Monday, October 8, 2018

The Why of the Busy Season

The first few weeks of a new school year are always busy, for the obvious reasons.  If you are new to a school, that amount of busy increases significantly, as you are learning new procedures, policies, faces and names, and so much more about your school and, in my case, a new district.  Then if you are like me, the busy becomes even more because the beginning of the year is also conference season, where it seems that there is a workshop, training, convention, or conference almost every weekend, especially educational technology-themed events.  A quick Google search of educational professional development events will bring up events from the EdTech Team, CUE and CUE affiliates, and other organizations, and these are just the ones holding events in the Pacific region.  MACUL, the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning, an organization similar to CUE that is very active in Nevada and California in providing professional development in educational technology, has also had or will have numerous events of over the weeks.  

Because I have a passion for learning and providing professional development for and with my PLN, I have been busy on most weekends with conferences.  Just in the month of September and into October, I attended and presented at the CapCUE Tech Fest in Roseville, CA, helped coordinate the CUE-NV Silver State Technology Conference, and will be attending and presenting at the FallCUE Conference in American Canyon, CA.  Further down the road, my school in Carson City will be hosting an EdTech Team Google for Education Summit in December, another event in which I will attend and present at.  

So with a full-time teaching position, one in which I am brand new to, having never taught special education prior to this year, a spouse that is attending grad school full-time, two children that are in new schools, teaching a couple of nights of adult education and technology skills for teachers to earn some extra money while my wife cannot work, and everything else that comes with life, why do I spend my weekends attending and presenting at conferences?  

  1. Because of my passion for education and educational technology.  
  2. Because of my desire to stay up to date with the latest and greatest in educational technology and, more importantly, the pedagogy behind the use of educational technology. 
  3. Because I want to inspire others to become better educators and improve their teaching skills.  
  4. Because I enjoy keeping myself busy and challenging myself.  
  5. Because I enjoy the professional and personal relationships that I have built with so many people from all over the nation and world as a result of my interactions with educators on social media and IRL (in real life).  
In addition to the list of whys above, another thing that I truly enjoy is seeing the faces of people that experience that "ah ha" moment.  Often times, the ones that I enjoy the most are teachers that aren't technologically savvy, that have either been afraid to try things with technology or have refused to embrace new things for whatever reason.  I know that once a teacher experiences that moment of discovery for the first time, they have turned a corner that is going to benefit themselves and their students, and ultimately, that's why we are all in the game together.

On top of providing professional development for my colleagues, attending conferences to better my skills, I am also (semi)regularly recording The BeerEDU Podcast with my friend, Ben Dickson.  If you haven't heard it yet, please check us out on your favorite podcast platform.  Our show is loosely based on the conversations that you have with your colleagues at the bar after a long week of school.  We bill it as "the podcast for educators that love to learn and share ideas with fellow educators over beers" but if you don't like beer, or don't drink at all, that is alright!  We only ask that you love education, good company, and podcasts!  We do have stickers, and in the next few days, magnets with our podcast logo, so track us down in person or send us a message at beeredupodcast@gmail.com, Twitter at @BeerEDUpod, or on Facebook at beeredupodcast and we can get you a sticker and magnet!

Until next time...

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Podcast on a Budget

Unless you have been taking a lot of naps over the past few years, you know that one of the greatest forms of professional development and entertainment available to educators is the tried and true podcast.  As I wrote in a recent post called PD in Your Ears: The BeerEDU Podcast, I highlighted some of my favorite shows and introduced the world to the podcasting venture that my good friend, Ben Dickson, and I commenced over the summer. 

Quick side note: The BeerEDU Podcast is officially live wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Pocketcasts, Spotify, and many, many more!  As of this writing, we have three episodes, plus a little intro episode that we recorded in June to introduce it.  Check us out, subscribe, and give us some feedback!  You can also find us on Twitter (@BeerEDUpod), Facebook (beeredupodcast), email (beeredupodcast@gmail.com), and use the hashtag #BeerEDUpod.  And, we also have stickers!  If you see Ben or me, ask for one! 

Many are under the impression that in order to produce a high-quality podcast, you need to have some high-quality, ridiculous expensive microphones with a mixing board and a complicated recording program.  That is not the case at all!  There are numerous low-cost options for recording programs, microphones, and publication tools so you can get started podcasting immediately.  I want to highlight what Ben and I use for recording The BeerEDU Podcast. 

