Overall Rating: 5 stars
Ease of Use: A+
Product Support: A+
Company: Tool Factory, Inc., 3336 Sunderland Hill Road, Sunderland, VT 05250. Phone: (800) 220-8386; Fax: (802) 375-6860; Internet: www.toolfactory.com.
Price: $99—Single license, educational use; $299.99—five-pack; $499.99—10-pack; $999.99—25-pack.
Audience: Grades K–12
Format: CD-ROM: text, graphics, audio, video
Minimum System Requirements: For Windows systems only.
Windows XP (SP2) or Vista, 300 MHz (650 MHz recommended); 128 MB (256 MB recommended); 300 MB hard-drive space (600 MB recommended); 1024 x 768 resolution; sound card; microphone; and speakers or headphones. FTP access is needed to post podcasts on the Web.
Description: Tool Factory Podcasting provides the tools to create and publish podcasts, the audio broadcasts in MP3 and WAV formats that can be downloaded from the Web to computers and portable media players for future listening.
Installation: I used the software on an HP computer using Windows XP, Version 5.1. Installation was simple and quick. Installation Rating: A
Content/Features: Tool Factory Podcasting combines a scripting tool, sound recorder, uploading features, and a broadcast utility into a single, straightforward program designed to create audio files with music and sound effects.
The software comes in a bundle that includes software that lets educators write, record, edit, and post podcast scripts. It also includes a copyright-free music and sound-effects library on CD, a subscription to the Clip Art Station online library of copyright-free audio and images, 3 months of free online podcast hosting on Web Page Station, and an instructional guide to podcasting.
The software is very easy to use. In fact, this is the best podcasting program I have yet encountered. The instructional materials help new users get up to speed very quickly.
The steps are simple. Give the podcast a name and a brief description. Add an episode to the podcast and write a brief description. Create chapters for the episode, to segment and organize the information.
Type or paste the text into the script area, and enter the names of the actors. To assign the text, highlight the script and click on the actor’s speech bubble. The script will be color-coded automatically.
Record the script, then edit and add the music. The audio editor makes it simple to add music and delete unwanted sounds. A tool bar allows you to change the color of fonts and windows.
A Tool Factory Podcasting Kit is also available. The kit, priced at $249.99, contains everything in the software bundle, as well as an Olympus digital voice recorder, a microphone with noise-reduction features, 6 months of free online podcast hosting on Web Page Station, and a copy of Tool Factory’s Simple Guide to Podcasting, a book with an accompanying CD-ROM.
The Simple Guide to Podcasting is the best instruction manual I have ever seen. The guide provides step-by-step illustrated directions and a comprehensive explanation of what podcasting is and how it works. I found the history section so fascinating that I made it required reading for my class before we even explored a single project.
The guide offers blackline masters that guide students through each step of the process. Every piece of equipment that can be used is illustrated with pictures and described thoroughly in easy-to-understand language. The Technical Side chapter offers detailed information for the more advanced user.
Tool Factory’s Simple Guide to Podcasting is also available for individual purchase at a cost of $19.98 for a single copy or a classroom set of 25 books and one CD for $429.95.
Classroom Applications: Twelve months ago, I didn’t even know what a podcast was. Today, I can’t imagine how I ever did without them. My students and I are captivated by the many uses of podcasting. Students can create projects, teachers can record lessons, and parents can become active participants in the learning process.
Podcasts can be developed as part of a curriculum unit to review and share learned concepts. Student stories can be turned into podcasts divided into daily or weekly episodes. Podcasts can take any of the following forms: debate, interview, news report, discussion, travelogue, drama, story, music, or personal journal. Students can collaborate with others in their hometown or around the world through podcasting. They can investigate issues and share viewpoints and data.
Students can also create a podcast for students new to the school. They can record assignment directions for those who miss class. Oral reports, unit reviews, chapter summaries, and updates on special events can all be presented through podcasts.
Podcasting can be used for teacher training, communicating with others, public outreach services, and student projects related to core curriculum.
Tool Factor Podcasting makes it possible for anyone, from beginners to advanced users, to embrace this new technology. A free 30-day trial is available online. Content/Features Rating: A+
Ease of Use: Online tutorial guides and a step-by-step demo steer the user through each feature of the program with easy-to-understand illustrations. A “Getting Started” manual provides information on program features. Ease of Use Rating: A+
Product Support: Product support is provided through a “Getting Started” manual, online tutorials, an online demo program, and email and toll-free telephone technical support. Product Support Rating: A+
Recommendation: Tool Factory Podcasting promotes creativity and is easy to use. This product is a welcome addition to the effort of infusing creativity into our standards-based classrooms. I can’t imagine another product that makes podcasting so easy to use and to understand. A major strength of this software is its ability to help distance learners, struggling readers, special-needs students, and English as a Second Language learners, all of whom can benefit from hearing instruction presented through podcasts.
Every teacher needs podcasting in his or her classroom to provide challenging and motivational activities that promote learning for all students. I highly recommend this product to teachers in every grade level! Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Sally Finley, Teacher of the Gifted, Country Hills Elementary School, Coral Springs, FL.