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An Educator's View

About Our Show

Radio Southeast, Southeast TV, and other related shows of the Southeast Student Network are educational productions of Southeast Elementary School in Mansfield Center, CT USA. We started producing episodes in January 2006. Here are some of the steps that we use to produce our show.

This project provides information for educators to start a low-cost approach to podcasting. Although the setup of our Radio Southeast site and situation are a little bit different, we have provided instructions for a rather low-tech approach to podcasting for the average user. Here is some background about our project.

The most challenging and time consuming part of podcasting is getting your content set. Radio Southeast uses scripts to help with content creation. We start off with a session that talks about what podcasting is. We show several pictures of MP3 players including the iPod. More information about podcasting can be learned from the Wikipedia article.

There are several steps to the process:

  • Step 1: Equipment
  • Step 2: Finding A Group of Students
  • Step 3: Your First Meeting (Introduction to Podcasting and Brainstorming Ideas)
  • Step 4: Assigning Jobs
  • Step 5: Writing Scripts and Practicing
  • Step 6: Recording Your Show
  • Step 7: Editing/Producing

Radio Southeast is a news-type show. Frequently, the directors come up with the theme of the show. Students then brainstorm ideas that complement the theme. Our themes are usually centered on things happening at the moment. Episode 1 dealt with "The Wonders of Winter." After we brainstorm the ideas, we assign jobs.

Radio Southeast Jobs:

  • Hosts (usually 2 students)
  • Reporters (many students)
  • Musical Assistant (usually 1 or 2 students)
  • Advertising (usually the entire crew)

After we assign jobs, we finalize the segments using our podcasting planner.

In Janaury 2006, we started off with the following equipment:

After some trial and error, we decided against a line-in microphone that attaches directly to the sound card in the back of our computer. The reason for this is because the line-in microphone carried sound noise into the computer. The Logitech USB Microphone provided a crisper sound that we were happy with. In Windows XP, USB microphones are part of the plug-and-play functionality. This means that you plug the USB microphone in and it is immediately usable.

We used an open source and free program called Audacity. If you are trying out podcasting for the first time, we recommend sitting for 60 minutes and playing around with the settings.

Recording the Podcasts Using Audacity

From the Audacity Web Site:

The Free, Cross-Platform Sound Editor - Audacity is free, open source software for recording and editing sounds. It is available for Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems.

Simply said, Audacity is free and can be run on most types of computers. For the purposes of our instructions here, we will only talk about the Microsoft Windows installation process.

Audacity Installation Instructions


1. Talk with your building technology coordinator.

This is an important step. Never install software on your computer without speaking with your building technology coordinator. There many be restrictions in place preventing the software from working. By speaking with your technology team, you can reduce the number of issues you have with the software installation. Audacity is easy to install, but there is an add-on piece of software that you need that is not easy to install. Your technology coordinator will be able to assist you.

2. Download Audacity.

For the life of this project, Audacity has had two different releases available: a stable release and a beta release. For educators just entering the podcasting world, you should always use the stable release. Although the beta releases have new bells and whistles, there is no guarentee that Audacity won't shut down and crash in the middle of your project. Beta software has also been known to corrupt (or damange) project files. In short, keep with the stable releases.

3. Download LAME MP3 Encoder.

On the same download page, there will be a download link for an MP3 encoder. This is an important add-on that allows Audacity to create an audio file that is most common for people to listen to as a podcast. Use the link above instead of using the official download site because the file is located in an easy-to-open ZIP file. The official site has a more technical file packaging system that is not user-friendly. As a side note, LAME used to be an acronym for "LAME ain't an MP3 Encoder." This is now a misnomer. More technical individuals can read more about the history of LAME at Wikipedia.

4. Install Audacity.

In step 2, you downloaded the Audacity software package to your computer. Find that file and double-click it. It will allow you to install Audacity onto your computer. Follow the on-screen instructions. It will tell you how to install the program.

5. Install the MP3 Encoder

When you download the MP3 encoder there are many files that are included in the ZIP package. The only file that you need is lame_enc.dll. Due to patents and copyright restrictions, the creators of Audacity cannot include this file with their software package. You are able to use it freely, though. As part of the installation process you should unzip the ZIP file, cut the file lame_enc.dll and place it whereever you chose to install your Audacity software. The default location for Audacity is c:\Program Files\Audacity.

