How to Publish a Student Podcast

If you’re a subscriber of EdTech Sauce, you might have listened to the previous episode where I discussed the secrets and benefits of creating a student podcast. If you haven’t listened to it already, then I urge you to go back and have a listen, even if you’re convinced you don’t want to try it. I promise, the benefits to students of this activity are far greater in number than you would expect.

If starting a podcast with your students is something you do want to try, this episode and the next episode will lay out the basics of how to make it work. This week I’m talking about getting published, and next week I’m talking about how to actually create the audio. This might sound back to front – talking about publishing audio before you’ve even recorded it, but I’m doing it this way because I think the idea of publishing the podcast is probably a greater barrier in people’s minds than actually recording it. Once you know the basics of how to get published, you’ll probably feel a lot more ready and willing to just roll on with getting recordings done.

Before I go any further, I should give a little disclaimer. If you stumbled across this episode because you’re searching for advice on how to launch a business or even hobbyist-level podcast then… stop. This advice won’t get you there. Podcasting for school is different because the requirements are different. If you want to publish a podcast with a growing audience, then there are a lot of behind the scenes details to worry about and creases to iron out. For example, you need to use a reliable host to store your audio files, you need to know how to create a feed, you’ve got to consider search engine optimization… the list will go on. These things cost time and money.

For a student podcast, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if the place that you store your audio files isn’t 100% reliable. 98% reliable is good enough for this purpose. Imagine you are subscribed to a professional podcast, the new episode comes out but for some reason it doesn’t download. Now imagine this happens again a week or so later. After some time, you might give up and unsubscribe. However, if this happened to the students and parents of your podcast every once in a while, it wouldn’t be a train smash – it wouldn’t lose revenue or decrease your audience because you’re not earning money from the student podcast or trying to grow a global audience. These are the kinds of small but significant details that matter in professional podcasting but don’t matter for a student podcast. These are also the reasons why it costs money to launch a podcast, and why teachers can get away with doing it for free.

So, how do you launch a podcast? Well first off, get an mp3 with your episode. Next week I’ll describe how to record interviews or narrations and put them together in a reasonably good quality mp3 for publishing.

Second, once you’ve got your mp3, upload it somewhere online (this can be done for free).

Third, create artwork, or have a student create the artwork for your show.

Forth, you need a blog to put the mp3 file on and the show notes.

Now, there are more steps BUT, you can stop at step for if you want. At this stage, technically you have a podcast. Whenever you publish a new blog post (with a new audio file attached), this is your new episode for listeners to download. If you want to keep it REALLY simple, you could just do it like that. All done, nice and easy. It will be accessible to anyone around the world that has an internet connection and knows the address of your blog.

Of course, this doesn’t really fulfill the expectations of modern day podcasting: it won’t be convenient to subscribe via any smartphone podcast apps, and it definitely won’t appear on iTunes. If you want to go those extra steps (and I strongly recommend it to give that “student buy-in and wow factor” I discussed in the previous episode), then the next step, step five, is to create a feed. A feed is the string of information attached to each episode that lets apps find it, lists episodes and sends new ones to people’s smartphones when available. Fortunately, despite this involving some very complex code, you can create one without ever looking at coding.

The sixth and final step is getting your feed out there. The feed address is the thing you give to iTunes to get them to list your Podcast. You shouldn’t limit it only to iTunes: you can also share it with Android services as well as major apps like Stitcher, Overcast etc. But, if it’s on iTunes, it will often automatically share to other platforms as well so don’t worry too much about these unless you’ve got time to play with.

Step 1 – Record your mp3 file

As I said, this is the focus for next week’s episode.

Step 2 – Publish your file online

Blubrry and Libsyn are the two big brands in podcast hosting. You can imagine webhosting to be a little bit like having an external hard-drive that’s permanently connected to the internet so anyone can download stuff from it at any time from anywhere in the world. Only it’s a ginormous hard-drive, the size of a warehouse, possibly on the other side of the world, with ultra-hi-tech security and all that kind of thing.

Blubbry and Libsyn have a great reputation and are obvious choices for professionals because of reliability and the additional services they offer. However, you have to pay for them.

So what is the free alternative? There are two obvious ones.

