Bridging the Chasm between Fantasy and Reality

November 30, 2008

Last week I concluded my blog with the following ambitious statement:

“Some of the best professional development comes from in-school sharing and collaboration. That’s where I see myself teaching in the read/write web – to break out of the “echo chamber” that is web 2.0 and to bridge the chasm between what some may see as fantasy to reality.”

Today I attempt to answer the question “Where do I begin to bridge the chasm?

The biggest challenge to introducing the power of Web 2.0 tools into every classroom is the time it takes to learn. In Anne Davies blog “Thinking about change – Nov. 7, 2008 , Anne eloquently states:

I think a big part of why educators are not out of their own networks is that their day is filled with other priorities that the teacher has to accomplish. I wish schools would make reflection and learning time for teachers a priority that nothing could interrupt. Students need the same. I agree that educators need to blog, use wikis, del.icio.ous and the like but until the educators’ learning and growth is truly made a priority within our schools, I don’t think we will make the progress we need to achieve. We need leaders that make this happen. A reflective culture of learning and growing must be nurtured in our schools.

As Bridget McCrea reports in The Journal – Karl Fisch: Creating Lifelong Learners, Karl Fisch of Arapahoe High School, frustrated with the pace of technology integration into classroom practice, secured grant funding to provide significant release time for teachers to learn and apply the latest technology tools.

This is a professional development (PD) model in which I would love to participate. When the time is right, I will definitely be there to collaborate with teachers to delve deeply into the power of blogging and the interrelated world of Web 2.0 for education. But that will take time to work with school leadership and setting up as a possible school priority and I want to start right now. Again I ask myself, “Where do I begin?”

podango-sound1 Click Here To Learn Which Web 2.0 Tool I’ll Begin With and Why

(The background music is called “Outdoor Ambience” and was downloaded from Soundzabound Royalty Free Music for Schools and the “ptwiiing” effect is available as a freeware download courtesy of Chris from

Why Podcast?

Wesley Fryer makes outlines a rationale for podcasting in education in his “Why Podcast?” ppt linked below

Check out a fuller description here .

In Manitoba podcasting is one of the suggested ways for students to “Show Understanding” of their Literacy with ICT Inquiry Projects as seen in this Developmental Continuum:

What is Educational Podcasting?

Here’s Tony Vincent’s comprehensive site for Finding and Subscribing to Podcasts.

One of the sites on Tony’s list: The Education Podcast Network (EPN) “is an effort to bring together into one place, the wide range of podcast programming that may be helpful to teachers looking for content to teach with and about, and to explore issues of teaching and learning in the 21st century.”

My advice would be to find and sample the podcast series you’d like to follow in EPN, then subscribe in iTunes. This list is great to illustrate the abundance and wide range of educational podcasts available, even though it is incomplete. The podcast series that is noticeable absent from this list is the cutting edge k12online08 Audio Channel , so that would be a good one to demonstrate subscribing to through iTunes. EdTechTalk is listed, but the full breadth of the podcast would be worthy of demonstrating as well, in particular the Women of the Web 2.0 podcast series.

How to Podcast?

Wes Fryer includes an extensive list of resources for getting started with educational podcasting on his Podcasting Wiki here.

One of the resources listed on this wiki is Tony Vincent’s Excellent Podcasting for Teachers & Students Click on the image below to view the full .pdf file.

I followed Tony’s guide to create my own first podcast, from installing and using Audacity and Levelator Software to labelling and importing my podcast into iTunes complete with original artwork. This guide even details how schools can create and promote their own podcast series.

An important part of planning to podcast with students is exploring, then discussing what makes a good podcast. Here are 3 possible assessment rubrics to help guide students in their learning linked below:


Educators will also want to familiarize themselves with the Podcasting Legal Guide for Canada (also linked to the image below):


“Why Copyright?”, due November 2008, is another resource educators will want to watch for:
Why Copyright? Canadian Voices on Copyright Law – Trailer

When Do I Find Time with My Colleagues?

