Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Educator's Guide to Podcasting: Easy Tips for Getting Started

For quite awhile, I've been an avid listener of podcasts. I like to listen to them while I'm driving, getting ready in the morning, or doing housework. They're like audiobooks, only free! They're like TV in that they entertain you, but you can do other things at the same time. It's a winning formula for me! My top two apps for accessing podcasts are Spotify and iTunes (the apps are right on my iPhone, and that's where I do all my listening). When I know I'm going to be out of wifi or decent mobile service (hello rural Manitoba) I download episodes in advance. The world of podcasts seems absolutely endless, and I'm always discovering new ones.

What are my favourite podcasts?
Yoga/Wellness/Health
1) Modern Yoga: Leo Cheung
2) Be the Light: Melanie Madhuri Phillips
3) From the Heart: Conversations with Yoga Girl (Rachel Brathen)
4) Light Work: Danielle LaPorte (hasn't launched yet but I'm super excited about this one)
5) Be Better: Dr. Greg Wells

Life/Self-Improvement
1) The Accidental Creative
2) The One Thing (absolutely love Episode 42 with Angela Duckworth on grit)

Travel
1) Zero to Travel: Jason Moore

For awhile now, I've been considering starting my own podcast as an accompaniment to my blog, but I just never seemed to find the time. I also wasn't completely certain how to do it, although I had a vague idea. That all changed in January when Dr. Kathy Sanford included a podcast as one of our assignments in our Advanced Research Methodologies course. She wanted us to use simple language to discuss our research topics and potential research designs for our doctoral work, and share our ideas through an audio interview that could be used as a podcast. I decided to collaborate with my friends Rob and Maya to record three episodes together, and my Kindergarten Diva podcast was born! I spent a day figuring out the ins and outs of the podcasting world, and I'll share that information with you today! First of all, my Kindergarten Diva podcast is available on this blog under the podcasts tab, and it's also on iTunes if you search "Kindergarten Diva" or follow this link. My goal for this week is to figure out how to get it on Google Play and/or Spotify.

First of all, why podcast? Podcasting is a fantastic way to quickly and easily share information in an accessible format with a real audience.

As an educator:
-professional learning and reflective practice
-share your classroom practice with others
-reflect on what is working and what isn't
-connect to a larger community of practice (educators and other partners around the world)
-share information with busy families and community members (especially if reading printed materials is an issue)

With your students:
-can create a podcast on any topic as a whole class or guided small groups in the early years
-learners can share their understandings of a topic (such as polar bears), provide directions on how to do something (coding for example), or raise awareness/issue a call to action (climate change)
-podcasting lends itself well to differentiated instruction and meeting the needs of diverse learners
-students do not need strong reading and writing skills to participate; instead they just need to be willing to share their voices
-students who are shy or non-verbal can still contribute. They can be in charge of sound effects with instruments, writing a script or developing interview questions, acting as a time keeper or researcher,  or setting up equipment. 
-podcasts are such a fun way to record reader's theatres or share favourite stories with a real world audience...and a fantastic way to build fluency and expression.

How to get started? Let me walk you through the steps!
Equipment Needed:
-device (laptop is what I've been using)
-microphone (the best quality you can afford--I have a Snowball back in my kindergarten classroom which is great. Currently I'm recording on a $20 microphone from Staples...because student life).

Software/Web Tools/Apps Needed:
-Audacity if you're using a PC (free download, then add the LAME mp3 encoder. It will help you do this the first time you try to export your recording as an mp3 file).
-Garage Band if you're using a Mac
-there are a number of apps out there for recording podcasts too. I played around with a few of them but gave up in frustration. Old school with Audacity worked best for me.
-an app/program to make cover art for your podcast (I used Rhonna Designs and Vanillapen, but any app that puts text on a photograph or background will work)

Podcast-hosting platform:
-I'm using Podbean, but there is a huge variety to choose from. I went with Podbean because it had good reviews, it was simple to use, and charged a low monthly fee to host my podcasts. If you are doing very little recording, it will host your podcasts for free, but I found I reached the monthly limit really fast.

