Audio / Podcasting

What is a podcast?

Sound and music have long been a part of education and the school library media center. From radio to phonograph records to audio cassettes to compact discs, analog and digital recordings have been used in schools for both teaching and learning.

The Internet and the World Wide Web bring new opportunities and new tools for consuming and producing audio files.

According to Wikipedia“A podcast is a series of digital-media files which are distributed over the Internet using syndication feeds for playback on portable media players and computers. The term podcast, like broadcast, can refer either to the series of content itself or to the method by which it is syndicated; the latter is also called podcasting. The host or author of a podcast is often called a podcaster.”

 Podcasts are audio files that are delivered over the Internet and then played back on a computer or MP3 player. Today’s technology allows visuals and video to be added to podcasts to enhance the content and the experience.

Podcasting is a term coined from the combination of “ipod,” a popular digital audio player, and “broadcast.” This is because these audio files can be syndicated and distributed much as blogs and other websites are distributed through RSS feeds. You can subscribe to a podcast feed and then have it automatically delivered to your computer when there is a new episode.

Teachers and library media specialists are using podcasts to deliver content to students. These can be podcasts that others have created, selected from the thousands and thousands of free podcasts available online, or you can create your own. Podcasts can be played in the classroom or library media center, or downloaded and played at home.

Students, too can create their own podcasts—and when they do, they will not only be researching, writing, and learning content, they’ll be learning 21st century skills, too.

Podcasting also is an effective tool for professional development and for communicating with parents as well.

The beauty of podcasting is that most podcasts are available free of charge, and and in its purest form, it is easy and inexpensive to produce a podcast. Anyone can be a podcasting star!

Using Podcasts & Audio in the Media Center

Schools are using podcasts to:

  • Teach teachers and students about podcasting
  • Add audio to blogs and wikis and webpages
  • Create audio tours of the library media center
  • Create audio tours of the school
  • Create audio tours of community attractions and historical sites
  • Create news programs and announcements
  • Provide curriculum related audio programs on the library media website’s curriculum pages
  • Record book reviews
  • Provide book talks
  • Record and deliver story-hours
  • Give students a way to record and hear book reviews by peers
  • Create a library media center orientation for students, teachers and parents–available 24/7
  • Introduce the school-wide reading program to parents and teachers
  • Provide reading practice for older students by recording stories and chapters for younger students
  • Provide listening practice for students
  • Create audio versions of handouts and information online from text format
  • Locate tutorials and presentations for teachers to meet curriculum needs
  • Provide professional development on “hot topics”
  • Teach audio editing
  • Collaborate with teachers to help students produce audio recordings on a topic or for a report
  • Explain how to use online databases
  • Motivate students and teachers with upbeat podcasts on library media center events
  • Promote new titles
  • Record student’s reading for review by self and parents
  • Communicate with parents
  • Showcase student work
  • Create “radio” shows on current events, sports, special school events, etc.
  • Record student interviews with peers, community members, authors, and experts
  • Learn from colleages and other library professionals
  • Create commercials and audio “trailers” for titles
  • Record audio directions for slow readers and auditory learners
  • Translate instruction and directions into other languages for students and/or parents who speak a language other than English
  • Model standard English usage
  • Model different kinds of speeches: motivational, argumentative, etc.
  • Record community history, folklore,
  • Provide training for teachers
  • Provide an audio guide to a technology gadget petting zoo
  • Provide audio annual reports
  • Provide audio training for staff, volunteers and student assistants

School library media specialists are using online audio tools:

  • Edit podcasts to eliminate unwanted sections
  • Enhance and edit podcasts with music and sound effects
  • Download copyright free music and sound effects for daily TV shows
  • Create audio cds or web playlists of music for celebrations
  • Create audio cds or web playlists of podcasts for student review, homebound students, flipped classrooms
  • Teach audio editing
  • Create music

Creating Podcasts

While we can learn from listening to podcasts, many times we (and our students) can learn more by creating them! Remember podcasts can be a simple or as complex as you need them to be. Equipment ranges from a telephone or a microphone and a computer to multiple microphones, sound effects, digital music, mixers, audio editing software and more. You can add “tags” or keywords to your podcasts, too. That will help you organize, sort and find information.