6. Your installation is complete.

You have now completed the installation process and are ready to start creating content.

Now that you have installed Audacity, it is time to move on to podcast creation phase. It is important to have a plan before you start to record. When working with elementary school students it is a good idea to have a script in place before recording. Here is a look at how we setup our Radio Southeast Club.

Radio Southeast News-Type Podcast

Ask Students To Participate

When creating our news-type podcast, the directors (who are an enrichment teacher and a third grade teacher) go into classrooms of the target grade level. For instance, we go into the fourth grade classrooms to quickly introduce the Radio Southeast club and to explain the concept of podcasting. Interested students are asked to sign-up with the enrichment teacher.

First Meeting

Interested students attend the first meeting of Radio Southeast and are introduced to podcasting. We further talk about podcasting including ways to listen to our shows (computer program, internet, and MP3 device). We stress that our shows can be listened to without an Apple iPod. We talk about how we record (using computer equipment) and what it takes to put the shows together. The next step in the process is to brainstorm ideas for our shows. Frequently, ideas come from things that are going on in the school at the time of the meeting. Students select a theme for the episode. We discuss our audience and how we want students to listen, but also community members and people from around the world. Next we discuss jobs:

  • Reporters
  • Hosts
  • Musical Assistants
  • Advertisers/Annoucements

Students always want to be the hosts. After completing several episodes, we have found that when working with elementary level students that we choose the hosts. By encouraging students to do a good job with their reports (which we call segments), we look for at quality and effort and reward our hard workers.

Content Creation Meetings

Students continue to come to meetings while they create their content. Content ideas are approved by the directors and then students make scripts. Content ideas can be things like news reports, skits, jokes, learning new vocabulary, interviews and more. The only limitation is based on being able to record it in front of a microphone. Students work at different rates and while most of the Radio Southeast Club meets together for the beginning meetings, the number of attendees dwindles towards the end of the content creation period. While most students like to speak for our radio episode, some students are quiet and do not want to speak. The job of musical director was created and students search music podsafe music (or music that is licensed for free use in podcasts) on http://music.podshow.com.

Directors' Weekly Collaboration Time

The directors meet weekly prior to the Radio Southeast Club meeting to discuss plans for the day. During this weekly collaboration time, we discuss any issues that may arrise, but also use the time to setup and test equipment prior to our club meetings. This ensures that we use every minute of student time for production of our podcast. It also prevents students from experiencing technical difficulties during our recording times. Weekly collaboration is extremely important and should not be minimized.

Selection of Hosts

As students finish up their scripts, the directors choose the hosts for the episode. By having the hosts complete their scripts after segments have been authored, it allows the hosts to create great segways from segment to segment. There are minor revisions made to the reporters' scripts to say things like, "Back to you Sally and Joe." These revisions are made just before the reporters record their segments. The hosts determine the order of the reporter segments. Here is a sample of how we layout the show.

Segment Who? What?
Episode Sponsor Director or Student "This episode of Radio Southeast is brought to you by ___. Visit ___ online at web address."
Episode Identification Musical Assistant "Hi, I'm ___ and you're listening to Radio Southeast, Episode number for date"
Theme Song    
A Block Hosts Hosts introduce themselves, Radio Southeast, and the episode theme.
B Block Introduction Hosts Hosts segway to first segment, introduce segment and reporter
B Block Bumper Music Musical Assistant 5-15 second music transition
B Block Segement Reporter B Student thanks the hosts for the introduction and reads prepared script. Sends back to hosts.
---- Continue with Reporter Segments ----
Episode Closing Hosts Show wrap-up. This includes web site identification and any other thank yous that need to be given. We thank our theme song author and our sponsors. Then we state, "For the whole Radio Southeast Crew, student names here, and our directors teacher name and teacher name, I'm ___ and I'm ___. See you next time on Radio Southeast."
Ending Theme Song    
Credits Directors This is just some closing information that talks about our school and some further thanks to people who have donated services to our project.

