Fast-forward to 2017 and the world is a very different place. So different, in fact, that I’m not so concerned that I’m choosing to read more ‘biased’ stuff. There’s a war of attention going on and, in any case, there’s no such thing as non-theory-laden consumption of information.
I’ve quit Facebook and Twitter, the former completely, and the latter I now only post links to. Consequently, I converse with my friends on Slack, and in a very nice left-wing bubble on the Mastodon-powered social.coop. I’m OK with being partisan at this stage of my life.
So below is my current information environment, give or take a couple of things I’ll inevitably have managed to omit. The wiki page can be found here.
A couple of months ago, Dai Barnes and I decided to start podcasting again. We’d previously been regular hosts of EdTechRoundUp and wanted to get back into the routine. We decided to meet each weekend with a loose agenda, talk for between 45 minutes and an hour, edit the recording, and put it out each Tuesday. We’re calling this Today In Digital Education (TIDE).
Quick note: technology
A podcast is an audio file plus an RSS feed. Just sticking an MP3 on a web server doesn’t make it a podcast – there has to be an enclosure generated that allows users to have each episode delivered to them.
Recording the audio
Perhaps the easiest way to record a conversation is to use Skype and a plugin that records both sides of the audio. I’ve actually detailed this process before, and haven’t deviated much from it, so check out this post.
Quick note: naming
You should double-check that there’s no-one else using the name you came up with. We had to change the title of our podcast slightly as there was already a student-run podcast out of the University of Alabama! It’s also a good idea to grab as many URLs for the podcast as possible. This means you can switch platforms but keep the URL consistent.
Publishing your audio
In the first instance we decided to try Tumblr to make the podcast available to listeners. I wanted something that was super-straightforward, and Dai was keen to show to his colleagues that it isn’t just filled with dodgy stuff. As it happens, although this made it easy to listen to recordings via Tumblr itself, it wasn’t such a great idea for creating a compatible RSS feed.
Thankfully, the wonderful SoundCloud has a beta program called SoundCloud for Podcasters which we were quickly accepted into. This gives you an RSS feed people can use to subscribe to. It’s worth pointing out that people can also subscribe to you via the SoundCloud app itself.
We’ve retained the Tumblr blog as SoundCloud doesn’t seem to allow hyperlinks in the show description.
Quick note: costs
It’s pretty inevitable you’re going to spend some money creating your podcast. It can be done for free, but it’s more difficult than using awesome tools that make the job easier. Other than both owning Macs (which are great for multimedia!), here’s the things we’ve paid for:
It’s a good idea to take the RSS feed generated by whatever platform you use and pipe it through FeedBurner. There’s lots of options here, but ensure you pay attention to the Optimize tab and the BrowserFriendly, SmartCast, and SmartFeed settings. Note that you’ll need an image for your logo that’s larger than 1400px x 1400px to be compatible with iTunes.
Piping the RSS feed through FeedBurner means that if you change to a different platform (with a different RSS feed) this won’t affect your listeners. In the same way that you can have a URL that redirects to Tumblr, WordPress, or whatever, so your FeedBurner-powered feed is a front end for whatever RSS feed you point it towards.
Quick note: learning from others
One of the best ways to know what works with podcasts – in terms of content, structure, and how to describe yours, is to listen to some good ones. Here are three of my favourites (not including BBC Radio 4 radio shows released as podcasts):
If you’ve got an iPhone or iPod Touch then you’d be forgiven for thinking that everyone uses iTunes to subscribe to podcasts. But, of course, they don’t. Currently, the best places to submit your podcast are:
iTunes(looks complex, but FeedBurner should have you covered)
You only have to do this once for each service. There’s also a list here.
Setting up a podcast can seem quite technical but, follow the above advice and that which you search for, and you’ll be OK. Be comforted in the knowledge that once the flow is all set up correctly, all you’ll have to do is record your podcast, edit it, upload it, and write something about it each time. Everything else will happen automatically!
Have you got any remaining questions? I’ll try my best to answer them if doing so is of benefit to other readers, too! Ask away in the comments below. 🙂
Over the last couple of days I’ve listened to two excellent podcasts that I wanted to share with you. Both of them are about the relationship between technology and politics.
I’ve always found politics difficult. What I believe society should look like doesn’t fit well with the traditional two-dimensional left/centre/right representation.
On the one hand, I believe that a guiding principle should be for the State not to interfere in our lives (wherever possible). So far, so Libertarian (and usually, so Conservative).
On the other hand, however, I’m not a great believer in the ‘invisible hand’ of the free market to solve all our woes. And I certainly don’t think that billionaires should co-exist in a world with starving people. So that’s fairly Liberal and left-wing.
