Our seventh grade world cultures teacher Paul is researching easy-to-use podcasting techniques for his session at this Friday’s PNAIS annual conference. Together we have just found a number of free, phone-based podcasting services that the rest of you probably already know about. For the moment, Paul has settled on gCast, where you can call a toll-free number, record a podcast, and the site will automatically post it to your blog or podcast! You can even include a web-based player on your blog web site. Brilliant. Gabcast appears to offer a similar service.
This solution has great potential for student podcasting, where the main obstacle is a quiet place to record. An active classroom or computer lab is impossible — too noisy. Outside of class is difficult, because a class full of students must schedule time on one or two available computers. Home computers are not reliable, as many don’t have microphones, or their audio input settings are not correctly configured.
Phones are ubiquitous. All of our students already have one or can easily gain access to one at just about any hour. The instructions couldn’t be more simple: call up this number and record your assignment. Only the teacher must do the slightly more technical work of creating the gCast account and pointing it to the class blog. We tested it today for one recording, and it worked brilliantly. They even have a simple area to copy a bit of HTML and post it in your blog to get an audio player.
Here’s another potentially great application: podcasting of sports or other live events. Students are usually very keen to broadcast school sports (remember, Ben?), but this is difficult to do at outdoor venues with regular recording equipment. Then there’s the lag time while you find a computer and upload the files. With a cellphone and this automated service, one could podcast an event in segments straight from your phone, and listeners could pick it up right away.
What about school-sponsored trips? I have always hoped that students traveling on interesting school trips would blog or report back in some way. With a cellphone, one could send a quick summary of the trip during the bus ride home!
The only catch we have discovered so far is that you must register your phone number on the site, and we feel ambivalent about students posting their phone numbers there. However, gCast also has an option that you can call from a different number as long as you key in your primary phone number. It seems that if the teacher provides his phone number and gCast PIN as part of the assignment instructions, then this should not be an obstacle!
We will soon give this a try and see how it goes. More details to come here later. Wish us luck. Has anyone else tried this technology?