Self-hosting (e.g. on a school web-server)

If your school has its own website, they can possibly host the file for you. Talk to the tech department, explain that you want to host an mp3 on the system that would probably have 100 downloads per month or less (though obviously that number would vary hugely depending on school size), and see what they say. You can give them the mp3 on a flash drive, and they’ll do the rest, giving you a link to the file when they’re done. There are some technicalities for why this may be impossible or impractical, so if they say, “no” it’s probably with good reason. But, it’s a very convenient option if they’re happy to go ahead.

Soundcloud

Another free option is Soundcloud.com. Soundcloud is a place to share music and other audio files so people can access them easily. You’ve probably stumbled across it at some point even if you’re not a loyal user.

If you do a quick Google search for how to create or host a podcast you will find a lot of comments relating to Soundcloud, with many people giving strongly worded arguments about NOT using Soundcloud. I won’t dispute what they say – I’ve never used Soundclound for podcasting so I can’t comment either way, but what I can say is that most of the criticisms don’t apply to you, launching a student podcast.

Long story short, you can upload your podcast mp3 file on there, and anyone in the world can access it. It’s that simple. Yes, they may be less reliable (again, I can’t comment on that from first hand experience), and there are limitations like not being able to get detailed web stats from them on how many downloads you’ve had and where in the world they are… but I don’t think that stuff’s that important here. Soundcloud is a great free choice for a podcast.

Step 3 – Create artwork

You need a square image for your podcast. When you browse through the podcasts on any app you’ll see they all have artwork on them – a square image with the title of the show on.

You can’t skip this step, at least not if you want to publish on major platforms like iTunes. You need a square image that is at least 1400 x 1400 pixels. My best recommendation is to give this to a student as a project. Give them the name of your show and tell them you need a perfectly square piece of artwork. When they’re done, you can scan this and crop it into shape easily.

If you’re proficient with Photoshop or graphics software then, of course, you could just do it yourself.

Step 4 – Publishing on a blog

A blog is a great way to organize your podcast episodes. Basically each episode/blog post will have a block of text (as much or as little as you want) and a link to the mp3 file in it. The mp3 file link, your podcast episode, is the thing that your podcast app will download and play, while the block of text will be the description or show notes that you read in the podcasts app. The mp3 link you need, is a direct link to the file that is stored on Soundcloud (or wherever you’ve hosted the podcast).

Creating a blog is incredibly easy even if you’ve never looked at doing anything like that before. If you’ve never started a blog, try wordpress.com or weebly.com (there are many others as well). Sign up (for free) and follow the instructions to set up the blog – it really is very easy with any of the major names out there.

One thing to note is that when you create a blog with, for example, WordPress, your blog address (the “domain name”) will be myblogname.wordpress.com. If you want myblogname.com (without the “Wordpress” in it), you have to pay for it. It’s pretty cheap – I think I pay something like 10GBP or 10USD per year for my domain name – but it’s not important if you want to do this for free.

Step 5 – Create a feed

Now, when I publish this podcast, I host my files on Blubrry, and I use a plugin on my website called “Powerpress” that deals with all of the technical details of creating a feed. One of the advantages of paying a little for hosting is that the technical details are simplified.

If you want to do this for free, however, there are two options that stand out. One is to write your own feed with web-coding. I do NOT recommend this. These feeds are complicated, and it’s not necessary.

The other option, which I would recommend in these circumstances, is Feedburner, a free service provide by Google. The pros will scream at me for giving this advice – there are many reasons not to use Feedburner for podcasting, and they don’t apply to a teacher trying to get something launched with a class.

Basically, copy the web address of the blog you created, then go to Feedburner.com and enter it there (you may need to log in with a Google account, or create one). Follow the instructions, and they’ll generate a feed for you, and spit out something that looks like a complex web address. This web address thingy they give you is your feed address, and you need this to get your podcast listed on major platforms.

Before you can make this step work, you need to have the blog and a podcast episode already published. What some people do to get the ball rolling, is to make “episode zero”, which is just a brief recording introducing your show, giving a brief outline of what it’s about. You could even just make an audio recording of yourself saying, “Hello, thanks for downloading my podcast”. It really can be anything, just as long as there is something for Feedburner and iTunes (see next) to work with. You will probably delete this episode anyway as soon as you launch your first real episode.

Step 6 – Put it on iTunes

Now here’s a good time to clear up a misconception: there is no such thing is publishing your podcast on iTunes. You can’t give them your podcast episode to share it with Apple users. All you do is tell them your podcast exists, and they’ll list it for you, like a directory. You tell them it exists, by giving them your podcast feed.

