Podcasting FAQ

podcasting

This FAQ is a mirror of the FAQ on the Empowering Modern Learners website. The purpose of this “FAQ” page is to provide some information that might help you get started.

Question Index

  1. What equipment should I use?
  2. What equipment do you use?
  3. What software do you use?
  4. What site do you use to publish/host your podcast?
  5. What is your creative process?
  6. How can I use podcasting with my students?
  7. Resources

1. What equipment should I use?

You might already have the equipment you need to get started experimenting and recording. For example, iPads come standard with a microphone that you and/or your students can use to record audio. There are also free apps (such as Anchor) than can be downloaded that record and publish podcasts in one step (this limits the ability to edit and the quality is not always the highest). If you wish to edit and have more control on an iPad, you might consider using GarageBand to record and edit. There are also easy to use web sites that have free options to publish your audio such as PodOmatic, which is purely for podcasters, or SoundCloud, which is a tool for publishing any kind of audio files.

2. What equipment do you use?

For our EML Podcast, we purchased specific equipment so that sound quality of the audio was high. Additionally, we needed to design the “studio” so that up to four people could comfortably carry on a conversation and have the recording be mixed properly.

The mixer we use was chosen because it has a USB output so that digital audio can be sent directly to a computer application (in our case, Audacity). Here is the list of equipment we use for our podcast. The cost was about $1300 for a four microphone configuration:

Item Cost Description
Mixer $249.99 Mackie ProFX8v2 8-Channel Professional FX Mixer with USB
Mic x 4 4 x $128.99 Shure SM58 Dynamic
XLR cable – 6′ x 4 4 x $12.99 UGREEN XLR Male To XLR Female Microphone Cable Microphone Extension Cord
Mic Stand x 4 4 x $20.00 ChromaCast Adjustable Table/Bass Drum Microphone Stand
Power bar $33.99 Nekteck Power Strip/Surge Protector Flat Wall Plug with 10 AC Outlets, 15W 3-Port USB
headphone amp $78.20 CAD Audio HA4 4-Channel Stereo Headphone Amplifier
Headphones x 4 4 x $35.99 TASCAM TH02 Closed-Back
stereo patch $20.82 Seismic Audio-SATRX-F6-Yellow 6-Feet 1/4-Inch TRS to 1/4-Inch TRS Patch Cable
TOTAL $1,174.88
TAXES $152.73
GRAND TOTAL $1,327.61
podcasting

We highly recommend a circular table for your podcast setup (unlike the above image).
A round table allows four people to comfortably see each other while recording the conversation.

Some teachers have asked about a similar configuration but one that would match a budget of about $750. The equipment list below also supports four microphones but is less expensive (and slightly lower in quality):

Item Cost Description
Mixer $229.99 Mackie ProFX8v2 8-Channel Professional FX Mixer with USB
Mic x 4
(comes with stand
and XLR cable)
4 x $64.90 Marantz Professional MPM-1000 Condenser (XLR)
headphone amp $39.00 Behringer HA400 Compact 4-Channel
Headphones x 4 4 x $35.99 TASCAM TH02 Closed-Back
stereo patch $10.30 1/4″ TRS Patch Cable
TOTAL $677.85  
TAXES $88.12  
GRAND TOTAL $765.97

Please note that we are not intending to promote amazon or any specific product. We are simply sharing the list of equipment we use and amazon provides descriptive information about the specifications of each product. Also, we are aware prices fluctuate and many of the above prices will be different if you follow the links. Shop around, of course, and look for quality, comparable equipment for the lowest price.

Here is comparable equipment list from Long & McQuade who are an approved vendor at PDSB:

Description Cost Total
Shure SM58 microphone 4 x $129 $516
XLR Cables 4 x $10 $40
Desktop Mic stand 4 x $18 $72
Mixer 1 x $329 $329
Headphones 4 x $18 $72
Headphone Amp 1 x $60 $60
TRS patch 1 x $10 $10
Total $1099.00
Tax $142.87
Grand Total $1241.87

3. What software do you use?

The mixer sends the digital audio signals to a laptop computer running Audacity. It is a free, easy-to-use, multi-track audio editor and recorder for Windows, Mac OS X, GNU/Linux and other operating systems. The interface is translated into many languages. Audacity is free software, developed by a group of volunteers and distributed under the GNU General Public License (GPL).

We also use Audacity to edit our podcast and produce the MP3 file that contains our weekly show. You will need to download an MP3 encoder if you wish to export MP3 files from Audacity. We downloaded the recommended LAME MP3 encoder.