Podcast Creation Tools

  • AudacityA cross platform sound editor that is easy to use and is free (downloadable software)
  • AudioBoom You can use it for reporting, storytelling, education, as an online dictaphone, or just to let friends know what you’re up to. Audioboo works on ios, android and nokia devices or via the web, and soon blackberry and windows 8.
  • Apple’s GarageBand software makes it easy to record, edit and transfer your podcast to iTunes, free software for Mac and Windows can be used to publish your podcast no matter how it is created.
  • Vocaroo Easy to use voice recording. All you need is a microphone. Record and share by email or embed into your own page.
  • Voki is a free service that allows you to create personalized speaking avatars and use them on your blog, profile, and in email messages. Similarly Photoface will use your face, animate it and add audio. (There’s a voki at the top of this page.) Classroom accounts are available with special avatars and features.

Other Tools

  • AudioPal Create your message using a mike and your computer, type in the text (text-to-speech), upload an audio file, or call a toll-free number. You’ll be emailed a link to the embeddable player.
  • Blabberize Make any photo or image talk! Here are several to give you an idea of what Blabberize can do for you:
  • Blubrry Create and distribute your podcasts here.
  • Chirbit Record with a microphone, type your text and it will turn it to speech, or upload a mp3 file. Micro-podcasting.
  • Fotobabble Upload a photo, record your voice, and send or embed away
  • Hipcast – Record high-quality audio right through the web browser or your phone. No additional software needed. (fee-based after 7 day trial)
  • Podomatic Makes it easy to find, record and publish your podcast.
  • SpeakPipe voice recorder allows you to create an audio recording directly from a browser by using your microphone. The recording is produced locally on your computer, and you can record as many times as you need. There is the option to save your recording on the SpeakPipe server and get a link to it, so you can send it via email or use on the web.
  • VoiceThread is more than an audio tool. The recently published Horizon Report 2009 K12 Edition published by the New Media Consortium refers to VoiceThread as one of the emerging technologies “likely to have a large impact on teaching, learning, research, or creative expression within education.” A VoiceThread is a collaborative, multimedia slide show that holds images, documents, and videos and allows people to navigate pages and leave comments in 5 ways – using voice (with a mic or telephone), text, audio file, or video (via a webcam) There is aneducation version.

A little different:

  • Will read from word processing files, webpages, or almost anything.
  • PodcastOMatic Converts your blog posts into podcasts using text-to-speech technology.
  • Skype Skype is a voice over internet “telephone” service that lets you call other Skype users for free. With a webcam, you can make free video calls, too. Talk with authors, create collaborative projects, chat with experts–all for free! Skype offers special features for classrooms:Skype in the Classroom. Connect your school or classroom with others around the world and help students discover new cultures, languages and ideas, all without leaving the classroom. The Learning Librarian offers a manual (.doc) she developed for her school’s Skype use. You might also want to see authors who will Skype with your school at the Skype An Author Network. Many authors will chat with your students for 10-15 minutes for free! (See Authors Who Skype for Free.) You can also arrange longer Skype visits with them for a fee. (The fee is for the author, NOT for Skype. Skype is free!) The Skype in the Classroom site has lots of ideas, resources and lesson plans.
  • Twisted Wire is an online service (iPad app also available) for creating and editing audio tracks. You can record and edit up to 5 minutes for free. One of the best features of Twisted Wave is that you can save your recordings directly to your Google Drive account..
  • Voxopop lets you discuss your interests and passions with people from all over the world, using your real voice. It’s a whole new way to talk online. Find talkgroups to join, or start your own and spread the word
  • VozMe is a free service that converts any text into an MP3 file. Just type or paste in some text and create a downloadable MP3 file. The site works in English, Spanish, Italian, Hindi, Portuguese, and Catalan. You can also choose to hear a male or female voice. (via Librarian in Black)
  • YAKiToMe! Turns any text into a podcast. Includes a library of RSS feeds and Project Gutenberg books already “translated.” Your choice of (computerized) voices. (Hear the text of “What is a podcast?” at the top of this page in YAKiToMe!)

