Created by Ruth Elliott

Welcome! Join me as I reflect on my learning journey with Web 2.0 tools. I'm sure I will find bandwagons to jump on along the way. Let's enjoy the trip.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

From Zero to Hero in less than a day

On Friday morning I did not know what a podcast was. I wrote my panicky post about snap or snow peas (in a pod?). Then I got down to business. By 1:00 a.m. I had created a podcast and uploaded it to my blog. I'm really not much of a hero since I had lots of help along the way. So what was the process that I went through to figure out this new web tool.

First of all, I read our textbook (Richardson, 2006) to see what Will had to say. I felt so much better when I realized that a podcast was like a radio show. I understand radio. When I was a little girl living in southern Saskatchewan, my parents had an old radio similar to the one in the picture. (House on the corner image, Flickr) My parents loved to listen to the news, especially on CBC radio. What I liked best was the children's radio show that came on every morning after breakfast. We didn't have a television (my parents didn't think it was good for kids) so I got my media fix by sitting listening to the show with its songs and stories every morning before I went out to play on the swing or see-saw outside. I don't know the name of the show and my parents are both gone so I can't ask them.

A little later, when I was entering my teen years, I discovered that there was music o

Frank SinatraFrank Sinatra via

n the radio (not just the classical stuff my parents listened to). The first song I fell in love with was by Frank Sinatra and his daughter Nancy "Somethin' Stupid Like I Love You". This song was a hit in 1967. I found a You Tube video of the song.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized that podcasting was "the creation and distribution of amateur radio" (Richardson, 2006, p. 112). As I went through the Trailfire videos, I realized that it was relatively simple--you needed a way to record audio; you needed to change that audio file into an MP3 file; you needed space on a server to store the MP3 file; you needed a blog to post the podcast to; and lastly, it was helpful to have something to say.

Since I usually have something to say, I started thinking about what I should do with my podcasting power. At first I thought that I could sing harmonies with a CD that my sister, Dorothea, had recorded five years ago. However, that day, besides working on this class, I was trying to finish up a project that was four years old. That project was the Caswell Homes project. Over four years ago, I was teaching in a gifted education class at the Caswell Community School. The Caswell Hill neighbourhood is one of the older neighbourhood's in the

Mr. HockeyImage by PatTorfe via Flickr

city of Saskatoon. As I was driving through the neighbourhood, I noticed once again how beautiful many of the homes were. I thought, "My new Grade five students next year should research some of these beautiful homes". I got a committee of senior citizens together--those who knew a lot about the neighbourhood. With their help, I selected 25 homes (one for each of my students). The homes had to be old or beautiful or have a story to tell. All were built between 1908 and 1929. Gordie Howe lived in one home. A streetcar crashed into one home. An elderly man was murdered in one home. My students used Henderson Directories to discover who had lived in each house throughout its history. Then they uncovered stories related to the houses or someone who had lived in the houses. One student told the story of the Tidy Diaper Service. Another told the story of a homeowner/dairy farmer who watered down his milk with water from his contaminated well. Ten people contracted typhoid fever and he was charged with a crime.

At one point in this entire process, a community member asked me to rewrite the Caswell Hill walking tour using stories from these houses. I never had time to do this.

Last Friday, I was finally going around to all of the houses from this research project to deliver a final report. The report included a database giving all the dates with the homeowners for each house. Students had interviewed community members and neighbours to uncover stories about the houses. The stories for each house were included in the report.

After walking around the neighbourhood to deliver the reports, those stories and the walking tour idea were in my thoughts on Friday evening as I wondered what I could say on a podcast. Blink, the lights went on--why not make a walking tour podcast? In fact, I could see this as something very workable as a real project. Next year, Caswell School is celebrating its 100th Anniversary. Possibly I could organize five mini-walking tours which would fan out from the school. People could download the podcasts for each tour and listen to the podcast at each house. (You can tell that I get carried away with ideas quite often. I figure that, as Howard Hendricks said long ago, "If [I] want somebody else to bleed, [I need] to hemorrhage." [1973, p. 46])

That evening I began working on making a podcast. One difficulty I encountered was that this was the first web tool for which I needed to use new hardware. (I'm not good with the hardware--where to plug things in, etc.) I needed a microphone to hook up to my computer. I called on my husband and my daughter who helped get a microphone working for me. Then I recorded my first podcast and saved it on my hard drive. Richardson (2006) suggested downloading Audacity which I did. On the Audacity site, it suggested downloading Lame to turn my file into an MP3 file. I did all of this but then ran into difficulties uploading my MP3 to the internet. I went to the site but after filling in the registration form, was left hanging in cyberspace for a long time. I turned to Google for help. When I typed in MP3 and upload, I was given many choices for additional help. I quickly realized that it was difficult if not impossible to upload MP3 or audio podcasts into blogger. It would be easier if I had a blog through wordpress which allows the user to upload podcasts. I came across a very complicated way in which I could attach my podcast to a picture and then upload the podcast as a vodcast or video file. It was very complicated plus I wanted to upload a podcast.

Then, thanks to Adam Taha's YouTube video called How to Upload Your MP3 on your Blogger or Wordpress Step by Step, I was able to upload my podcast directly into my blog. (Once again the collective wisdom of the internet comes through.) Adam recommended using (which took the place of I was so pleased when my podcast was in place. I inserted two pictures of the houses that I talked about in the podcast and went off to bed (at 2:00 a.m.) delighted and feeling successful.

I can see why Richardson (2006) suggests creating a podcast and uploading it for yourself before asking your students to do it. It can be a very time-consuming and frustrating process. However, in the end, it is very satisfying to be able to create something personal in this way. I am tickled pink with my production.

Hendricks, H. (1973). Say it with love. Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books.
Richardson, W. (2006). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press.
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