To me, we seem to be missing a third dimension to politics. Sometimes it’s not either/or. Sometimes it’s and/and/and.
Whilst I enjoy the high quality of podcasts from the BBC (In Our Time and Thinking Allowed being my favourites) my go-to podcasts when commuting come from Canadian broadcasters.
The first, Sparkis hosted by Nora Young, who has a voice like butter. Not only that, but the Spark Plus podcast features the full version of interviews we only hear a snippet of in the regular podcast. It’s a goldmine of interesting people talking about important ideas.
The second, always high-quality, Canadian podcast I think is fantastic is Big Ideas from TVO. Not long ago they featured John Duffy on The Emerging Politics of Technology. The last 17 minutes or so are devoted to questions, leaving just over half an hour of really thoughtful consideration of the three-dimensional nature of politics I allude to above.
Both are well worth watching or listening to. And if you haven’t subscribed to any/many podcasts, I’d highly recommend both Spark and Big Ideas.
The left/centre/right two-dimensional version of the political spectrum has served its purpose as what I call a ‘convenient hypocrisy’. But to try and force every issue into its confines forces the metaphor to breaking point.
Apart from perhaps politicians in line with the party whip, no-one I know exhibits purely Liberal or purely Conservative behaviours. We’re three-dimensional.
What I find really interesting is that, as John Duffy points out, the political battleground is shifting from the economy to issues surrounding technology.
And that sounds like a debate I’d like to be part of.
A lot of what makes people ‘productive’ is common-sense. But sometimes this needs spelling out, hence this post. I’m always looking for ways to be more productive. Please let me and fellow readers/subscribers know your tips and strategies in the comments.
Here’s some of my tips!
1. Don’t read emails
If you make the first thing you do in a day reading emails, you’re starting off the day on other people’s terms. Instead, achieve something from your own agenda first, then catch up on what people want to tell you! :-p
2. Read something inspirational
It might be the Bible, it might be some Marcus Aurelius, but make sure you read something (however short) – for a quick fix, try tivate.com!
3. Listen to podcasts
However you travel to work, podcasts are a great way to stop it being ‘dead time’. Audiobooks are also great (try Audible). Here’s the podcasts to which I subscribe:
4. Use an online to-do list
There’s lots of ways people will take money off you to ‘make you more productive’. I love Remember the Milk: it’s simple and free!
5. Share everything you do
If you share with other people, they’re a lot more likely to share with you. This, in turn, reduces your workload and increases your overall productivity. You can share things online through things like a wiki or a forum, or face-to-face.
6. Take pictures
I know very few people who haven’t got a camera built-in to their mobile phone. Instead of writing things out or trying to remember complex things, just snap it with your cameraphone! You could take this one step further if you’ve got an iPhone and use the wonderful Evernote for web-based synchronization. 🙂
7. Make everything you can, digital
The problem with paper is that unless you photocopy it a copy exists in only one location – and can’t search and organize it. If you’re a teacher, make your markbook and attendance registers digital. Plan things using Google Calendar. These things might take some time to set up, but will pay dividends in the long-term.
8. Take breaks
Know your limits. You’re far better of having a 10-15 minute break and coming back to something with fresh(er) eyes and increased motivation than slogging away at an activity non-stop.
9. Drink coffee
Coffee is a stimulant: it contains caffeine. Drinking too much coffee isn’t good for you and can generate withdrawal symptoms. However, drinking a couple of cups per day of good filter coffee increases alertness and attention. I tend to have one in the morning with breakfast and one when I come home from work. You could, in fact, combine coffee with taking a nap and have what Lifehacker calls a ‘coffee nap’ – more here.
10. Prepare well
A productive day actually begins the day before. Be prepared! Pack your bag, get lunch ready (if applicable), iron your clothes, go to bed at a reasonable hour. Done regularly, such a routine makes for large productivity gains. 😀
Karyn Romeis’ dissertation is going to be on “the use of social media on the professional practice of learning professionals”. She’s asked the edublogosphere for ‘testimonies’ – how we got started and the difference it’s made to our professional practice.
For what it’s worth, I’m going to chip in with my $0.02 as Karyn has often helped me before and has been a valued commenter, both here and on the now-defunct teaching.mrbelshaw.co.uk.
The questions Karyn has asked are:
How did you get started with social media?
What was your introduction, and how did the journey unfold?
What difference has it made in your professional practice?
I shall take the points, as they say, in turn:
1. How did you get started with social media?
Although I knew what a blog was before 2004 (they came up in Google search results, for one) I didn’t really start subscribing to RSS feeds, etc. before then. I read the early ‘big names’ in what was then a small edublogosphere – the likes of Will Richardson, Dave Warlick, Stephen Downes and Wesley Fryer.