You first need to go to podcastconnect.apple.com. Sign with your Apple ID (or create one if you don’t have on) and submit the podcast feed address. Note, I said “feed” not “blog” address. They are very different.

There are specific requirements to meet and you may get rejected if you don’t meet them. I was rejected a couple of times with my first podcast because of various details that were missing. Usually, it’s something that you left blank when creating your Feedburner feed, and the rejection notice from Apple will give you some indication of what you missed. It’s no problem, just go back, add in the details, and re-submit. I should mention that waiting for approval usually takes 24 to 48 hours, so it might take a week or so to get listed if you have to keep going back and making updates.

I guess step 7 that I didn’t mention above is to promote it. Tell all of your students to subscribe, write an article for it in your school newsletter or social media pages if your school has those, and get people downloading it.

Wrap up

It might all seem quite long winded but really you can get most of this up and running in a few hours (not including waiting time for Apple to accept or reject your show), and once all of the technical stuff is done for episode one, it’s significantly quicker to get the next episodes on there; all you have to do is record your show, upload the file and update your blog. Your feed will automatically do the rest of the work.

If you’re still on board, make sure you listen to next week’s episode on how to record and edit audio for free or very cheap for your student podcast.

EdTech Sauce is the pedagogy podcast that focuses on all things EdTech, hosted by me, Alex Nixon. You can reach out to me on Twitter using @science_sauce, and you can find subscribe links, shownotes and all that sort of stuff at sciencesauceonline.com/edtechsauce. Remember, all those sauces are spelled like ketchup.

Have a great week everyone!

Secrets and Benefits of Creating a Student Podcast

So I started student podcasting a while back. I was working at a school in Shanghai at the time and needed to choose something for an extra-curricular activity. My students at the time were Key Stage 3 (that’s aged 11-14 for those who don’t know the British system) and mostly an enthusiastic bunch. I mulled over the idea for a while and eventually came to the decision to just give it a go. I framed as a sort of school news show, where students would report on the general happenings around the campus – like sports events, spelling bees etc.

It obviously wasn’t going to attract a big audience – only the students and teachers in school would download it. It was an international school and obviously they told their family overseas about it, but still, that only amounted to a really small audience. That didn’t matter though – the show was intended to be educational. Not educational for its listeners particularly, but educational for the students making it. I figured, they would learn how to write interview questions and gain some English skills which was really important in that job as most students were second language learners.

It wasn’t until I started that I realised just how much students stand to gain from creating a podcast show. I mean, seriously, this has to be one of the most under-used tools in EdTech. It’s not limited to English skills either (though it is great for those).

Today’s episode of EdTech Sauce is all about the secrets and benefits of creating a student podcast. Why are there any “secrets”? Well, these are things you just won’t know about unless you get started with running a student podcast. There are a plethora of reasons to set this up and I hope that in this episode I can reveal a few of them to you.

Creating a student podcast is something I’ve done a couple of times now with different groups, and, like I said, the benefits have been far greater in number than I expected before I started my first podcast group.

Obviously, if you’re listening to this, you know how podcasting works.

However, have you ever thought about running your own class or school podcast? I’ve got no doubt some people have thought about this idea, but perhaps never got round to starting it because of fears over all the technical side behind it, while others have maybe never really thought about doing it. It is becoming more common, but when you’re trying to come up with new ideas for teaching tools and integrating tech into your teaching, a podcast is not the first thing that usually comes to mind.

Trust me, students can get really excited by this idea. The very mention that they can get their own podcast listed on iTunes is enough to get any student enthused. And yes, anyone can get a podcast listed on iTunes. For free.

In this episode of EdTech Sauce I’m focusing on the ways you might use a class or school podcast. Next week, I’ll be discussing the technical side of podcasting, and explaining how to get started with it for free or very cheap, including how to get listed on iTunes. Getting on iTunes might not seem so important, but it is definitely a way to get the students excited about the idea.

I know some people will protest and say, “I can’t start a podcast, I don’t know anything about how that stuff works.” Well, don’t worry. All you need is something to record audio (a smartphone would do), some free audio editing software, and a computer with an Internet connection.

If you do your research on how to start a podcast, you will get bombarded with all sorts of advice about why you need a reliable web host, how to maximize your search engine optimization, types of feeds, which bitrate to export in… it gets really technical and really, most of that advice doesn’t apply to a teacher who wants to publish something for their class or school, and develop an audience of probably a hundred or less listeners.

