Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Podcasting on a Chromebook

Podcasting is much more than just audio recording.  A podcast is an episodic series of audio recordings that are published to the web for a global audience.  While anyone can record audio and host it online, it takes time and energy to meet the demands of a syndicated podcast.  The directions below will lead you through the steps of creating your own podcast.  From recording to submitting the podcast for syndication in the iTunes music store and everything in between, it is all listed in details below.

Note: These steps have been streamlined to work in a Chromebook environment.  Software based solutions for audio editing far exceed the functionality of cloud-based editors at this time. The simple fact that this can be done entirely online or on a Chromebook, is an accomplishment in its own right.  

Step 1: Write a script. Writing is an important component of the educational process and this is a wonderful opportunity to integrate that skill in a “fun” activity.  A script does not need to be in a specific format, but if you want to “keep it real,” the Screenplay Formatter is a cool Google Doc Add-on that gives your student’s work an authentic look and feel.  The screenplay writing process is where all the real work is done.  Planning, research, and synthesis all live here.  The “Podcast” is just the pretty outcome.

Step 2: Record.  A recording can be as simple as one student’s voice or as complicated as a full on dramatization, complete with music and sound effects.

To record a simple episode of 5 minutes or less that includes an unedited recording from your computer's microphone, Speakpipe is a good option.

For a more complicated recording that requires editing and/or the addition of music and sound effects, your best option is Beautiful Audio Editor.  It works in tandem with your Google Drive to save project files.  I highly recommend CC Mixter and Freesound for copyright friendly music and sound effects.

When downloading completed tracks from from Beautiful Audio Editor, be sure to do so in .mp3, not .wav.

Step 3: Hosting.  Traditionally, this is the part of the podcasting equation is the most difficult.  As a host does more than just store an audio recording, this is where most potential podcasters get stuck.  Podcast Machine is the one stop shop for hosting and broadcasting your new podcast.

  • Choose a unique name for your account, then click the Create Account button.
  • Add a new Channel.  *Each channel can have an unlimited number of episodes.  We will get to adding those later.
  • Give your Channel a name and a good description.  Adding Tags in the Advanced section is also a good idea.

  • Before you click the Create button, it is essential that you add an appropriate logo.  Logos are how potential listeners are going to choose whether or not to download your episodes.  Think of it as your one chance to make a first impression.  How many snap decisions have you made to rent a movie or buy a product based exclusively on how the outside of the box looks?

    • You may upload any image you like here, but if you plan to submit your podcast to Apple for syndication in the iTunes store, your image must be a minimum of 1400 x 1400 pixels and a maximum of 3000 x 3000 pixels.   This sounds simple, but finding an image, just the right size for Apple, can be exhausting.  My advice here is to open Google Drive, create a new Google Drawing.  From the File menu, select Page Setup.  From the dropdown, choose Custom.  From the second dropdown, change it from Inches to Pixels.  Finally, add 1400 x 1400 in the spaces provided and click OK.
    • Now your canvas is the correct size.  From the Insert menu select Image.  Import or upload your desired photo.  Your photo will automatically be centered on the 1400 x 1400 canvas.  You may resize it at this point by dragging the corners.  When you are satisfied, select Download as... .jpg from the File menu to download your new Apple ready logo.

  • Click the New Episode button. You will do this each time you add a new episode to the channel.  
  • Just as in the Channel naming step, you must give the episode a name, description and add tags.  Tags help end users find your podcast.  
  • *Optional: Click the Choose File button to select an image file for the specific episode.  If no image file is use, the channel art will be used by default.
  • Click the Create button.
  • Click the Upload a File button to upload your audio recording.

Step 4: Share.  You have three share options. They are listed in order from easiest, to most complex (The coolness factor also goes up accordingly).

  1. Use the hyperlink to the your Podcast Machine channel to share your podcast.  In this case, listeners would visit your Podcast Machine channel directly to listen to new episodes.
  2. Use the embed code from your Podcast Machine channel page to embed a Podcast player of episodes on your website.
  3. Submit your podcast to iTunes for international syndication.

Submit to iTunes
(This portion of the directions are adapted from
*To submit a podcast to iTunes, you must have a functional Apple ID (and know the password;).  If you don’t have one, you can create it here.
  1. Use your Apple ID to sign into iTunes Connect.
  2. Click the + icon in the upper left of the iTunes Connect dashboard.
  3. Get the RSS feed from your Podcast Machine channel by right clicking and copying the link address of the designated feed (the iPod or mp3 feed is recommended).
  4. Paste the link in the box on your iTunes Connect page and click the Validate button.
  5. Assuming you don’t have any validation errors, click the Submit button.  
Your podcast should show up in the iTune directory within 48 hours.  Your podcast will automatically update in iTunes when you add a new episode to your Podcast machine channel.  