After subscribing to a number of blogs, including educational ones, I started blogging myself in late 2005. My confidence had grown from commenting on a range of blogs and having created websites the old-fashioned way as a teenager. I set up my teaching-related blog on a sub-domain of the mrbelshaw.co.uk website I was using with students in my classroom. When I found myself off work for a sustained period due to stress I began to blog at teaching.mrbelshaw.co.uk every day. Like so many in the early days, I saw the huge potential of Web 2.0 tools in the classroom, and genuinely believed they could revolutionise the way we deliver learning to young people.
Wikis came later. I still haven’t found a way to use them in the classroom in a truly collaborative way, but I’m willing to keep trying. I’ve dabbled with podcasting, but blogs are my main method of communication on the Internet. Blogs, wikis and podcasts were – and to many still are – the defining tools of Web 2.0. Indeed, it’s pretty much the title of Will Richardson’ book.
2. What was your introduction, and how did the journey unfold?
I’ve mentioned the first part of this question above, but the journey unfolded in the following way. First of all, I started getting comments on my blog. These actually came from ‘seminal bloggers’ – in some cases figures such as the luminaries mentioned above. This spurred me on. During my absence from school due to stress, blogging gave me a focus, positive feedback and, I believe, aided my recovery.
The numbers of subscribers to the RSS feed of my blog slowly grew from late 2005 until I stopped blogging there at the end of 2007. During this time, I witnessed a huge expansion in the size of the edublogosphere. Ordinary class teachers (like myself) started putting their heads above the parapet online. First, this was mainly in the USA, but gradually I became aware of those in International Schools, then in Australia, and finally in the UK. I’m of the opinion that we still haven’t got enough English bloggers – Scotland’s at least 10 times smaller, population-wise, yet they put us to shame in the edublogosphere!
I’ve cleared my RSS feed reader and started again from zero a couple of times now. I think it’s probably a useful thing to do at least once per year: it gives you a reason to go out looking for new content and angles that can motivate and inspire you.
Finally, Twitter has been somewhat of a revelation. I’ve had my account about a year and a half now. During that time I’ve made so many more connections than I could have done before. You can get answers to very specific questions almost in real-time, begin impromptu more formal discussions or simply get the latest ‘buzz’. I love it. 😀
3. What difference has it made in your professional practice?
I’ve always been a fairly inquisitive person (I chose to study Philosophy as an undergraduate) and never been scared to mix things up a bit. In fact, the reason I became a teacher was to play my part in reforming the system for the better. Being part of a global community of teachers, however, has given me confidence, the knowledge and, in some cases, the skills, to get my point across in my educational institution.
There is such a thing as the ‘wisdom of crowds’, but I think it’s probably more like the ‘wisdom of the network’. Twitter’s a wonderful example. Thinkers such as George Siemens have a theory to explain this – it’s called Connectivism. Learners are ‘nodes on a network’ and the network harbours a great amount of knowledge, on tap at almost any time.
In my interactions with students, it’s allowed me to ‘flatten the walls of the classroom’ – to use a Warlickian phrase. Although students could keep up with homework, etc. with mrbelshaw.co.uk 1.0, the advent of learning.mrbelshaw.co.uk saw the dawn of mrbelshaw.co.uk 2.0, including links to Web 2.0 apps (wikis, podcasts, YouTube video clips, and so on).
It’s also meant I could start really showing my colleagues that they could use the Internet quickly and easily to interact with students. Having to learn HTML or to use a program with a potentially difficult-to-use learning curve to get content online, was a barrier for most teachers. Now, it’s as easy (in most cases) as signing up for an account somewhere, typing/uploading stuff and then sharing the web address with students. It also gives you the chance, again in most cases, to get feedback.
I’ve been fortunate to begin my teaching career at a time when such revolutionary tools are available. It’s just a shame that they haven’t – yet – caused a learning revolution. I’m four years into my teaching career and very much looking forward to what comes next. Web 3.0 and the Semantic Web? 🙂
As regular readers will know, I’m part of a group of educators who come together under the banner of EdTechRoundup. We’re producing a series of podcasts, the third of which features myself and Kristian Still and will be released in the next few days. Over at edtechroundup.com we’re posting 15 days of Google answers. These are responses by the Google UK team to questions posted on our wiki a few weeks back.
At the time of writing this there are three days worth of questions and answers posted:
I went a run this morning – my first since Ben was born. I usually listen to the MP3s stored on a ‘running’ playlist on my mobile phone in shuffle mode, but seeing as it’s the first one I’ve been on since I got my new phone, I was looking for another option. I ended up listening to a podcast from Podrunner, a free 1-hour mix of music at a set BPM (beats per minute).