Computer:  We don't have anything extravagant for a computer that we use when we podcast.  In fact, depending on the recording session, sometimes we have used my Dell Inspiron laptop, something that I bought at Costco for less than $500, sometimes we use my Asus Chromebook.  So long as the device we are using is connected to the Internet and can access the recording and publishing tools, we are able to produce a quality recording with a standard machine.  The bottom line: you just need a regular computer to get started!

Blue Microphones Snowball iCE
The tripod and 360° design of the
microphone make this portable
and able to pick up sound from
anywhere!
Microphone: Most laptops, Chromebooks, etc. come with a built-in microphone.  While it works fairly well in most circumstances, the built-in mic may not pick up everything that you want to record, especially if you are recording with another person.  That is why we use an external USB microphone when we record.  There are a lot of great microphones out there, but we use the Blue Snowball iCE because it can pick up our voices well, even when we are sitting across a table from one another, and it filters out a lot of other noise that could lower the quality of your recording.  According to the Snowball's manufacturer, this microphone is Skype certified, ensuring that your recordings will be clear regardless of where you are using it.  Blue does manufacture some microphones that are a little less expensive, and some that are very expensive, professional models.  And because it is plug and play, you don't have to install any drivers or software, you just plug it into your computer and start recording.  For less than $50, you cannot go wrong with this mic.  Find one on bluedesigns.com or Amazon (which, as of this writing, had this model on sale for $39.99!). 

Image result for soundtrap logo
Soundtrap is a "freemium" service, but you can certainly create
quality recordings using the free version.  We even created our
theme music using the loops and instruments in the free version!
Recording Program:  Again, just like computers and microphones, you have tons of options to choose from when picking out what program that you use to record and edit your podcast.  Ben and I use Soundtrap to record The BeerEDU Podcast.  Soundtrap is a program that I was introduced to a couple of years ago that was described to me by a Soundtrap representative as "the result of Google Docs and Garage Band (Mac, iOS) having a baby."  In Soundtrap, you have options for recording voices, creating tracks from thousands of loops and instruments, and collaboration with others, even when they aren't in the same room.  When we record, we create a voice track in Soundtrap and record.  If need be, we cut and edit out things that we don't want in the recording, then we add sound effects (for The BeerEDU Podcast, it's the sound of a can of beer opening), our beginning and ending bumpers, and I record a quick intro to the podcast to place at the beginning.  After piecing it all together (which we now do on the fly, now that we have intros, bumpers, and sound effects already created), we download the episode as a .mp3 file and prepare it for upload to the podcast platform. 

Image result for anchor.fm logoPublishing Your Podcast: Once you are ready, you can publish your work!  And what good would a podcast be if you Anchor!  Anchor has it's own abilities to record, add sound effects, etc., but Ben and I use Soundtrap because it is more robust and has more features to edit our final product.  You can use Anchor on the web or by downloading it to your phone, iPad, or tablet.  After we record in Soundtrap, we download the file and upload it into Anchor, prepare a description for the show, and publish.  You have the option of posting only in Anchor, or it will publish to all platforms that Anchor works with, which as of this writing, is eight more platforms in addition to Anchor. 
kept it to yourself?  In the past, getting your podcast published on platforms like Apple was a very cumbersome endeavor, so cumbersome that I know of some podcasters that created a free Google website and put links to their audio files or they uploaded the file to YouTube to create an audio-only file there.  However, now it is much easier with

Odds & Ends:  There are a few other things that you may want to keep in mind if you want to pursue a podcast. You may want to include episode show notes, which Ben and I include in the description when we upload via a link to a Google Doc.  Our episode planning guide essentially becomes our show notes.  You also may want to create a logo for your show, something that we created using Bitmojis and Google Drawings.  To promote your show, make sure you take advantage of social media! While you don't have to create accounts for your show, it gives your show a little bit more ability to promote.  And if you really want to get serious, you may even create a website, listing previous episodes and show notes, something Ben and I haven't gotten around to just yet. 

Now, maybe you don't want to podcast yourself, but you would love to get your students into podcasting.  Because most of the items above are free and your school most likely has access to a few external microphones, you don't need to do much of anything to get your students started!  You may want to avoid publishing to Anchor and instead publish to a class website or cloud folder, depending on your school's acceptable use.  Your best bet is to speak with your supervisor and/or principal to figure out exactly how your students can start creating and reflecting using podcasts. 

So, what are you waiting for?  Get out there and create something great!  And don't forget to share and promote your material! 

Until next time...