2006 IEEE Education Society's
Distinguished Lecture Series
Prof. Burks Oakley II
University of Illinois
Presentation Three - “The What, Why and How of Podcasting.”
Welcome back! This is Burks Oakley, and I’m speaking to you from my office at the University of Illinois in Urbana, Illinois, USA. I’m pleased to be with you today as part of the first 2006 IEEE Education Society’s Distinguished Lecture Series. This is the third presentation I’m giving as part of this series. It is entitled “The What, Why and How of Podcasting.” I’m really excited about the potential for podcasting to have a significant impact on teaching and learning in higher education. And I hope to share some of my excitement for this new technology with you in today’s presentation.
You may remember that in my first presentation on blogs, I said that the word “blog” was the 2004 word of the year. Well, the editors of the New Oxford American Dictionary announced in late 2005 that their selection for the 2005 Word of the Year was “podcast.” So the technologies I have been talking about in these presentations, blogs and podcasting, are certainly very timely.
Here we have the definition of podcasting, as taken from the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia. Basically, podcasting describes the technologies for automatically distributing audio over the Internet. The audio typically is an mp3 file, and it is distributed over the Internet using a publisher/subscriber model, meaning that this is done using RSS. And I covered RSS in great detail in the previous presentation in this series. RSS is the publisher/subscriber model referred to in this definition. Podcasting differs from earlier online delivery of audio because it automatically transfers the digital media, that is, the mp3 files, to the user’s computer for later listening. And it does this through an RSS feed.
Podcasting actually comes about by combining two words, “iPod” and “broadcasting.” This is actually very unfortunate, because you don’t need an iPod to listen to a podcast. A podcast is simply an mp3 file that you can play on any computer with a sound card and speakers. Since this process involves a posting to an audio blog, we could talk about “audio blogging”, but that’s really rather awkward terminology. Some people have talked about POD-casting where “POD” is capitalized, and stands for Personal-On-Demand, so we combine “Personal-On-Demand” and “broadcasting” and get POD-casting. But the important thing to realize is that you don’t need an iPod to listen to a podcast.
As I mentioned, a podcast is really just an mp3 file that gets distributed through an RSS feed. The way this typically is done is to provide a link to the mp3 file in a blog posting. You need specialized software, then, to subscribe to the RSS feed for a podcast and automatically download the mp3 file, and that software is called “podcatching” software. It “catches” the podcast, if you will. And popular podcatching software includes iTunes and what formerly was iPodder, which is now called Juice. This software allows the user to subscribe to an RSS feed for a podcast, and then through RSS, the software automatically checks for new podcasts and downloads the podcasts as soon as they become available. Now you see why I have been talking about blogs and RSS, since together they are used to distribute podcasts.
As the author of a podcast, you simply have to record (or really create) an mp3 file and put it on a web server. And then you simply link to the mp3 file in your blog posting, so that information about the mp3 file will show up as part of the RSS feed. And RSS 2.0 includes an “enclosure” tag, which is designed to hold the information about the mp3 file – that is, the hyperlink to the mp3 file. And you can see by the big red arrow in this slide, this is exactly how I distribute my podcasts. Remember that I create my blog postings using the free software at Blogger.com. And, as you can see by the red arrow, the Blogger.com software includes a link box where I enter the hyperlink to the mp3 file that represents the podcast.
The listener to the podcast then simply has to subscribe to the RSS feed for the blog using free podcatching software, something like iTunes from Apple.com. Then new podcasts are automatically downloaded to the user’s PC whenever the software detects a new podcast is available, and it does this through RSS, as I covered in the second presentation in this series. The mp3 file then can be played within the iTunes window on the listener’s PC, or opened using any software that will play mp3 files. Of course, if you do have a portable mp3 player, the mp3 files can then be “synched”, as it’s called, synchronized to the portable mp3 player for anytime and anyplace listening. Something a number of people are now referring to as mobile learning – m-learning – because you don’t have to be sitting in front of your computer to listen to the presentation.
