How NPR Is Preparing for “The Year of the Podcast”

So 2015 will be the year of the podcast? Ok by me.

“I will say we’re working on a number of different ideas,” he says. “Our hope is to really embrace the opportunity we see in front of us in podcasting. This is a great, golden moment. The popularity of Serial has shown this is not just a niche platform: This is a mainstream platform, and we should be treating it like that.”

via How NPR Is Preparing for “The Year of the Podcast” | Media | Washingtonian.

Mobile Podcast Access

ITS Podcasts

ITS Podcasts

The news that people can access iTunes U content on their iPhone and iPod Touches with the 3.0 software is such a great thing! I’ve wanted mobile access since the beginning of iTunes U, so seeing this work on my own iPhone was really very cool. The scenario of students having real mobile access to protected course content while they walk across campus is now a reality. We still don’t have the full suite — mobile recording, posting, and acquisition but we are getting really close.

Now that I think about it, with the new voice recorder one may be able to rig up an easy to use mobile solution that would allow one to record in the Recorder application, email it to a blog to create a new entry, feed the RSS into an iTunes U section, and make it instantly available for download. Not sure that would work, but I’ll give it a try.

To get back on topic, I wonder how many students will really take advantage of this? I’m constantly trying to project my own scenarios onto the way student should use the tools we give them … that is something I should stop. I doubt using the iTunes app on the iPhone for accessing PSU iTunes U course content is really part of their dream scenarios. I could be wrong and I am anxious to understand this a bit better. Over the next several days we’ll be making it very easy for people to authenticate and get into their private courses … and once that happens we may see some new mobile access start to happen in the fall. I am hoping that with this new capability that Apple also gives me a way to track its use through the weekly statistics we get. Only time will tell, but this is a very cool move in the right direction!

Easy Capture

With the emergence of an environment like YouTube, the ability to create and share rich media has gotten really very simple. I’ve written here and elsewhere about the notion of simple creation and even simpler embedding and I think for the most part people are really starting to get it. The idea that I can sit down, point my iSight at my face, and instantly record and encode video straight to the web is really powerful. But if you want to do that as part of the Academy in an official sense the process is much more complicated because we don’t offer the same level of simplicity as they do. Granted anyone with a browser, a relatively fast Internet connection, and a video camera can get video online quickly, but if I am doing this for class (teaching or taking) it can be more complicated. If I go outside our walls I am relying on a third party platform that does not really provide any sort of institutional identity assurances — in other words, it isn’t tied to my institution’s authentication system. Is that a big deal? That is up to you (and a thousand differing opinions on the matter).

I am of the mind that we can’t be building clones of spaces like YouTube … we just can’t afford it and we certainly can’t keep up. But where does that leave us when it comes to letting faculty and students explore rich media creation and sharing within the campus walls? That is the question that torments me as I promote digital media as artifacts of learning — if we can’t really support it, can we really promote it? I find it amazing that over a third of Penn State students reported creating at least one digital media piece last year and I find it even more amazing that about a third of Penn State faculty report using YouTube as a classroom teaching tool. Why then would we want to reinvent something that is working so well? I don’t have a quick or snarky answer to that one … like I said, I am tormented by what to do. If you have the time or the interest I spent a few minutes exploring these ideas a little deeper by using the Quick Capture feature on YouTube.

It isn’t just digital video that I am talking about. Over the weekend I got an email from a student that is relatively typical …

Hi, I need to make a podcast in my class and my teammates and I have never done it. Can you send us information on where to go to get help and where we can go to get equipment?

That to me is frustrating. Even after the progress of the last several years it is still a real process to record, compress, upload, embed, and share a simple recording of a group of students sitting around and talking. Why can’t we just have something like YouTube (or if you remember back in the day, Odeo) to help us do it? We do … right? But then that old question comes back, why in the world would we build it?

With all that in mind, we are thinking about what infrastructure needs to be in place to make this happen inside the walls of the Academy. Like I mentioned yesterday, we are rethinking the whole podcasting eco-system and are currently investigating Apple’s Podcast Producer. We’ve been testing it and it makes the creation of digital media artifacts (audio, video, screencasts, file sharing) extremely simple. From a single interface a person can authenticate, create, and post a rich media file to a whole host of services — iTunes U, Blogs, YouTube, etc. It enables an Apple user (no idea on the PC side yet) to launch a very simple client application, select from 4 choices, and record. Very basic stuff, but all the heavy lifting — editing, encoding, and posting — is handled behind the scenes on the server. It would be an exceptional tool for so much more than podcasting … things like screencasts, recording presentations, practicing music, and so much more come to mind instantly. Would us having our own environment to do this raise the level of participation?

Apple's Podcast Capture Application

Apple's Podcast Capture Application

But even with the simplicity I am still left wondering if we even need to go down this path … doesn’t YouTube do this already? Damn voices! Thoughts?

iPhone and My Mobile Voice

Last week I read a post by CogDog where he talked about a voice recorder app for the iPhone that looked really promising called, Recorder. It reminded me of how much podcasting I used to do and how much I would like to be able to do it on the fly with my iPhone and the nifty little headset/microphone combo. I didn’t end up trying Recorder, but this morning I downloaded an application that does recording and syncing back to the Mac. It is iTalk by Griffin.

Here’s what is so cool about it (other than the free price) — it has a separate client that runs on the Mac that syncs your file back to your Mac via WIFI. For me that is killer as I don’t sync my iPhone with my work laptop … but in this case I simply make my recording (using the headset), launch the iTalk Sync client on my MacBook, connect to the iPhone with two taps, and drag the file to the desktop. For the sample below I then took it into GarageBand to put the cheesy music under the voice. All in all it took no time at all.

Listen to my Mobile Audio

Now, if the application would allow me to do some simple editing … say place a bumper at the front, perhaps a little music under the voice, and mix it all down before I move it to my Mac we’d have the perfect mobile podcasting kit. Even without those features this thing is a winner and the quality is actually quite good!