If time is such an issue in introducing Web 2.0 tools to teachers, when will I introduce podcasting? I’m happy to report that I’ve already started! Students in a grade 12 Psychology class asked their teacher to help them edit a .mp3 file that they wanted to include in their multi-media presentation to demonstrate their understanding and learning of their inquiry project “Effects of the Menstrual Cycle on Women’s Mental and Emotional Health”. I was invited into the classroom and arrived in a flash! I demonstrated how to edit .mp3 files using Audacity, then how to search for more podcasts on their topic through iTunes (yes there were more podcasts on this topic), add their own dialog to the podcast and generally hooked a whole group of students, plus their teacher, on podcasting. This is what I meant when I wrote “Some of the best professional development comes from in-school sharing and collaboration. That’s where I see myself teaching in the read/write web”. – in authentic learning situations. I’m just waiting now for the interest and enthusiasm for podcasting to “catch on” in other classrooms.

A teacher of beginning English as Additional Language students asked for a demonstration of how to locate on the web and burn podcasts to a CD for her to play in the classroom. We set up a time to do this and after that I asked “Would you like to learn how to make your own podcast?” hoping that she would jump at the chance – and she did! She was surprised at how easy it was and that I would post the files on the school blog for her students so they could practice speaking English outside of the classroom in the comfort of their homes or at a library – at absolutely no cost to the school!

A few weeks ago I posted a podcasting test on the division-sponsored blog entitled How I Made This Podcast. The reason I did that was to demonstrate that podcasts can be uploaded and embedded directly into my school division blogs, but need to be linked from a podcast hosting service into this blog. Well, it turned out that my podcast was a “hit around the office” with the division’s Educational Technology Folks. After I expressed my initial embarrassment at this, I was asked to share what I’ve learned about podcasting with the Senior Years Educational Technology Mentor’s Group. This is my plan:

December session:

  • record the entire session using the podcast kit prepared by the ed. tech. folks and available for loan to schools
  • edit and share bits of the session as “minutes” on the 9-12 Mentor’s blog (giving my word processor a break for a change!)

January Session:

  • familiarize participants with the resources listed above
  • demonstrate and walk participants through making and posting a podcast on our mentor’s blog

I’ll also highlight this CBC podcast featuring Darren Kuropatwa following his Web 2.0 PD session at our Manitoba Special Area Groups Conference on Nov. 28, 2008.

The time is right for the “just in time learning” of podcasting in my little educational enclave and fortunately I’m ready!

Which Web 2.0 tool would you begin with?

podango-sound2Listen to this blog courtesy of



October 13, 2008

Listen to this blog – Talkr

My growing list of favorite podcasts:

I currently subscribe to the following podcasts in iTunes:

  • Doug Johnson’s Breaking Bread and Tech Squawk
  • The Library Channel
  • School Library Journal
  • Alan November
  • 2¢ worth Podcasts with David Warlick
  • Teaching with SMARTBoard
  • Women of the Web 2.0

My latest new habit that really works for me is I use my daughter’s iPod hand-me-down to listen to podcasts (as well as music). I particularly enjoy podcasts by Joyce Valenza, Alan November and Joan Fry Williams for daily inspiration and ideas on my walk to work.

Why Podcast?

In Manitoba, podcasting is included in our Literacy with ICT Continuum as one way for students to communicate their learning:
C-2.1 discusses information, ideas, and/or electronic work using tools for electronic communication (examples: email, electronic whiteboards, web pages, threaded discussions, videoconferences, chats, instant messages, camera phones, wikis, blogs, podcasts, online whiteboards…)
C-3.1 adjusts communication based on self-evaluation and feedback from a global audience

Many reasons for podcasting in schools are explained in the “Why Podcast” podcast made available at

In this podcast teacher Jean Haldarson explains why she and her students podcast:

  • podcasting requires students to read, write, speak and listen as well as develops a willingness to write draft after draft of scripts in preparation to podcast to the web
  • higher level thinking skills – for example students may need to synthesize science learning
  • most of the podcasting process is spent in the upper level of high level thinking
  • it requires students to work together – podcasts with multiple authors require each student assigned one segment of the project
  • rise in self-esteem & confidence / students learning along with adults to create the podcast

Robert Craven provides many reasons for administrators to podcast including communicating better with parents and community.