Recording

With the scripts and planning in place, it is time to record! Recording can be quick or take a long time based on the amount of perfection you want. Your first couple of podcasts will take a while because there is a learning curve. As a producer, you are going to figure out what you like to include in your podcasts. Do you want music? Do you want individual sections that can be recorded out of order and pieced together later? Do you want to record everything in one sit-down session without stopping? These are questions that you are going to want to answer based up on your project's preferences.

Recording Segments

With two teachers working on the project, we find that we are able to meet together with the club in the beginning of the episode, but as we segments are finished, we split into two different rooms. One teacher remains with students helping with scripts while the other teacher is recording in a quiet area of the school. Recording software, such as Audacity.

It is important to find a room that is quiet. This will improve the quality of the audio in your podcasts. We found that recording directly to your computer's hard drive is the best route. Place the Audacity project in a new folder in your "My Documents" folder. If you work on a school network, you can always copy that folder to the network after you have finished with the project.

Start Audacity and you will be presented with a screen that looks like this:

Audacity Window
Audacity - Click here for larger size

Control ToolbarIn the top left corner of the screen is the control toolbar. This is a very important toolbar because it holds most of the tools that you will use to produce your podcast. Click here for a link to the Audacity documentation site. The documentation will provide you with an in-depth description of each button as it appears on the toolbar.

To record, all you need to do is make sure that your USB microphone is connected to your computer and click on the record button. Record Button You will see a track appear on the screen along with "audio waves" which are a picture of what your sound looks like. Each time you record a new track will appear on the screen. To stop recording, press the stop button. Stop Button

There will be times in which you want to piece things together. For example, a student does a really good job of recording 75% of his or her script, but then makes a large mistake at the end. Audacity allows you to remove portions of your recorded text and piece it together. Click on the selection tool Selection Tool and click inside the track you want to listen to. When you have come to the portion of the track that you want to delete, select it with the selection tool. It will be highlighted. Simply press the delete key on your keyboard and that portion of the track will be removed. Begin recording again. The timeshift tool Timeshit Tool allows you to move entire tracks back and forth so that you can piece them together seemlessly. One of the great things about audio is that if you are recording in the same room at the same time, listeners can not usually tell that a track has been recorded and pieced together. As a producer and you have more practice with piecing, you will find that it gets easier and better.

Track Label Bar

  • Letter A is the track dropdown menu. We use this to rename the tracks. For example, if you click on the down arrow, you will see a "Name" option. This allows us to keep the tracks organized. Once you get a lot of tracks, you can't always remember which one is the one you want.
  • Letter B are two buttons marked "Mute" and "Solo." These buttons are helpful because it allows you to mute a track or make it the only one playing "solo."
  • Letter C is important because it allows you to increase the volume of the track. Moving towards the + creates more volume while moving towards the - creates less volume.
  • Letter D allows you to delete the entire track.

Inserting Audio

There will be times that you would like to insert audio into your production. In the past, Radio Southeast has used the Podshow Music Network. To do this you will need to use the "Project" menu and then select "Insert Audio." Using MP3 audio files is the easiest way to accomplish adding audio to your project.

Finishing Your Project and Exporting to MP3

Your Audacity project is in a format that most people cannot listen to. You will need to export your audio to MP3 format. To do this, it is fairly simple (as long as you have followed installation instructions to install the LAME MP3 Encoder that was addressed earlier in the instructions here). Make sure to save your project first, then go to the file menu and select "Export to MP3." Give your MP3 file a name and click on Save.

The first time you export to an MP3 file, you will be required to find the lame_enc.dll. If you used the instructions from this web site, the default location is C:\Program Files\Audacity. Just look for it there. If you didn't install it in the default directory, you will need to find where you put the file originally. Select the file.

Now, that you have pointed Audacity to the encoder, a new dialog box will appear. This box allows you to put title and author information in the MP3 file itself.

ID3 Tag Box

Fill in the information. Click OK and you are done with creating the audio file.

Creating Web Pages to Show Off Your Podcast

This is the portion of the project that can get a little complicated. If you aren't tech-saavy and don't know how to create web pages, you will probably need to bring in your technology integration expert.

We have decided to provide instructions to a hosted-service instead of providing information about how our project is setup. If you have any questions regarding how our project is setup, we encourage you to email us by using the website feedback form. We will get back to you as soon as we can.

For reference here, the sample blog setup in these instructions is at Radio Southeast's LearnerBlog.

