Tips for Educational Podcasts

Podcasting is an intelligent and a creative method to encourage learning and inspire students to take active part in curricular activities or group assignments. However, when it comes to using technology in any form, safety assumes center stage. This gets heightened especially when vulnerable children are involved. Educational podcasts are a form of accessing internet content and must therefore be regulated appropriately to avoid any safety issues. Here are a few tips that you can use to ensure that the children remain safe even as they learn using one of the most creative learning technique available.

Screen the podcasts as per your school’s acceptable internet usage policy

It is very important to comply with your school’s acceptable internet usage policy before proceeding to select a podcast for your students. Every district has a set of rules and guidelines when it comes to internet usage in schools. These rules are formulated in order to provide safe and only useful content to the children.

Get signed permission from parents

This process is usually completed at the beginning of every school year and is generally done at a district level. However, it is always good to let the parents know about their child’s education and activities at school. Asking for signed permission is a good way to accomplish this.

Check the reliability of the podcast source

While it is important to adhere to the internet usage policy and inform parents about the educational podcast, it is also very important to check the reliability of the source of the podcast. Despite all the security measure you take, there are chances of cyber criminals playing mischief with your chosen podcast. This may lead to the children being exposed to inappropriate content. Make sure that this does not take place. One of the ways to ensure this is by either getting the podcast downloaded wherever possible or by simply viewing it yourself to screen for any inappropriate content before green-lighting it for your class.

Inform students about safe internet practices

Many a times, internet safety is compromised unknowingly. It is always a good practice not to reveal personal information on the internet. However, children may unknowingly do so or download malicious web content and compromise internet safety. In order to avoid any such situation, explain everything about internet safety to the children. Before playing the podcast tell them about good and bad internet practices and the usage policy of your school. You may also create small cards displaying internet safety rules and place them near the computers so the children can review them as and when required.

When it comes to ensuring internet safety, you can never be too careful. So always remain vigilant when your class is viewing the podcast in order to avoid any breach of rules. Also, you must remember that safe internet practices depend vastly on the context of usage, nature of the children and the type of computers accessible to the children. Account for all these variables when formulating rules about internet usage. With this, you can ensure a fun and creative learning experience for all the children in your school.

Promoting Your Podcast

Once you have fully developed your podcast, how do you increase its visibility on the web? There are a number of methods available to an individual to extend the reach of your podcast and build a large audience. Promoting your podcast is as important as the content displayed via your podcast. Let us take a look at some proven ways to promote your podcast.

Descriptive Titling and Content

In order to increase the visibility of your podcast among others, it is extremely important to make sure that your RSS feed and title is keyword rich. Using important keywords that relate to the topic your podcast is focused on, will ensure that it gains priority over others, to a search engine. Providing links to sample audio files in the RSS feed may also be a great way to convince your audience that your podcast is of superior quality.

Get in Touch With Podcast Directories

Podcast directories bring RSS feeds from all around the web under a single umbrella. iTunes has one of the most comprehensive podcast directories available. Once you have created your podcast, submit it to any and all podcast directories. By doing this, you will increase the reach of the podcast as directory sites themselves draw in large audiences, looking for all kinds of content.

Add a Graphic

With so many various podcasts available on the web, you need to find a way to make your own podcast stand apart from the others. Audiences should be able to recognize your podcast immediately. One way to do this is to create a graphic or a logo that is unique to your own podcast. When audiences search for podcasts, they will immediately associate the logo with your brand.

Adding a Signature

One of the most useful ways to inform people of your podcast is to visit forums that are relevant to your own topic, and participate in discussions. You can add a signature to your web identity which will always be present with any email or post of yours. A signature is a great way to advertise your brand without being too overt. While people can become upset with podcasters promoting themselves via such forums, this continues to be an effective way of promotion, as long as your participation in the relevant discussion remains genuine.

Press Releases

Every time you create a podcast, you may want to send a press release to various online publications. These publications provide a platform to reach out to a massive audience that you, alone, could never connect with otherwise.

Maintain Consistency and Create a Feedback Loop

Remember that promoting your podcast is only half the work. You have to make sure that once an individual views your podcast, he is engaged enough to suggest and share it to others, as well as subscribe to your feed. You can manage this by maintaining consistency in the frequency and quality of your podcast. Moreover, create a forum that allows members of the audience to share their own views and communicate with you. Analyze and determine popular topics of discussion, and tailor-make your content accordingly.

Creating Different Formats

Different formats mean different sizes. Some users may not choose to download large video files and may be content with audio files. By offering two different formats, your podcast will immediately appeal to a larger audience

Listen to Podcasts without Downloading

A podcast is a versatile form of audio entertainment. It is analogous with a blog post but, in the audio format. People often associate it only with Apple’s iPod. However, it is open to anybody with an internet connection. Podcasts are a powerful form of media and can be delivered to users in any format they choose. You may even listen to one directly from your browser. The most convenient method however is to get it through iTunes. But that does not mean you need an iPod or even iTunes for that matter to listen to your favorite podcasts. This is because, podcasts – like blog posts -are distributed via the RSS feed irrespective of their length, frequency and format.

Here are a few easy methods and tools that you can use to access podcasts without downloading them to iTunes.

Google Reader

Using Google Reader to access podcasts is one of the most popular as well as reliable methods available other than iTunes. In order to listen to podcasts using Google Reader, simply subscribe to the RSS feed of the podcaster and whenever a new episode is released, it should appear in Google Reader. Depending on whether the podcast is in video or audio format, you will observe a player which enables you to listen to it directly from the browser. If you wish to download the podcast to listen later, you can do so through the link provided in Google Reader that points at the original file.