On this slide, you see a screen shot of iTunes on my Window’s desktop, and you can see a number of podcasts that I subscribe to – these again will be downloaded automatically to my PC whenever a new podcast is available and the iTunes software is running. And so typically each day when I start up my computer, and then start the iTunes software, the software spends several minutes downloading a number of mp3 files to my computer – it takes a while, since I subscribe to so many different podcasts, and often these mp3 files are as large as 10 or 20 megabytes. I can highlight a particular podcast, and then click on the play button in the upper left corner of this screen and listen to it. Or again, when I hook up my iPod to my computer through a USB port, it will download these mp3 files, these podcasts, to my portable mp3 player, and then I can listen to them anywhere.
There are many good reasons that we should be podcasting. I’ll be talking about the pedagogy of podcasting – what some people are now calling ‘podagogy’, the pedagogy of podcasting, and it really depends on the power of the spoken word. Just as we have a narration for this PowerPoint presentation, the spoken word is indeed very powerful. It appeals to auditory learners. It again promotes anytime and anyplace learning since students can copy these files, these podcasts, to their portable mp3 players and then can listen to them while walking across the campus, while sitting on a bus or riding on a subway, or even while sitting in the cafeteria having breakfast or lunch. In an educational setting, a podcast can capture the instructor’s enthusiasm for the material. It allows the students to listen to the material over and over again, and can be accessed at any time. And of course, with this technology, instructors can bring in guest lectures, debates, virtual field trips and so on.
There are really a number of different types of podcasts that we can have in higher education. And I’ve just listed a few here on this slide: a presentation where we discuss new material, or a summary presentation where we would review the course material or review the discussions over the past week, or a presentation where we would look ahead to the next week in the class. Podcasts are really great for interviews. You could take a portable recorder to a conference and record an interview with a distinguished person in your field. Certainly you can bring in guest lecturers by having them record mp3 files for distribution to your class. You can record a debate between several scholars in a field, or record a campus seminar and then having this available for students who missed the seminar on campus or students who are off campus. I’ve heard several very interesting podcasts of a virtual field trip, for example, walking through a museum and pausing in front of famous paintings and talking about what a viewer would see. And, then, finally the last bullet on this slide, student presentations – I think we can do a great deal with students making their own podcasts, presenting their own thoughts, by having them produce their own digital audio.
Why is podcasting catching on now? Why was it the 2005 Word of the Year? Well, Jon Udell who is the lead analyst at InfoWorld, published in one of his blogs a number of major factors behind this explosive growth in podcasting; the reference to this blog posting is actually at the bottom of this screen. And the reasons that Mr. Udell lists include the following: Internet activity is pervasive, it seems that everyone has Internet access these days. We have broadband access that really has grown very rapidly; more than half of the homes in the United States now have broadband. College campuses are wired with broadband, off-campus apartments are wired (with broadband), and this is important, because mp3 files can be very large, perhaps one megabyte per minute of presentation. A multi-media personal computer can be more or less taken for granted. That is, computers now have a sound card and speakers. iPods are becoming pervasive; the rapid adoption of these portable mp3 players is really quite an interesting phenomenon. Walking across the college campus now, I see so many students listening to their iPods, undoubtedly listening to music and not podcasts. And finally, we now have new ways to get around copyright concerns. Creative Commons licensing, something that I really suggest you look into. Creative Commons licensing permits the distribution of copyrighted material – in fact, I’m distributing the material in my presentations in this series for the IEEE Education Society using a version of a Creative Commons license.
How do you create a podcast? Well, it’s actually very simple. One can download free software called Audacity, it’s linked on this slide, and use an inexpensive microphone (under 10 dollars in the United States, as shown in the upper right of this slide), a very inexpensive microphone that plugs directly into a PC. You can then record directly into your PC using the Audacity software. And in the lower left of this slide, you see a screenshot of a Window’s computer running Audacity, showing how it’s possible to take a file, in this case some music, and selectively change the volume of that soundtrack. You can mix in music with voice very easily with this free software. [music] At the other extreme, you could use a digital solid state recorder to record your podcasts, as shown in the bottom right of this slide, that’s a Marantz PMD660 recorder – and actually that’s what I’m using to record this series of presentations for the IEEE Distinguished Lecture Series. And, in fact, that’s the unit that I use to record my own podcasts for my “Burks on Learning” podcast series; quite a bit more expensive, but it produces much higher quality audio recordings. And then you can use the Audacity software to edit the recorded audio files.
