When I first started working with middle school students to create a class podcast, I
didn’t really know what I was getting
myself into. That was in 2005, before
i Tunes became a podcast aggregator.
Few student podcasts were available
at that time, so I didn’t have anyone
to rely on for support or guidance,
for either the curricular or technical
aspects of the show.
So we learned as we went, using
trial and error as our guide. My podcast journalism students, who dubbed
themselves the Podsquad, created the
CDS News podcast. CDS News is completely student written, filmed, and
It was the Podsquad that decided to
add a new dimension to the newscast
by embedding video, thus turning the
podcast into a vodcast. I upgraded my
basic journalism class, changing both
By Steven Katz
the curriculum and teaching methodology to support the transition to
The students have benefited greatly
from their involvement in the show. I
have seen each group of students im-
prove writing and speaking skills, be-
come more comfortable in front of the
camera, and grow as journalists. I have
seen their confidence and maturity
develop as they have taken control of
the show and made it their own.
My experiences teaching pod- and
vodcasting to my students prompt-
ed me to create an instructional
podcast called Teach with Video to
support my recent publication of
the same name.
If you are considering pod- or
vodcasting with your students,
here’s a guide to the tools I use
and the steps I took to get started.
I created all of my podcasts using
Garage Band, which comes free with
a Mac. For PC users, I recommend
using Audacity, which also is free and
easy to use.
After recording voice and adding
music and sound effects, I export the
audio file to i Tunes and add the show
title and logo to the file. Then, using
i Tunes, I convert the file to MP3 format.
I use Fetch, a simple FTP program,
to put the MP3 file online so listeners
can access it. I purchased Web hosting for my websites from siteground.
com, and I upload the vodcast there. If
you do not have a server to host your
podcast, I recommend trying out one
of many free podcast-hosting services,
such as Libsyn or PodOmatic, or adding your podcast to your blog. One
advantage of free podcast hosting services is that you upload using a Web
browser, and the hosting services will
write the feed automatically, saving
you the hassle of doing it yourself.
I use a basic cut-and-paste for the
RSS feed, changing only the file name,
description, and show title. If you
have never dabbled in writing an RSS
feed, don’t. It is extremely frustrating
because one typo disables the feed.
I recommend downloading Podcast
Maker. I input the information about
the podcast, select the MP3 file, and
publish the feed to my website. It is
quick and easy. Podcast Maker has a
free 30-day trial and costs $30 if you
choose to buy it. It is worth every
penny for its ease of use. I will never
write another RSS feed again.
When I started CDS News, I had only
a vague idea of how many people subscribed to the show. I wanted to get
podcast statistics, such as the number
of subscribers and the number of
downloads. Once I got Podcast Maker
to create my podcast feed in XML, I set
up a Feedburner account, which was
time consuming but not difficult. It allows me to analyze traffic. I can check
the number of subscribers whenever I
want and find out which episodes were
downloaded on any given day.
Once I got set up, I submitted my
podcast to the i Tunes Store. Next, I set
up a WordPress blog for the CDS News
show and added podPress, which also
provides tracking information.
CDS News has been averaging more
than 170 views per show, which I
think is excellent considering there
are only about 180 students in our
middle school. I have been so happy
with the statistics from podPress that I
recently started using it with my Teach
with Video podcast as well. It is a great
complement to FeedBurner. I suggest
The process of setting all of this up
(Feedburner and podPress) can be
frustrating because very little support
is available. A great resource for help
30 Learning & Leading with Technology | November 2009