Monday, April 07, 2008

Lessons Learned As the Student Podcasts Arrive

A creative, tech-savvy music teacher at my school gave her students the assignment to create a podcast about gamelan music, since that is what they have been studying. She sent a letter home to the families explaining the project and the due date.

To her delight, a few days later, the first podcast came in and it was far better than she had expected. We figured out how to easily attach it to her web site and waited for the rest to arrive.

Now that they are pouring in, we are needing to overcome some technical difficulties. Here are a few things we discovered.

  • iTunes, or at least our flavor of it, wasn't liking the disks that came in in audio CD format. I assume they had been burned on a program such as Nero. Fortunately, we discovered that Real Player not only plays them, but by tweaking a preference, it will save them as mp3 files. This nicely compressed format was easy to upload to the website.
  • Audacity is a great tool for podcasting, but its files aren't portable. Saving Audacity projects generates both a .aup file and a separate data file. We have a student who keeps bringing in the .aup file. Since he doesn't have the LAME encoder plugin for Audacity at home, we are trying to get him to use Audacity's export command to turn it into a .WAV file. From what we read online, that should make the file portable.
  • Internet Explorer 7 doesn't have a very good upload engine; files move better with Firefox.
  • mp4 files play with in Real Player. For some reason, the podcast that arrived in this format plays fine on the teacher's computer, but when we attach it to the web page, the link isn't playable in the browser and when you try to right-click it to download it, you get a page not found error. We are trying to use to convert it to mp3.
No word yet from the teacher as to whether or not Zamzar did the trick. It is a handy website that lets you upload a media file or enter a URL (think YouTube video), select a format you want, and then enter your email address. The site converts the file to the selected format and then sends you a download link.

This is one of many ways you can download YouTube videos. I haven't tried it in it's latest version. Our system engineers tell me it works well, but slowly. It took 3 hours to capture a 4o MB YouTube video, but it worked.

Anyone else assigning podcasts as homework for elementary students? How did it go? How did most students record them? What format were they saved in?

I'll post the URL when the teacher is ready for visitors.