Music/Sound Effects
-check out YouTube's copyright-free audio library or Freeplay Music
-I like to use the same 15 second clip of music as an introduction and conclusion
-just download a short clip as an mp3 file--if you choose clips that don't require attribution, that's all you need to do!

Now that you're ready to go with your equipment and tools, here are the steps in creating your podcast:
1) Use Audacity to record your podcast. Do a test run to see if your microphone is working and the sound quality is decent first! I find interviews to be really fun, but you can certainly just record yourself talking too.
2) Use Audacity's tools to edit--highlight and cut out pauses or sections that you're not happy with. Use fade in and fade out from the effects tab.
3) When you are happy with your podcast, save the project (it's some weird Audacity file format). Then export your podcast as an mp3 file.
4) Open a new file in Audacity and import your introductory music. Then import your podcast (the one you saved as an mp3). I know this sounds silly, but you can't add your mp3 music to the weird Audacity file format.  They both need to be mp3 files to join them together.
5) Highlight your podcast and choose the slider tool in the top tool bar (it has an arrow on each end) and slide your podcast down so it starts at the end of the music. You might choose to fade out the music so there's a nice transition.
6) If you are adding music to the end, either copy and paste your introductory music or add a new and different audio file. Use the slider tool to slide the music to the end of your podcast.
7) Make sure you are happy with how it sounds, then export it as an mp3.

Create cover art for your podcast:
1) In an app or program (Publisher would work too) of your choice, create a square image. Add text (the name of your podcast) and images/designs and save it as a JPEG. If you are given options about the resolution of the image, choose a low resolution as iTunes will not accept high-res images. I had to redo mine because it was too big.
Uploading your podcast:
1) Login to the podcast hosting site of  your choice.
2) Upload your podcast and enter all the correct information, giving it a catchy title.
3) At some point you will need to upload the cover art for your podcast. Use the image you just created (if you did it on your mobile device, email it to yourself or upload it to Microsoft One Drive or Google Drive).
4) Depending on the site you use, it will create a podcast player that you can embed into your blog or website (see the Podcasts section of my blog).
5) Your podcast hosting site will generate an RSS feed of your podcast. This is what you need to get it on iTunes, Google Play, and Spotify....this is why you can't just upload your mp3 file to iTunes Podcasts.
6) Find the RSS feed and copy it.
7) Visit the iTunes Connect site and login in with your Apple ID. Click on Podcasts, then follow the steps to add a new podcast, copying and pasting your RSS feed.
8) It will take a few days for iTunes to review and approve your podcast, but then it will show up in the Podcasts app!
9) I anticipate these steps are similar for Google Play and Spotify...I just haven't tried yet. And since I'm an iPhone user, iTunes Podcasts was my starting point.

Using podcasts with  your class:
1) If you have devices in your class, you could teach your students how to access the class podcasts in the podcasts app.
2) Or, you could embed your podcasts to a class blog (like I've done here) and create a shortcut for your students to click on to easily locate the podcasts.

Sharing your podcasts:
1) Once your podcasts are uploaded, share the link through social media...I recommend Twitter or Facebook.  Instagram isn't really ideal because link-sharing is limited to one URL in your profile. Although, you could place your most recent podcast there or the link to your podcast channel.
2) If you don't use social media in your classroom, email the link to parents, post it to the school website, or send it home in a newsletter with steps detailing how to access the podcast.

And there you have it! It might take some trial and error, but there are many YouTube tutorial videos to help you. Before you know it, you'll be podcasting like a pro. If you teach older students, don't hesitate to figure out these steps with your class...some students have a lot of tech knowledge and can be a great resource. If you are fortunate enough to have an ICT teacher-leader (like Leah Obach in Park West School Division) or an ICT consultant (like Mike Thiessen in Fort La Bosse), ask them to support you as you begin this process. Two brains are always better than one!

Good luck! And, if you have any suggestions for future Kindergarten Diva podcast episodes, please comment below or connect with me on Twitter at @india0309.  I'd love to hear from you!


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