Reasons that I find compelling for using podcasts for professional development include:

– they’re easy to distribute
– podcasts can be uploaded to a personal listening device and busy teachers can listen at their leisure or while they’re exercising or doing mundane household chores.

Tony Vincent also made a great suggestion for a classroom application of podcasting in his manual Podcasting for Teachers and students. He suggested interviewing important people. He also provides the information for the software needed to record an interview through Skype to later import into Audacity. This way students can interview an expert from far away.

Making My First Podcast

Here’s the link to my school blog where I posted my first podcast. I took the opportunity to podcast how I created an .mp3 file using Audacity (instead of explaining myself in writing for a change).

Podcasting for Teachers and students by Tony Vincent guided me to Levelator software which made my first attempt at podcasting sound so much easier to listen to and smoother. I remember having different students narrate into Photostory 3 software. Quite often the variation in the volume of speech from child to child was quite distracting, so I really appreciate the value of the free little Levelator download. I also followed the steps in Vincent’s handy manual to add information, details and artwork in iTunes so that it would be labeled properly for anyone who decided to download it into iTunes.

I posted this improved podcast through SolidCasts which is one of the online hosting services suggested in Tony Vincent’s manual. It can be heard here. This podcast also appears on a very plain looking webpage, but it’s free and it comes with some handy buttons. For example it has the html code and RSS feed buttons and iTunes buttons for subscribing to the podcast series. Unfortunately Bloglines and Microsoft feeds registered an error each time I tried to subscribe using their html code or URLs so I need to seek some advice about this. The site does provide good hints for registering your podcasts in iTunes and other hints for promoting the podcast.

WordPress has a $20.00/year upgrade for uploading 5 GB of video and audio directly into this blog. I was tempted to try it out because I think it looks so much cooler when it’s played right on a blog post, but decided to learn how to use a free service because that way I can better faciliate our adult students to post their podcasts for free.

I posted my first example above on my school blog which is administrated by my school division educational technology consultants. I eventually want to be able to embed my podcasts using the free hosting service “Podango” as in the “Why Podcast” podcast mentioned above. Each time I went to the Podango website and Podango blog I got a “503 Service Unavailable” message. I was able to get in and register on Monday, and am now beginning to learn the process of embedding podcasts into my school’s WordPress blog.

I wish I had come across Ann Bell’s excellent podcast rubric @ before I produced my podcast. After going through the rubric I realize I could have done a much better job by paying attention to a few details such as:

providing my name at the beginning of the podcast instead of at the end

providing the date of the podcast

paying better attention to smooth transitions and pacing

concluding by summarizing the key points

The biggest drawback for podcasting at my school at this point may be the excessive amount of time it takes to produce them. For example it took me 8 hours to research podcasting, then 8 more hours for me to produce my 2:18 minute podcast. I don’t know of any students at Adult Education Centre that could act as mentors to teachers or other students. So for busy teachers at my school, it may require an educational leave to prepare podcasts for use in their classes or as professional development aids. It may also be a hard-sell to convince senior high teachers to readjust their course outlines to allow several hours to facilitate the process for their students.

All in all however there couldn’t have been a better time for me to learn how to podcast. An EAL teacher asked me this week if I could walk her through the steps to do a series of podcasts that she will burn to CDs for her students. We have set aside time next week to go through the process together. One of the technology leaders in the school has asked to sit in too, and we’ve already talked about working together to do podcasting with her students. The World Issues teacher and I have decided to prepare a multimedia presentation for the library on Remembrance Day that will loop throughout the day on November 10. The plan is that students will produce a podcast that will play as part of the presentation. Change is in the air(waves)!

David Loertscher spoke at the Manitoba Special Area Group Teacher Librarian Conference in November, 2007 and concluded his keynote speech with the message: “There is no new technology that you cannot learn”. I feel my foray into learning podcasting proves his point beautifully.