Notes from Apple Podcasting Seminar

Girl & iPodI attended a seminar in Omaha, Nebraska put on by Apple about podcasting. Janet Hill from Apple did most of the presenting. Here are some of my notes:

  • Apple has a page about iPods in classrooms and another page for podcasting in education.
  • Janet had a good analogy for RSS and podcasting. She showed a screen with a bunch of paper magazines. You subscribe to podcasts and have them delivered to you, just like Entertainment Weekly or Time Magazine. But, you don't have to pay for the subscriptions. And of course, when you subscribe, the magazine issue for next January has not been printed yet. When it is printed, it's sent to you. Just like magazines, podcasts are delivered to you after they have been produced.
  • If you have to pay for a podcast, iTunes does not put it in the Podcast category. If there is a charge, Apple puts it in the Audiobook category.
  • Remember that the iTunes Store does not host podcast files. It simply points users to the web server that contains the file. For instance, when you subscribe to the Our City Podcast in iTunes, it actually downloads the mp3 file from the server.
  • There are three kinds of podcasts: Audio (just sound), Enhanced (sound, images/slides, and URL links), and Video (movies).
  • You can create a podcast using QuickTime Pro ($30). QuickTime Pro is available for Mac and Windows. Here's a tutorial. Using QuickTime Pro is best for straight audio that probably won't be mixed with other tracks, sound effects, or music. Janet exported her recording to an MPEG-4 (.mp4). She explains that mp4 files are smaller and sound better than mp3 files. Smaller files download faster from servers and take up less memory. However, I still prefer mp3 files because they are much more compatible with all kinds of handheld devices.
  • You can also create video podcasts using QuickTime Pro. If you have a Mac with an iSight camera, it's just a press of the record button and you're recording video.
  • Isn't it crazy the number of ways you can record, publish, and listen to podcasts? With so many options and methods, it's actually hard to decide which one is best for you. I prefer using GarageBand (Macs) or Audacity (Windows) to record directly into the desktop or laptop computer.
  • Besides recording directly in a computer, Janet used a Belkin voice recorder iPod attachment. She passed it around the room and had attendees record something they learned. Then when she syncs her iPod, the recordings are transferred into her computer's iTunes library. She then can use those recordings for podcasts. I prefer to record on my Palm TX using a microphone attachment and SoundRec (freeware) software. This way I can easily rename clips, so that everything is in order when I transfer the clips from my SD card to my computer.
  • Using GarageBand, Janet made an enhanced podcast with photos. She showed how to include chapters and hyperlinks that can be clicked in iTunes while it's playing.You can link to websites and documents. That means you can make worksheets or other digital documents for students to access while they are listening to the podcast. Enhanced podcasts are in the AAC format, not MP3, so they cannot play on most devices but play great in iTunes.
  • Macintosh servers have the ability to serve podcasts on the web. Janet demonstrated how fast it is to upload to the server through a web page. She fills in a couple of fields of information about her recording and clicks a button to upload the audio file. Within seconds, a podcast feed is created and uploaded, available to the world. This really is such a great solution. The problem is not many educators have access to these kinds of servers.
  • The question was asked that on iPods, the pictures that accompany an enhanced podcast are very small and pretty much unusable. To enlarge the image, push the iPod's Center button.
  • Profcast is a Mac only applications that allows teachers to easily record a podcast. Just drop your slide show on the Profcast window and then start recording. It will create an enhanced podcast (or you can export it to GarageBand for editing). Profcast makes it easy to then publish the podcast. The day's lecture can be published online and available in iTunes before students get home after class. (Profcast works best with a wireless mic with a receiver plugged into the computer). It's a podcast so, it can be played on a Mac or a Windows computer.
Although Apple has taken the lead in podcasting, you should know that you don't need a Mac or an iPod to participate. In fact, many podcasters are in favor of calling online media that can be downloaded through an RSS feed a netcast instead of podcast. Netcast doesn't suggest you need an Apple product to listen or create.