You may have noticed that I added a podcast version of The Fischbowl recently. The main reason for doing this was just to experiment with some of the podcast creation/hosting services on the web so that I could learn what might work best for you and our students. But, for those of you who just can't get enough of my voice, this does provide an alternative to reading The Fischbowl. If you click on the Get Podcast button on the player on the right of The Fischbowl, you can subscribe via iTunes (or email) and have The Fischbowl delivered to your iPod automatically if you want (assuming I keep up with the audio version of the posts). iTunes integration is something you want to consider if you are going to start podcasting yourself (or with your students), since it makes it easy for your students (and others) to get the content.
I looked at four different podcast creation/hosting services. (Blogger also has an audio blogging tool, but it's phone-in only.) They all have their advantages and disadvantages. Briefly, here is what I discovered.
Odeo - this is one of the most well-known services. It offers the ability to record directly in your browser (or you can phone it in). You can create different podcast channels and it offers iTunes integration. The problem with this one is - at the moment anyway - it's blocked by the district's firewall. There are no manual settings you can adjust to choose a port that our firewall allows, so that pretty much eliminates Odeo from consideration at the moment (assuming you want to do any podcast creation at school).
Clickcaster - this is similar to Odeo in that it offers in your browser recording, but it has the potential for better performance because it actually records your podcast locally to your hard drive, then you upload it (eliminating bandwidth glitches while you are recording). Because of that upload feature, you can also record in something else (like Audacity) and then upload it. Unfortunately, even though I was able to record in Clickcaster, when I got to the upload part it failed. Once again, it's a firewall issue. According to their tech support, they are working on that problem and hope to have it resolved in a month or two. Until they do, this one is out as well.
Podomatic - this service allows you to create in your browser or upload a podcast you've created on your own. Unlike Odeo and Clickcaster it was not blocked by our firewall and seems to work very well. The only problem with this one is that the free version has limits on it - 500 MB of total storage and 15 GB of monthly downloads. Now, that's a lot, but if you were podcasting regularly you would eventually hit that 500 MB limit and then would have to delete old episodes, which would break any links you had created to them. And, while I don't anticipate that The Fischbowl would hit 15 GB of monthly downloads, a teacher with 200 plus students downloading regular podcasts might. So, this one is still a good possibility, but keep in mind those limits.
GCast - this is the one I chose (at least at the moment), simply because it wasn't blocked by the firewall and didn't have any limits on it. I'm not sure it's the most elegant of the four, but it works. It does not have a recording tool built into it, you have to use some other software (like Audacity), and then upload your podcast (you can also call a toll free number and record your podcast if you'd like). It offers a player you can put on your website (like on the right side of The Fischbowl), and you can link directly to the mp3 files (like below). It also offers iTunes integration and multiple podcast channels.
We will take a look at Podcasting either in June or next year, but I thought I would put this out here now for anyone who wants to play around with it (or subscribe via iTunes for the summer!). Any one of these four tools would work well from home (assuming you have broadband), and both Podomatic and GCast will work well from school right now (and I'm hopeful the other two will resolve their firewall issues). If you'd like any help exploring these tools, let me know.
Listen to the podcast.