But like I said, the technical side of how to publish a podcast is for next week. Here, I’m discussing the ways you might use podcasting in school, I’m just going to convince of why podcasting is useful for you and your students.

Please subscribe if you haven’t already to EdTech Sauce. That way you won’t miss next week’s episode on the technical side of how to start up a class podcast. For details visit ScienceSauceOnline.com/edtechsauce, or search on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever your get your podcasts. Remember, it’s “sauce” as in ketchup.

In what ways might you use a class podcast?

Well, firstly you might use it for something subject specific. Maybe as a History teacher, you decide to launch a show where students have to write and narrate a biography for a historical figure they’ve studied. Perhaps as an English teacher, you want to create a journalism podcast as a way to practice certain language skills. There are endless subject specific examples and I’ve got no doubt that any creative teacher can come up with ways that this might be useful to them.

Another reason you might do this is as an extra-curricular activity. You could create a “podcast society”, or perhaps a “journalism club”, focusing on school news, where students have to interview other students or teachers on the latest school sports events, spelling bees, science fairs, that kind of thing.

And what is the reason for going to all the effort of creating a podcast? Well, in short, there are few class activities that have so many benefits in one project!

Lets examine the main benefits I’ve find when running student podcasts

  1. You get to approach your subject from a new angle
  2. Students gain communication skills
  3. Students have to do scheduling and gain organisation skills.
  4. It’s an opportunity to work with audio
  5. It involves publishing and modern-world concepts
  6. There’s student buy-in and wow factor

1. You get to approach your subject from a new angle

Remembering and understanding facts is great, but we all know that higher order application skills are more relevant targets in the grand scheme of things.

It seems to me very unlikely that any syllabus will require students to be able to create a spoken audio discussion on the topic at hand, so verbally covering the content for a podcast episode will require reformulating the information – as long you don’t allow the students to just read paragraphs from the textbook. There are lots of tasks you could set that require application skills.

Let’s say a History teacher has covered a chapter on the Romans, and wants to use podcasting as a project. The students do a biographical piece on the life and death of Julius Caesar. The students would need to pull together all of the necessary information on Julius Caesar that they’ve studied, and probably supplement it with additional research. They would also be expected to fill the story out as an interesting narrative by putting in a bunch of interesting anecdotes that surround the main story, including details of life in early Roman society. This is a great review of the unit content and beyond, but it also demands application skills.

Making sure all of this is achieved would require guidance, probably by giving students rubrics in advance of the task (even if you don’t intend to summatively assess this, I would still recommend giving a rubric to give direction).

This is also an opportunity to fully reformulate ideas taught in class. Imagine your students had to tell the story of the death of Caesar as a newspaper article. This is good quality cross-curricular stuff because it’s bringing in skills that the students should be picking up in English lessons, and applying them to another subject.

I’ve always had a problem with that “boxed” feeling that sometimes comes with education as we know it today. You know, “On Monday lesson 1 you’re writing an essay in History, but in lesson 2 you’re writing an English essay. Try to forget everything you’ve learned in History class because essays in English are different.” As if each lesson is in a different universe where different rules apply?!

The point I’m making is, podcasting is one step closer to bridging the gaps in different types of content.

It also goes a little further to cater for the range of student interests; it’s likely not every student is passionate about your subject. Not because there’s anything wrong with you or your subject it’s just… students have things they like and things they don’t. But maybe if they’re not mad about the subject being studied, maybe the journalism slant to the task does appeal to them. It gives a bit of incentive to get involved and caters for a bigger range of students.

2. Students gain communication skills

It’s amazing to see the skills that students develop when podcasting. I remember in my Extra Curricular school news podcast, students scheduled interviews with different people in the school about current school events. I honestly didn’t think about the kind of communication skills involved, but think about it: students have to learn to approach teachers and other student and request interviews, ask the right questions, they have to learn how to avoid one-word answers from interviewees, how to make people feel at ease, how to present their message in a way that comes across clearly…

When students hear themselves and their interviews back they get a little self-conscious, and this isn’t really a bad thing. It gives them a chance to gain some feedback on their own work and some incentive to work on their skills so that their next interview sounds better.

These interview-type skills are really valuable communication skills and there are few tasks that pull so much into one.