Monday, August 3, 2015

Common File Extensions used in Schools

Common File Formats in Schools

Below is a list of the most common file formats in use in K-12 schools today.  Knowing what file format works with any given application is essential.  Many structurally similar (ie. text to text format, video to video format, etc) files can be converted to other file formats using a wide variety of file converters.  I strongly recommend

.doc or .docx
.ppt or pptx
.xls or xlsx
The document formats for the core Microsoft Office Suite (Word, PowerPoint, and Excel).  Formats with the “X” at the end (ex. .docx) are the default save format for Office 2007 files and above.   The “X” comes from a new file structure that utilizes XML.  X files are not backwards compatible with earlier versions Office, but are smaller and more secure.  
Tip:  If you are sharing Office documents online or with large groups of students, save as the legacy format (ex. .doc) to ensure end users with older version of Office can open it.  
Portable Document Format.  A .pdf file is a self contained presentation file that contains all necessary information required to consistently display contained information across a wide array of platforms.  
Tip:  Any device can open a .pdf file.  .pdf files can not be edited by the end user.  These two factors make it the ideal format for sharing assignments online.  Also, most applications can be exported as a .pdf.  When in doubt, .pdf it out.
.txt or .rtf
Text or Rich Text Format.  Both are very light text documents that do not contain formatting options.  Both are very small and can usually be opened by any device.
Tip: Word Processing programs can both open and export as one of these simple text formats.
.htm or .html
HyperText Markup Language. A common language that many websites are written in.  Your computer will use a browser (like Chrome) to open HTML files.
Tip:  You don’t need to know HTML to use it.  You can embed content on your own website or various places on the internet by simple placing HTML embed code in a specific location.  Link to a very useful HTML reference.
Comma-Separated Value.  A way of storing tabular data (think Excel) in a plain text format.  Any spreadsheet application can open or export .csv files.
Tip:  Most websites that allow you to bulk upload student information will accept a .csv file.  Simply export the student information from Excel as a .csv and upload it to the desired website.
Electronic Publication. EPUB is the most common open ebook standard/format.  .epub content is composed of “reflowable” text, meaning that the content adapts to the end users device, giving them the ability to change text size and spacing.  
Tip: Most mobile devices can read .epub files (Android, Apple, Nook, Kindle Fire - some of the older Kindles still use the .mobi file format).  Convert text from .pdf to .epub so students can edit the size of the text that’s displayed on their devices.


Tip: Many audio and video files require proprietary media players to play the file.  Save yourself some time and aggravation and use a cross-platform media player like VLC.  It is like the One Ring of the media player world.  

A Quicktime file originally used only by Apple.  Now much more common across multiple platforms.  Will require Quicktime or a cross platform player to run on a Windows PC.  Plays natively on a Mac or iOS device.
.avi and .wmv
Video formats created by Microsoft.  .avi is older and typically much less compressed that a .wmv file of the same length.  Both of these files are natively supported in the Windows environment (embeddable in PowerPoints, etc).
.mpg. mpeg, .mp4
Variations of the MPEG family of video designed and promoted by ISO (International Organization for Standardization).  They are open source and popular.  
Flash Video. Adobe Flash container file format.  Many online video sites utilize flash video (ex. Youtube).  Smart Notebook requires videos to be in the .flv format in order to be embed directly in a page.  
The current video standard for HTML 5.  Because of this and Google’s support for the platform it is seen on Chromebooks more and more often.  

.aif  or .wav
Both are lossless (uncompressed) audio formats.  .aif is most commonly found on Macs and .wav on Windows.
A very popular lossy (compressed) audio compression format that also contains id tags. The required format for Smart Notebook.
A lossy audio compression format designed for use with the Microsoft Windows operating system
The planned successor to .mp3.  Said to be capable of better sound quality and higher bit rates.

The newest image format.  Lossless data compression is used, so quality is usually somewhere between .jpg and .tif.  The format offers a variety of transparency options making it ideal for web design.
The most popular image format for cameras and websites.  It is popular because it uses compression technology.  the compression is lossy, so quality can be compromised.
Smallest image format, but achieves this with a limited color palette.
Lossless format considered to be the highest quality image format for commercial work.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Using an External Camera on a Chromebook

Sometimes you just need the added flexibility that an external camera gives you.  You may want to shoot a stop animation video with the Stop Motion Animator app, or shoot an action scene with WeVideo, or scan a QR Code taped to a wall.   In some of these cases the application will have an option to switch to a different camera built into the UI, but in most situations that is just not the case.  Below are step-by-step directions for switching between cameras using Chrome's system settings.

Step 1:
Click on the three horizontal lines (referred to as the "hotdog" by Chrome developers) in the upper right corner of your chrome browser, then click Settings.

Step 2:
Scroll to the bottom of the setting menu and click the Show advanced settings... link.

Step 3:
Under the Privacy section in the advanced settings, lick the Content Settings... button.

Step 4:
Scroll down to Media section and select the external camera from the dropdown menu beside the Camera heading.

Done.  Don't worry, this change is not permanent, your Chromebook will automatically switch back to the default camera when the external camera is unplugged. 


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