main problem with podcasts is that I have a limited amount of time to listen, and there is too much awesome content out there. The exact opposite of commercial radio.

I’m even toying around with the idea of doing a podcast on learning objects etc… Perhaps a job for “The Three Amigos”?

Keynote Web Viewer Plugin

King has been at it again…. Keynote Web Viewer Plugin

It’s a plugin for Keynote that provides a WebKit-powered web browser component (the same one used in Safari and OmniWeb) for use in Keynote slides. Very slick. It has some limitations at the moment, but it’s pretty amazing.

Playing quickly with the first release, and watching the demo movie he made, I had an irrational flashback to Cyberdog