What are Podcasts?

Podcasts are primarily audio files that have an RSS feed attached to them, just like blogs. One can subscribe to podcasts, so that new content can be accessed the moment it is published, through a podcast aggregator. Apple's iTunes has an integrated podcast aggregator, and is very easy to use.
Podcasts can also contain images, video, or other files. Podcasting allows users another medium for having conversations. There are educational podcasts on just about every subject, and more are being created every day. It's easy to search, subscribe, and listen to podcasts. Creating and publishing podcasts is becoming increasingly easy and fun as well.
For more information and an in-depth look at podcasting in education, please visit the Podcast Wiki, an entire wiki focusing on podcasting.

How do you get started?

The best guide for getting started with not only podcasts, but also iPods, is Tony Vincent's Learning in Hand blog and podcast. The podcast offers short segments that cover ways to use an iPod in the classroom, along with helpful tips. The free 34 page Podcasting Booklet has easy to follow instructions from subscribing to podcast to creating and hosting classroom podcasts. Excellent!

Educational Technology Podcasts - focused on learning

How many of us have 30 minute (or more) commutes to work? I have found that listening to a good podcast about Educational Technology is a productive way to use my driving time. Doing boring chores around the house also seems to go much faster now that I can listen to podcasts that interest me. Many podcasts I listen to allow me quality personal professional development through insightful, inspiring conversations. Sometimes, I feel like I'm at an engaging conference workshop when I listen to these podcasts. Below are my recommendations for quality professional growth in Education Technology, especially using Web 2.0 in education. Each website has a subscribe button that will allow you to subscribe in your preferred podcast aggregator. (I use iTunes.)
Wesley Fryer - Moving at the Speed of Creativity
Bob Sprankle - Bit by Bit
K12 Online Conference 08

Subscribe to a few great podcasts by searching and subscribing in iTunes.

Enjoy!
(To understand the power of connecting through Read-Write Web technologies, listen to Bob Sprankle's Bit by Bit Podcast #24, passionately podcasted in response to a conversation about "Telling the New Story" started by David Warlick. It is truly an inspiring message about why to use Web 2.0 technologies.)

Student Podcasts

Below are quality student podcasts. They make you think about how you could use podcasts with your students.
Room 208 - 3rd Grade students in Maine discuss their learning. Their teacher, Bob Sprankle, has them script their podcast in a blog, that they then read for their podcast.
Radio WillowWeb - Elementary students podcast about different subjects.
Podcast Central - Students, teachers and administrators podcast from this middle school in Georgia about their school experiences.
3R's Club - 3rd grade students in California podcast about recycling. (This podcast is one that I helped students produce, based on the Room 208 model of blogging, then podcasting.)
Our City Podcast - a podcasting project in which students all over the world can participate. Students podcast about their city using the provided script.
What kind of podcasts will your students create? Think of the possibilities!

Podcast Audio Creator Tools

If you have a Macintosh, by far the easiest tool to use is the new iLife . iLife's Garageband makes it possible to record voices, add accompanying royalty free music, and add hundreds of different sound effects to spice up the podcast.
For Windows users, and Mac users who do not own iLife, there is an outstanding free tool, Audacity, that allows users to create quality podcasts. Accompanying music can be found on Podsafe Audio. Music from this site is offered through the Creative Commons copyright aggreement.

Podcast Publishing Tools

Macintosh and iLife
If you own a Macintosh and iLife, the ability to publish a podcast is very easy. You create your audio in Garageband, then transfer it to iWeb. You then publish to folder then to a web server, or you publish to a .mac account, if you have one of those. Easy directions for accomplishing all of this are in the form of a series of videos at Apple's website, entitled The Podcast Recipe . A short, easy registration process is required to watch the videos.
FREE Windows and Macintosh Publishing and Hosting Tools
Windows users have many possible FREE solutions for publishing podcasts. Feedburner is a free service that offers podcasters a place to create the RSS feed for their podcast. The RSS feed is what is needed so that people can subscribe to a podcast. Feedburner has a great tutorial page entitled Publish your Podcast with Feedburner on how to create, store, and publish a podcast.

Using a Phone to Podcast!

There are some great free tools that let you call in to a toll free number to leave a recording by phone that can then be downloaded and/or published as a podcast. This would be perfect for the student who is struggling to write, but would like to contribute. There are so many uses for this type of service.

GCast

With GCast, you set up an account with a pin number and get access to a toll-free number to call. After the recording is complete, it can be downloaded as an .mp3 file, embedded in a website, or displayed as a hosted podcast on the GCast Website.
Below is an example of an embedded podcast widget from GCast:

Subscribe Free
Add to my Page

GabCast

GabCast works much like GCast and is very easy to set up. Once set up, you call into a toll-free number, and put in your code to leave a message. Like GCast, it can also be downloaded as .mp3 files, be posted as a podcast, and also embedded on a site. GCast has access to international numbers for global projects.

Text to Speech Options

Some students might benefit from listening to text as speech. There are several free text to speech converters that allow the user to download the resulting audio file as an .mp3 that can then be listened to on an ipod or uploaded to a podcast.

VozMe
The easiest program to use, because there is no sign-in required, is VozMe .Copy and paste text into the text field and VozMe will automatically convert that text into an .mp3 file. The speech sounds more computer generated than some of the other offerings, but not having to log-in with an account is an advantage.
Read the Words and iSpeech work in much the same way. Sign in to your free account. Paste text, the url of a web page, or upload a variety of different document formats, and the program will convert the text to speech and offer it as an mp3 download, or as a podcast. The downside is there is a cost involved for more than a nominal amount of text conversion. The price is not much, however, and the voices seem less computer generated.
More Text to Speech resources can be found here.


iPod in the Classroom

Even though iPods are just one way of listening to podcasts, some educators might be interested in other uses for the iPod. Here's a slideshow with ideas from Hall Davidson's Mega VCR presentation full of ways to use the iPod in the classroom. There's a great section on how to convert PowerPoint slideshows to use on the iPod. Also, this slideshow shows you how to connect your iPod to the TV.