On this slide, I have a list of podcasts that I listen to regularly, the first one being my own podcast. I try and create one new podcast each week and publish it through my “Burks on Learning” blog. The second listing here is my “Burks’ Selections” series of podcasts, which are really some of the best podcasts that I’ve heard, and I make that available in one single RSS feed using my “Burks’ Selection” blog. The third example here is for the PAC442 Section B class that I teach at the University of Illinois at Springfield. With this podcast series, I typically have a weekly podcast reflecting back on the past week’s activities and looking forward to the coming week’s activities. Next is Margaret Maag. Margaret is a Professor of Nursing at the University of San Francisco. And she has a wonderful podcast series with interviews of faculty in higher education. She has some very creative ideas on how to use podcasting in nursing education, and it is very insightful to listen to her podcasts. The next podcast is NCQ Talk – which deals with topics at the intersection of technology and learning. Then comes “The World: Technology” podcast with a professional radio reporter, Clark Boyd, who produces several very interesting podcasts for the BBC and public radio each week. Of course, the PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer has two or three segments each day made available as a podcast, so that you can listen to them really anywhere on your iPod or portable mp3 player. Next is the Bryn Mawr Ed Tech Center – Bryn Mawr a private liberal arts college for women outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the United States, with a wonderful series of presentations about learning technologies from their Ed Tech center. And finally, last on this list, Susan Smith Nash, the self-professed E-Learning Queen, with some very, very thoughtful pieces about higher education that she produces on a regular basis. So here we have a very large range of podcasts. I suggest you stop this presentation or come back later, and check out these links. See what they have, and subscribe via the RSS feeds to one or more of these and see what you get out of them.
I mentioned subscribing to a podcast, and I talked about RSS in the previous presentation, and in fact, here if you go to a blog, this case being my “Burks on Learning” blog where I have my podcast, you typically will view an icon labeled XML or RSS, as we saw in the previous presentation about RSS – or in this case, I have a icon labeled “POD”, as indicated by the large red arrow, to represent the RSS feed for the podcast. You can then right-click on this icon, copy the link location, and then go to iTunes and then paste in this address, as you would subscribe to an RSS feed with any RSS feed aggregator. But iTunes also provides something called iTune 1-click, and that icon is also shown here, as indicated by the large blue arrow, and clicking that icon will actually start up the iTunes software, and take you to a page where you can subscribe directly to the “Burks on Learning” podcast series. And more and more podcasts have this iTunes 1-click feature available, as well.
Here we see a number of podcasts that I routinely listen to. Well, actually, these links are to the blogs that have the podcasts associated with them. You’ll see many of these blogs are published at Blogspot.com. And, of course, you can visit each of these blogs every day and see if there is a new podcast. The beauty of RSS is that by subscribing to the RSS feeds one time, then the podcasts are delivered automatically to your iTunes software, whenever a new podcast becomes available.
There are now specialized search engines that are designed for finding podcasts. I’ve listed a number of them here: from Yahoo, PodcastAlley, Digital Podcast, Podcast.net, and Podscope.com. Each of these is a search engine that only searches through podcasts. Another very good source is the Apple Music Store, which you can access via iTunes once you’ve installed the free iTunes software on your PC. You can use the iTunes software to search for podcasts on topics that would be of interest to you, and then subscribe to the podcasts directly through the iTunes Music Store.
This is actually a screen shot showing what would happen if you went to the iTunes Music Store and searched on podcasts that included the name “Burks”. And, in fact, there are four such podcasts that show up. My podcasts are actually available through the iTunes Music Store, and as you can see here, you would simply click on an icon to subscribe, and they are indeed free. Clicking on the icon automatically subscribes the user to the RSS feed for that podcast.
