Podcasting123 is an open source application that easily enables podcasting for all prospective users. It was designed in a higher education environment, but can easily be adapted to any other purpose.
There are two parts to the software: the server software and the client software. These can be downloaded here. The server software installs to a Windows-based server and receives the MP3 uploads. It also manages the links to the MP3s. The client software is resident on the user's computer and performs all operations necessary to convert, edit, and upload audio files as podcasts.
Anyone may download and use the software without charge. You may also alter it for whatever purpose you need.
Podcasting is a technology that delivers audio content. While the audio content can be almost anything including music and speech, it is usually intended for instructional purposes and almost always consists of speech. The podcasting technology is divided into two parts: the digital audio files and the RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds.
Normally, the audio content and RSS feeds are stored on a Web server and accessed over the Internet. All modern Web browsers consume podcasts seamlessly—that is, they can play podcasts without any additional intervention by the user. There are many pieces of software that download, manage, and play podcasts. The most notable and most well-used software is iTunes which is published by Apple and free. It can be downloaded from the Internet (http://www.apple.com/itunes/download/). Almost all MP3 devices now come with software that manages podcasts.
The audio files are almost always MP3 audio files. These are highly-compressed files that take far less storage space and Internet bandwidth than uncompressed audio files. They undergo a two-step compression process. The first step is known as lossy compression. In effect, the lossy compression degrades the audio in order to eliminate a great deal of information in order to reduce the file size. (This is scientifically known as reducing the entropy of the information.) But the degradation of the audio data is done in such a way that the listener can’t hear the degradation. A science known a psychoacoustics studies such phenomena, and has pointed the way for the developers of the MP3 compression technology. The second phase of the compression process is known as lossless compression. The Huffman data compression algorithm is used to take the degraded audio content and make it much smaller.
The RSS feed is a relatively small text file that resides on the server. There is a process in which the client software subscribes to the RSS feed for any given group of podcasts. The podcast groups are an aggregation of like podcasts, which have been grouped by the creator of the podcasts. Once the subscription mechanism has been enabled, the client software periodically checks the server to see if any changes have been made to the podcast group. The RSS file stores its data in XML (Extensible Markup Language) format. The following is a sample RSS file taken from the RCC server.
Six reasons to podcast.
First of all, it's part of our culture. Barack Obama announced his candidacy via a Webcast. There was no news conference, just smartly-used Web technology. Most kids have MP3 files (the underlying audio file format for podcasts) on their MySpace site. And iPods playing MP3s are as common now as the transistor radios of the 1960s. Podcasting is embedded into our culture.
The second reason to podcast is that it will help you improve your verbal communication effectiveness. When I started editing my audio files, I heard things in my delivery that I didn't like. Over several months, my presentation skills improved dramatically as I listened to the podcasts. Improving ourselves is an important reason to podcast.
The third reason to podcast is that it helps learners who might not respond well to your style. This is especially important for audio learners. But all learning styles are enhanced by podcasts. It's another way to offer additional submodalities that will enhance comprehension.
Have you ever run out of time in a meeting or presentation and wished you had ten more minutes to cover that last topic? It happens to us all. So the fourth reason I give you to podcast is that you can post topics for people to listen to later that you didn't have the time to cover in your allotted time frame.
A fifth reason for podcasting is the ease with which you can collaborate. Instead of having colleagues work around your schedule, you can record them at convenient times, create a podcast, and make it available. Collaboration is good, and podcasting makes it easy.
The sixth and last reason I want to present is that podcasting can address pragmatic concerns. Many people miss meetings and presentations for legitimate reasons. But with podcasts, they can attempt to listen and catch up.
Rick Leinecker and Michael Preuss are the lead developers of this technology. It is a passion for them and they receive no compensation from it.
The original purpose was to facilitate instructional effectiveness at a community college. Student and faculty response was very positive and significant outcomes were found. As a result, it was clear that the software should be shared. After a number of presentations at conferences, other colleges started using the software.
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