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A LOOK AT ... The Podcasting Phenomenon

By Charles G. Doe - Posted Nov 1, 2007
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The speed at which podcasting is spreading is phenomenal! This versatile technology is entering the educational arena almost as fast as it entered the technology mainstream a while ago.

In case you’ve missed it, a podcast is a digital media file distributed over the Internet using syndication feeds for playback on computers, portable media players such as iPods, and other media players. The term "podcast" can mean either the content or the method by which the content is syndicated (also known as "podcasting"). Syndication in this sense is a way of marking files.

A podcast is different from other digital media formats because it can be syndicated (licensed to use), subscribed to, and downloaded automatically using an appropriate aggregator or feed reader. Podcasting is the automatic transfer of multimedia computer files from a server to a client. Usually, podcasts contain ­audio or video, but they can also contain images, text, PDF files, or any type of file.

Podcasts allow students and teachers to easily share information. An absent student can download the podcast of a recorded lesson. Teachers or administrators can communicate curriculum, assignments, and other information with parents and the community. Both video and audio podcasts offer a new and fresh way of presenting reports.

Podcasts are created in about five steps. Preproduction involves planning the project, including thinking about the audience, name, format, and a number of other details. Students also need to practice what they’re going to say before recording it. The next step is to record the material. Among other things, postproduction involves putting the electronic file clips in the correct order, eliminating unnecessary pauses or interruptions, adding music and sound effects, and so on.

When the production is completed, the entire file needs to be converted to an appropriate format such as MP3 and uploaded to a server to be given a Web page and an RSS feed. This is probably the most technical part of the process—it can be done nearly automatically by some of the software mentioned in this article. Specialized software is also available for this purpose.

Depending on your level of expertise, there are a number of ways to create and distribute a podcast. The software discussed here automates and simplifies the process for novices and experienced users alike. Even younger students can become podcasters. 

Much of the podcasting software covered here is designed for use with Windows-based computer systems. In general, many software developers tend to think they can’t compete with the price of the free GarageBand software that comes with Apple computers.

It is also worth mentioning that many free podcasting resources are available on the Internet. The advantage of paying for products like the ones listed here is program completeness and reliability. Generally, the resources discussed here are complete packages, and the entire podcasting process can be done using them, instead of using three or four programs and Web sites. Most have excellent documentation and no advertising, unlike many free online resources.

This article isn’t intended to be a comprehensive review of all of the available podcasting resources. It is intended only to be a survey of the possibilities. The listed prices may change before the publication date. It is always best to contact companies directly for specific price information, including volume discounts.

Podcasting Software

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This article is available in its entirety in a variety of formats — Preview (free), Full Text, Text+Graphics, and Page Image PDF — on a pay-per-view basis, courtesy of ITI's InfoCentral. CLICK HERE.


 
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