Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Podcast on a Budget

Unless you have been taking a lot of naps over the past few years, you know that one of the greatest forms of professional development and entertainment available to educators is the tried and true podcast.  As I wrote in a recent post called PD in Your Ears: The BeerEDU Podcast, I highlighted some of my favorite shows and introduced the world to the podcasting venture that my good friend, Ben Dickson, and I commenced over the summer. 

Quick side note: The BeerEDU Podcast is officially live wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Pocketcasts, Spotify, and many, many more!  As of this writing, we have three episodes, plus a little intro episode that we recorded in June to introduce it.  Check us out, subscribe, and give us some feedback!  You can also find us on Twitter (@BeerEDUpod), Facebook (beeredupodcast), email (, and use the hashtag #BeerEDUpod.  And, we also have stickers!  If you see Ben or me, ask for one! 

Many are under the impression that in order to produce a high-quality podcast, you need to have some high-quality, ridiculous expensive microphones with a mixing board and a complicated recording program.  That is not the case at all!  There are numerous low-cost options for recording programs, microphones, and publication tools so you can get started podcasting immediately.  I want to highlight what Ben and I use for recording The BeerEDU Podcast. 

Computer:  We don't have anything extravagant for a computer that we use when we podcast.  In fact, depending on the recording session, sometimes we have used my Dell Inspiron laptop, something that I bought at Costco for less than $500, sometimes we use my Asus Chromebook.  So long as the device we are using is connected to the Internet and can access the recording and publishing tools, we are able to produce a quality recording with a standard machine.  The bottom line: you just need a regular computer to get started!

Blue Microphones Snowball iCE
The tripod and 360° design of the
microphone make this portable
and able to pick up sound from
Microphone: Most laptops, Chromebooks, etc. come with a built-in microphone.  While it works fairly well in most circumstances, the built-in mic may not pick up everything that you want to record, especially if you are recording with another person.  That is why we use an external USB microphone when we record.  There are a lot of great microphones out there, but we use the Blue Snowball iCE because it can pick up our voices well, even when we are sitting across a table from one another, and it filters out a lot of other noise that could lower the quality of your recording.  According to the Snowball's manufacturer, this microphone is Skype certified, ensuring that your recordings will be clear regardless of where you are using it.  Blue does manufacture some microphones that are a little less expensive, and some that are very expensive, professional models.  And because it is plug and play, you don't have to install any drivers or software, you just plug it into your computer and start recording.  For less than $50, you cannot go wrong with this mic.  Find one on or Amazon (which, as of this writing, had this model on sale for $39.99!). 

Image result for soundtrap logo
Soundtrap is a "freemium" service, but you can certainly create
quality recordings using the free version.  We even created our
theme music using the loops and instruments in the free version!
Recording Program:  Again, just like computers and microphones, you have tons of options to choose from when picking out what program that you use to record and edit your podcast.  Ben and I use Soundtrap to record The BeerEDU Podcast.  Soundtrap is a program that I was introduced to a couple of years ago that was described to me by a Soundtrap representative as "the result of Google Docs and Garage Band (Mac, iOS) having a baby."  In Soundtrap, you have options for recording voices, creating tracks from thousands of loops and instruments, and collaboration with others, even when they aren't in the same room.  When we record, we create a voice track in Soundtrap and record.  If need be, we cut and edit out things that we don't want in the recording, then we add sound effects (for The BeerEDU Podcast, it's the sound of a can of beer opening), our beginning and ending bumpers, and I record a quick intro to the podcast to place at the beginning.  After piecing it all together (which we now do on the fly, now that we have intros, bumpers, and sound effects already created), we download the episode as a .mp3 file and prepare it for upload to the podcast platform. 

Image result for logoPublishing Your Podcast: Once you are ready, you can publish your work!  And what good would a podcast be if you Anchor!  Anchor has it's own abilities to record, add sound effects, etc., but Ben and I use Soundtrap because it is more robust and has more features to edit our final product.  You can use Anchor on the web or by downloading it to your phone, iPad, or tablet.  After we record in Soundtrap, we download the file and upload it into Anchor, prepare a description for the show, and publish.  You have the option of posting only in Anchor, or it will publish to all platforms that Anchor works with, which as of this writing, is eight more platforms in addition to Anchor. 
kept it to yourself?  In the past, getting your podcast published on platforms like Apple was a very cumbersome endeavor, so cumbersome that I know of some podcasters that created a free Google website and put links to their audio files or they uploaded the file to YouTube to create an audio-only file there.  However, now it is much easier with

Odds & Ends:  There are a few other things that you may want to keep in mind if you want to pursue a podcast. You may want to include episode show notes, which Ben and I include in the description when we upload via a link to a Google Doc.  Our episode planning guide essentially becomes our show notes.  You also may want to create a logo for your show, something that we created using Bitmojis and Google Drawings.  To promote your show, make sure you take advantage of social media! While you don't have to create accounts for your show, it gives your show a little bit more ability to promote.  And if you really want to get serious, you may even create a website, listing previous episodes and show notes, something Ben and I haven't gotten around to just yet. 