Yahoo Reader

My Yahoo is another sought-after method to access podcasts directly on your browser. My Yahoo is a very popular place to find the latest news and podcasts too. Many experts even believe that the Yahoo Reader is one of the best RSS tools on the internet. It works much like the Google Reader but has a few added advantages such as the ability to customize the page and the content that you view on it. All you need is an email address to get started.

Juice

Juice is free and open source software that can be downloaded to subscribe and listen to podcasts on your PC. It is a program dedicated to the sole purpose of accessing podcasts instead of using your browser. Juice provides an easy-to-use platform to manage as well as download your podcasts directly into your PC and you can listen to the same through the Windows Media Player. You can even export your podcasts into a flash drive or a memory stick and use it on another device or a phone. The downloaded files will function in the same way as any other audio file would.

In addition to these, there are a very wide range of apps available that you can use to listen to podcasts without having to use iTunes. There are several online tools too such as PodNova that allow you to listen to podcasts online and provide you with an interface similar to iTunes but more user-friendly.

Make Your Audio Better than the Rest

Experts suggest that audio quality is the most important factor when preparing video content for the web as opposed the quality of the picture. Understandably, it assumes even more importance in case of a podcast. The first and most important thing you need to know about audio podcasting is that your listeners must be able to perfectly understand it. Irrespective of what you podcast is about, the effort you put in to get the finer details right decides the success or failure of your podcast. Here are a few such tips to help you fine tune your podcasts for your listeners.

The microphone

The microphone is a very important part of your podcast. A good microphone means you get good sound and that is what a podcast is all about – “sound.” Make sure that use a quality microphone before preparing your podcast. The best choice of microphones for podcasting includes unidirectional microphones. These microphones capture sound only from the front as opposed to bi-directional group microphones that can capture sound from a vast space around the microphone. This will make sure that your podcast does not get affected by any external noise. Also try to get a pop filter to avoid breathing into the microphone as you speak.

Recording Channels

Some of the best podcasts ever produced include conversation with guests and other co-hosts over Google Hangouts or Skype. One of the most popular methods to do this is to record the conference or the call using third party software and convert it into a podcast. The problem with this method is that voice quality gets quite damaged in the recording. As a result, you would wind up with one good quality voice and the rest sounding hazy like a telephonic conversation. While to a certain extent you could manage with this, over a long period of time, your listeners may begin to get annoyed with the uneven voice levels.

To avoid this problem, you will need to record each voice over separate channels. As expensive as this may sound, you can actually get it done without spending much if your co-hosts co-operate with you. All you need to do is ask them to record their voice separately on their system. You can then edit the whole thing together using any good editing program. Audacity is probably one of the best choices as it is free, open source and produces high quality recordings.

Normalizing

Normalizing your recordings boosts the volume to the maximum. This is a good practice because generally when you have a conversation, there is a good chance that the sound could dip and rise. When you export this audio directly, there could be some spots that may sound a bit too feeble to listen. Normalizing can make sure that this does not occur and your listeners are able to understand as well as listen to your podcast comfortably. However, normalizing and compression can hamper your audio quality slightly. So make sure that your audio files are in 24 bit format before going through normalization and compression.

Tips for that Perfect Podcast Recording

A vast majority of people are of the opinion that podcasts are not very effective tools of digital marketing. However, when leveraged smartly, they can be useful in growing your audience and driving traffic to your website. Podcasts can also be effective tools of lead generation. To achieve any of these benefits, your podcast must reach to the top of the iTunes chart. Looks like a daunting task right? It need not be, all you need to do is focus on a handful of important things and you should be good to go.

Content

Content is very important in order to create a compelling podcast. This means you need to take a good look at your audience before you begin planning for your next podcast. Make sure that whatever content you deliver is relevant to your audience and provides valuable information to listeners.

Audio quality

Building an audience of followers is all about engaging your audience effectively and when it comes to podcasts, the only way to do this is through sound. This means that your recordings must be of high quality so the listeners can fully comprehend your podcasts. This is something that can end up costing a giant hole into your finances. However, if you know what you are doing, you can accomplish it easily with minimal cost. While you can easily find a good microphone, what you need to know is that for high quality recording it is not the microphone that makes the difference. It is your environment that makes a huge difference. A microphone knows to capture sound and that’s it. It cannot distinguish between the noise and the sound.

While setting up a full fledged studio would definitely give you the quality you desire, it is not a very viable option. There are two things that you can do to cut out the noise. Firstly you can go for a 5dB audio filter using any software and reduce most of the noise or you can use an audio reflector to absorb unwanted sound.

Style and length

The next important aspect you need to concentrate about when it comes to podcasts is the length and the style of your podcasts. When it comes to the style, it is always good to create podcasts that are conversational as it is easy to keep the listeners engaged this way. Solo podcasts can also be engaging but not if your podcast is going to last as much as 40 minutes. Solo podcasts can easily seem long and winded. It won’t be long before things get monotonous and your users shut it off. As far as the length of your podcast is concerned, make sure that it doesn’t exceed anything more than 40 minutes. On an average, a 20 minute podcast is ideal. This is because, a majority of people tune in to podcasts while commuting and a regular commute generally doesn’t last more than 30 to 40 minutes.