Creating Music

  • Beat Lab is a free service through which you can experiment with thousands of sound and rhythm combinations.
  • GarageBand is part of iLife for Macs (and also available on ios devices). Think of it as your own recording studio.
  • Incredibox is a neat website that allows you to create unique rhythms and sounds from drag-and-drop menu. The sounds in the enus are recordings of a Bobby McFerrin-like artist making “human beat box” sounds. You can experiment with different sound loops, choruses, and instrumental sounds to create your own unique sound loops.*
  • iNudge Create music through a graphic interface.
  • Loop Labs is a free service for creating your own music mixes using existing music loops and your own recordings.
  • Monkey Machine is a free web-based program that allows students to experiment with drum set sounds and rhythms. Using Monkey Machine students can customize the selection of drums and cymbals in their virtual drum set.*
  • Music Shake provides a free online tool for students to experiment with and create music from scratch. Music Shake provides the instrumental sounds and students select the beats.*
  • Mutopia*offers sheet music editions of classical music for free download. These are based on editions in the public domain, and include works by Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Handel, Mozart, and many others. (Let students play and record music!)
  • Sound Trap is a collaborative tool. Make music with your friends. Soundtrap provides a place for your students and you to create music online quickly and easily. Users can plug in their own instruments, use the instruments provided on Soundtrap, or record a song directly using an external microphone. This online tool works with multiple devices and system platforms. Create by yourself or start creating and collaborate with friends. When finished users can publish their work on Facebook, Twitter, or on Soundtrap. Publishing to iTunes is also available for a fee. Grades: 8-12 (AASL Best Websites for Teaching and Learning 2015)
  • Soundation is a free service that allows anyone to create and remix sound tracks online. To create your original work you can select from the gallery of 400 free sounds, upload your own sounds, or record new sounds using the instruments and keyboard built into Soundation.*
  • Soundtrap provides a place for your students and you to create music online quickly and easily. Users can plug in their own instruments, use the instruments provided on Soundtrap, or record a song directly using an external microphone. This online tool works with multiple devices and system platforms. Create by yourself or start creating and collaborate with friends. When finished users can publish their work on Facebook, Twitter, or on Soundtrap. Publishing to iTunes is also available for a fee. Grades: 8-12 (AASL Best Websites for Teaching and Learning 2015)
  • Tony-b Machine create your own music here with this funky machine.
  • With UJAM, you sing or play an instrument while recording to UJAM. When you’re done recording, use UJAM to alter the sound quality of your voice, turn your voice into other sounds, adjust the tempo of your song, and or remix a song to include your recording.*
  • Wolfram Tones uses algorithms, music theory, and sound samples to generate new collections of sounds.
  • To fix volume levels that are too high and/or too low, use the free Levelator.

Music and Sound Effects

  • AudioNautix A collection of music ;by genre
  • ccMixter Music Discovery Creative commons licensed music and sounds
  • FindSounds searches the web for sounds
  • Flash Kit – Sound FX
  • The Free Sound Project
  • Jamendo Hundreds of free songs for you to download and use.
  • JukeDeck creates original music for you to use…You specify the type, speed and length; then download your tune! 99 cents or FREE if you give credit to JukeDeck!
  • Musopen online music library of copyright free music (public domain music)
  • Purple Planet Music can be used free of charge for web-based projects e.g. YouTube (see ‘Using Our Music’ for more info) in exchange for a link to the Purple Planet site.
  • SonnyBoo Free music for your projects
  • SoundCloud A social sound platform where anyone can create sounds and music and share. Some may be downloaded, some may be embedded.
  • Soungle Search, find and download free sound effects.
  • Wolfgang’s Vault streaming concerts

Tutorials on Podcasting


Audio / Podcasting in the Library.


Podcasting Rubrics