There are certainly other ways to find podcasts. My colleagues, Prof. Ray Schroeder at the University of Illinois at Springfield, and Dr. Margaret Maag, at the University of San Francisco School of Nursing, are collaborating on a higher education podcast repository, which is at http://www.ed-cast.org. And here you see again that I’ve searched on “Burks Oakley”, and indeed here we see a number of podcasts that I have produced that show up in this repository. This higher education podcast repository is actually something that is still being beta tested. It will go into full production later in the spring. But I think it is really a great idea – and it will have content from around the world. It will be searchable and will have some of the really best podcasts available for use in higher education in a wide range of fields.
In today’s presentation, I’ve spoken about a number of different sources for podcasting, The Audacity, the free software for creating mp3 files, Blogger, the free web-based software for creating a blog in which you can include a hyperlink to the mp3 file that is your podcast. Blogspot, again the free website for publishing blogs that are created using Blogger.com, My “Burks on Learning” blog that has the podcasts that I produce. And finally the free Apple iTunes software, the podcatching software that is used for subscribing to podcast feeds. Note that all of this is free for you to use. This means that it isn’t very costly for an individual to start podcasting.
The one thing I have not mentioned is where you host the mp3 files on the web. In an academic setting, many of us have access to our University’s web-servers, as I do at the University of Illinois. But there are a number of issues if you go out commercially on the Internet and want to find a company to host your podcasts: How much capacity will the server have for you? What type of bandwidth will the server have, and will there be monthly transfer limitations? I mention this because podcasts can be as much as one megabyte per minute, so a 20 minute podcast might be 20 megabytes in size. If you have hundreds of people downloading this file, it could run into gigabytes of information being transferred each month. I’ve listed a number of commercial providers here that have different packages available, and I note that the last one there, OurMedia, is absolutely free. I would encourage you to open a free account at OurMedia.org and use this site for hosting your mp3 files.
I mentioned that a number of podcasts include not just a voice recording, but also mix-in music, and one wants to be very careful that the music being mixed will not cause any copyright violations. [music track] There are a number of sources on the web of what is called pod-safe music. That is, music that is not copyrighted or where the creator of the music encourages people to use it. Many bands that are getting started want people to use their music in podcasts, simply as a means of promotion. And again, I’ve listed a number of sources here that provide pod-safe music for free downloading.
I also mentioned that you can listen to podcasts with your portable mp3 player, and often that is done by having earphones, or earbuds, as they are called. But also it’s possible to listen in your car while driving, and that really makes for a different type of mobile learning, or M-learning. And here I’ve shown products from several companies that actually plug directly into a portable mp3 player, in this case, an iPod, and these units then broadcast the mp3 files on an unused FM radio station, so that you can listen to the podcast over your car’s audio system while driving – this certainly is a way to make your commuting time much more productive.
I’ve been talking about podcasting and speaking specifically about iPods. I happen to own an iPod, but there are certainly a number of other great alternatives to the iPod. A simple Google search on “portable mp3 players” turns up a wide variety of technologies, and here we see a number of them, from Creative Technology, iRiver, Sony, Archos and Dell, but there are many, many more.
And finally, let me just say there is a really great resource about podcasting in higher education called, “There’s Something in the Air: Podcasting in Education,” by Prof. Gardner Campbell, of Mary Washington University in Pennsylvania, USA. Prof. Campbell published a paper by this name in the EDUCAUSE Review in the latter part of 2005, and Prof. Campbell has also recorded a podcast in which he reads this article. He has a wonderful speaking voice, and I encourage you to take the time to listen to his podcast, in addition to reading his article. You can access both the paper and the podcast using the links on this slide.
This concludes the third presentation, “The What, Why and How of Podcasting.” If you have any questions, please send them directly to Rob Reilly. Rob is hosting this Distinguished Lecture Series for the IEEE Education Society. Rob’s email address is email@example.com. And, of course, you can find out more about me at my homepage, http://www.online.uillinois.edu/oakley/ or, of course, feel free to contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. This concludes the third presentation. Thanks for listening!