3. Students have to do scheduling and gain organisation skills.

This is another skill that I didn’t anticipate being so important but it really became apparent that some kids faced a steep learning curve when it came to organisation skills and scheduling. I basically let my students run the show with our podcast. I had a weekly meeting where we decided the topics to be worked on, but for the rest of the time I just gave the students the audio recorder when they needed it and let them take control.

First off, there was only one recorder, so they quickly learned that they couldn’t all borrow it on lunch time the day before deadline day. Second, they learned that some people are busy, and can’t be available for an interview at any given moment. They had to find a time that worked for everyone, and be on time. As adults we might take this stuff for granted, but everyone has to learn some time, and this was a great opportunity for that life lesson.

4. It’s an opportunity to work with audio

I don’t know how relevant this is to all of the students I’ve worked with on podcasting, but I do know that most students wouldn’t get an opportunity to work with audio and develop microphone skills if it weren’t for a podcasting. I mean, really, where do these skills fit in the curriculum of a school?

Students had to learn how to position microphones appropriately, not be too close or too far from it, how to choose an appropriate environment to avoid wind distortion, background echoes and all of those distracting elements. Some of my students worked really hard to make their interviews sound as close to professional quality as was possible with what they had. I was genuinely impressed with the quality of work submitted by some of the kids.

With podcast groups I’ve worked with in the past, the students have always been in young-ish students, and audio editing was something I just did myself. However, if your school has access to the sorts of tools to let students edit audio, and you’re students are in the right age group, then this is one of the few opportunities to let them develop editing skills. Your podcast might literally inspire a career in some of your students. We teachers like to talk a lot about providing a holistic education, but the truth is delivering that is not easy. Audio skills are another string to that bow, giving students a wider breadth of skills to leave school with.

By the way, there are free as well as very cheap options for editing audio, but I’ll go into that in a later episode.

5. It involves publishing and modern-world concepts

Media is part of modern life. Sharing your ideas in this day and age requires a certain amount of IT literacy. Honestly, most of what we do these days requires IT literacy.

It worries me sometimes that in my lessons and homework submissions there is maybe too much old-fashioned writing. Don’t get me wrong, writing with a pen is important, but we can’t ignore the fact that it’s not the only way students will get their message across in real-world scenarios. Honestly, compare the amount you type, to the amount you write by hand in your day-to-day life. Compare how much time you spend letter writing with the time spent talking on the phone or Skyping people. Creating opportunities for students to express themselves in some way other than writing on paper is really important, and probably more relevant in today’s world.

I try to use digital submission tools, I’m trying to integrate video work using Flipgrid into my homework, all sorts of ways to broaden the skills I expect on my courses.

Podcasting is another way to expand on your repertoire of learning and assessment techniques, and it’s a way that is perhaps more relevant to students. They know what smartphones and laptops are and most of them use one or both of those things every day, and they’re used to consuming media via them. Publishing your ideas online is part of the modern world, and podcasting can reach students in a way they can already relate to.

6. There’s student buy-in and wow factor

OK, so I didn’t expect this one to be quite so significant, but it is. Mention to your students that their recording is going to be searchable on iTunes…! There are few students that won’t be into that. And yes, you can get your podcast listed on iTunes, it’s not as big a thing as you might think. It certainly doesn’t cost any money.

When students get into this idea, they’re motivated towards the task. I’m a science teacher, and I respect the fact that some of my students are not studying my subject by choice and would much rather be doing something else. I personally find science to be a mind-blowing subject, and I honestly don’t know why everyone else isn’t fascinated by science. I can’t figure out why everyone doesn’t choose to study science. But, like I said, I respect the fact that, some people really aren’t into it.

So, if I can give my students some motivation to express their ideas in my subject, by letting them express their ideas as a science news podcast for example, then it seems like an opportunity to be a bit more inclusive of the whole group.

Wrap up

I’ve highlighted the main benefits of creating a student podcast that I’ve experienced, but there are more to discuss that I can’t cover in one episode, and these are waiting to be discovered. I urge you to give it a go and let your students reap the benefits.

If you’re put off by the technical details of creating and publishing a podcast, I’ll be covering how to create a podcast next week, and how to publish a podcast the week after.

If you haven’t already subscribed, please do so to keep up to date with new episode. All links to download, share, subscribe, follow, and all that jazz can be found at sciencesauceonline.com/edtechsauce. Thanks for listening and have a great week everyone!