Now, maybe you don't want to podcast yourself, but you would love to get your students into podcasting.  Because most of the items above are free and your school most likely has access to a few external microphones, you don't need to do much of anything to get your students started!  You may want to avoid publishing to Anchor and instead publish to a class website or cloud folder, depending on your school's acceptable use.  Your best bet is to speak with your supervisor and/or principal to figure out exactly how your students can start creating and reflecting using podcasts. 

So, what are you waiting for?  Get out there and create something great!  And don't forget to share and promote your material! 

Until next time...

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Edtech Baby Steps

I'm not 100% sure where I saw it, or when I saw it, for the first time, but there's a great quote out there somewhere, and I paraphrase, "Anybody that is an expert at something was once a beginner."  Now, before I go any further, I don't feel that I am an expert at anything.  I am very good at some things, but to be an expert at anything takes a lot of commitment, knowledge, and time.  And besides, I like to think that if I am not an expert at something, that means that I can continue to learn more about a particular subject.  

I am very passionate about education, which you have figured out if you have ever read my blog, read any of my tweets, or while only an episode in, listened to my podcast, The BeerEDU Podcast, that I host with my friend, Ben Dickson.  I am not an expert in educational technology, leadership, or instructional design, regardless of my college degrees, certificates of completion from various trainings and conferences, or endorsements from technology companies like Google and Pear Deck.  But between my passion for what I do and the knowledge that I do have, I believe that I that I have a lot to give to my students and my colleagues.  

I was most certainly one of those beginners that the quote recognizes.  In fact, when I think back to my first years as a teacher, I wish I could track down those several hundred students and apologize to them for the most likely horrific job that I did as their teacher.  However, over time, with experience, education, and sheer determination to try things, fail, and try again, I became better and built my passion and knowledge of many aspects of education.  I have had the honor of presenting to hundreds, if not thousands, of teachers over the course of the last several years and taught thousands of students.  Whenever I get feedback from a teacher or a thank you from a student, it really humbles me and makes me realize I made the right decision with my career choice.  

Fast forward to my new position as a special education teacher.  While I clearly have a lot to learn, so far, I feel very confident in my abilities and I am truly enjoying the job.  One of the greatest perks, but also challenges, is working in classrooms that aren't technically mine.  As a co-teacher, I assist a general education teacher, somebody that I had never met until a month ago, somebody that has their own expectations and teaching style, and since I am very passionate about and tend to focus a lot on educational technology in this blog, their own abilities in integrating technology.  

In conversations with my partner, we talked a lot about how we would work together, sharing our experiences working in a co-teaching model.  We agreed that it would be great if we could build a teaching relationship where we both could bounce off of one another and bounce ideas for lessons off of each other and try things.  My partner admitted that they were not very tech savvy, but that if I wanted to try some things, they would be willing to learn more about it; their enthusiasm is very admirable!  

So far, I have been able to present some lessons to our students that incorporate some things that my partner has said that they had never heard of, let alone used in class.  In the first couple of weeks, I used Quizizz to conduct a preassessment of students, then used the same assessment several times to show students their growth and learning (thanks Jon Corippo for that idea from Eduprotocols!).  I used Pear Deck to present some concepts on the Renaissance, building formative assessments into the presentation to gauge student learning as we went along, then shared student responses to them through the Takeaways function.  I also introduced students to Flipgrid, giving them a fun sample activity to introduce them to the app before using it for an activity at a later time.  

While I am excited to share my passion and knowledge of technology and help my teaching partner learn some new things, I also know that I cannot overwhelm them with too much, too fast.  That can backfire very quickly and scare them away from trying new things.  I am certainly up to the challenge and am absolutely excited for this school year, and whether you're starting a new adventure or starting a new year doing what you have done for decades, I hope you are excited for 2018-2019 as well!  

Until next time...