Setup a Blog

  1. For this portion of the program, we used learnerblogs.org. Begin the sign-up process by visiting Learner Blogs Sign-Up Page
  2. Pick a username for your for your project. It will most likely be the name of your podcast or a shortened name to make it easier to remember.
  3. Put in your email address. It will be used later to send you an activiation email.
  4. Click "Gimme a blog" on the site.
  5. Click Next
  6. Select your blog domain. This again, will be important because you will give it out in your podcasts. Don't make it too long or people might not recognize it or might not remember it when they type it into their web browser.
  7. Give your blog a title. Again, it seems redundant, but you are going to want to give it the name of your podcast.
  8. Set the privacy. This is something that you need to determine.
  9. Click the Sign-Up Button.
  10. LearnerBlogs.org will now send you an email to the address you provided in step 3. Follow the instructions in that email. TIP: Check your Spam/Junk Email folder. Sometimes these activation emails end up there!
  11. You will receive your username and temporary password.
  12. As soon as you login, change your password to something you will remember. Use the "Update your profile or change your password" option on your main login screen.

Create An Entry

Now it is time to create an entry for your first episode.

Here is an image of our mock episode at this web site.

Episode Mock Up Thumbnail

Mock-Up - Click Here to Enlarge

Fill-out the fields according to your information. You will need to upload your MP3 file before clicking "publish." After uploading your file, make sure that in that same section that you click the "Browse" button. Under the running time type, "Listen to " then place under the browse/upload section select "Show... Title" and "Link to ... File." Then click "Send to Editor." It will place a link in the blog entry to listen to the podcast.

Creating A Link to Your Feed

A feed is a file that allows things like iTunes and other aggregators (or podcast catchers/podcatchers) to receive a notice when you have posted a new podcast. LearnerBlogs creates the feed for you, but you want to make it more evident on your web site.

In the administrator portion of your site, click the "Blogroll" tab. Delete all of the "EduBlog" advertisement links on the next screen by clicking the check box and clicking the delete button.

  1. Now, click the add links link.
  2. On the right side of the screen under "Categories," type "Subscribe To Our Podcast" and click Add.
  3. Make sure that "Subscribe to our Podcast" is checked now.
  4. Type "Drag this link to iTunes or other podcatchers.":
  5. In the Address box, type http://<yourblogaddress>/feed. For example, the sample Radio Southeast Blog site's feed is http://radiose.learnerblogs.org/feed
  6. Now, click Add Link.

You should now be finished with your web page. You will want to adjust settings in your blog to make it your own site. Let's consider some final thoughts.

Final Thoughts

We know that there are many different parts podcasting. Our approach isn't the easiest way to create podcasts. We know that. Our school district is based solely in Windows technology and we wanted to create instructions based on that fact. We know that there are other schools in the area and country who computing in a Windows-only environment.

Through a grant from the Connecticut Association for the Gifted, Radio Southeast has been able to purchase some additional software and equipment. We decided that we would not incorporate the information here because you need to build up on experiences from the "beginner level" of podcasting.

Some of the equipment and software we purchased were:

Mic
Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Microphone

Two studio microphones that connect via XLR connection to a sound mixing board.
Sound Board
Alesis MultiMix 8USB

This sound mixing board allowed us to connect two studio microphones into the computer through USB connection.
Mic Stand
Atlas DS7 Desk Mic Stand

This connected the studio microphones so that students could use them on a desk without touching them.
Pop Filter
Raxxess Pop Filter

One pop filter was purchased because some students pop their "Ps" and "Ts."

Audition

Adobe Audition

Professional sound recording software

DW
Adobe Dreamweaver 8

Professional Web Publishing Tool

 

We are still struggling with this software. Our podcasts sound great, but there is a large learning curve for anyone who uses the software to help them with their podcasts. We consider ourselves advanced computer users and we still have put many hours into learning the equipment to a very basic level. If you purchase this software and equipment, I would encourage you to be an advanced computer user and to spend a summer learning the ins and outs of the equipment.

If you have any questions regarding our project, we encourage you to email us using the website feedback form.

Until next time.... See you next time on Radio Southeast

James Hendricks and Susan Irvine

Directors, Radio Southeast

Southeast Elementary School