4. What site do you use to publish/host your podcast?

WP_logoWe use WordPress to host our podcast using the ‘personal’ plan (the least expensive). That plan comes with 6GB of data storage plus a very handy automatic feature that produces the RSS feed URL that Apple iTunes needs to publish our podcast there. We also chose WordPress because one of the goals of our podcast is that it would serve as a resource for professional development. Therefore, we required the capability to produce a corresponding blog post for each podcast so that links and resources mentioned could be shared. We refer to these as our ‘show notes’ pages.

As noted above, there are also “no cost” options you can use to host your podcast. Some of these free options are:

There are a many other options but this might help you to get started.

5. What is your creative process?

Our podcast has four goals:

  1. Increase awareness and understanding of PDSB’s Empowering Modern Learners vision
  2. Deprivatization of teacher professional practices
  3. Become a repository of ideas related to modern teaching practices, equity, and educational technology
  4. Be informative but also entertaining

Our podcast episodes are usually thematic and we try to align the entire podcast to the ideas expressed by our weekly guest. Each episode is made up of three parts:

  1. Screen Shot 2018-06-20 at 10.01.42 PM.pngWhat’s New in Empowering Modern Learners – Amit and Jim are resource teachers who support a large number of schools the Peel region of Ontario, Canada. Experiences are shared each week from our work in schools in this part. (5-10 mins)
  2. Guest Interview – We try to interview a wide variety of guests so that listeners can hear real voices of teachers and other educators in our board. (10-15 mins)
  3. Weekly Share – Amit and Jim are always learning and always encountering valuable resources. This is a chance for us to let listeners know what we’re reading, conferences we’ve been to, things we’ve learning from teachers and students in our schools, and so on. (5-10 mins)

Part 2 (the Guest Interview) is always recorded first. This gives us insight into the content we will share in parts 1 and 3. We also choose our episode title after the interview has been completed. We try to keep the length of each podcast episode to about 30 minutes.

We do not script our podcasts and we do not have a list of questions ready to ask our guests. Our aim is to be cognizant of the needs of our audience and so we try to be as conversational as possible while being as informative as possible. Despite the fact that we do not write a script, we do prepare in advance of recording each podcast. We each have the main points of what we want to share written in advance so that we can be efficient and keep the momentum going in the conversation.

6. How can I use podcasting with my students?

A simple search in Google for podcasting ideas with students will yield hundreds of ideas and examples. Nevertheless, here are some very specific ideas and examples of how podcasting can be used by students to be creative, to communicate, to tell stories, to organize information, to share ideas, to collaborate, and so on.

  • Storytelling – bringing stories to life with real voice/voices, music, sounds, effects, etc. and publishing for a larger (potential) audience (creating a narrative podcast is a complex, multi-layered endeavour that will engage students and provide an opportunity to learn about communication, writing, listening, editing, design thinking, project management, collaboration within a project-based learning context.) Curriculum expectations and big ideas can be easily become the content of the podcast. Students can write their own stories and simply read them or they can dramatize their stories. They can dramatize fellow students’ stories or stories written by established authors. They can take a musical piece as background music and match a poem or story they write to it.
  • Reflection – assessment as learning can be activated consistently when students have a structure in which they can think about the process of their learning and what they have learned. It is often useful for students to interview each other so that the reflections are more meaningful (and easier, too, as both students will share the context). They will also benefit from exploring each other’s reflections in a formal or semi-formal way (that the podcasting format makes possible).
  • News and updates – classroom updates in the form of a news broadcast or a report turned in by a mobile reporter can be an interesting and engaging way to communicate what is going in a project, classroom, grade, club, team, group, or school (or school board). The podcast can be shared with the school and greater community, which can then engage parents, too.
  • Reviews – a book, video, movie, and game reviews are usually an engaging area for students to create media texts. Podcasting invites students to prepare content and ideas to share in a conversational way with a partner. This is often why talk shows, radio shows, and movie reviewers on TV/YouTube often have a partner to talk to and pull information out of each other. This is a excellent skill and balances competencies such as communication, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and empathy. Dramatic components can also be engaged when performing with a partner or group.
  • Inquiry timeline – Assessment and triangulation strategies for inquiry-based learning (and project-based learning) need to flexible, open and straightforward enough that will be used consistently. Students can use podcasting to produce an “inquiry podcast” in which they post short updates every week or so about the story (progress/process) of their inquiry so far. They can describe and reflect upon actions taken, the status of the inquiry, plans for the coming week and month, new questions they have.
  • Documentary – The CBC has a long history of radio documentary production and there are resources to help students learn more about production (NPR in the USA also has resources). The podcast itself can become the primary container for the information and learning that occurs during the exploration of a wide variety of topics such as social justice issues, historical issues, environmental or political issues, and so forth. All of the phases of production can serve as a learning structure for students during the production of their documentary podcast.

7. Resources

Here are some podcasting resources that you might find interesting:

(Written by Jim Cash, May, 2018. Updated October, 2018.)