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Teaching and learning in the classroom using the Drupal CMS
In this article by Bill Fitzgerald we will learn about Podcasting. Podcasting allows you to share audio files over the Internet. In recent years, as podcasting has increased in prominence and popularity, there has been an almost overwhelming amount of information about how to get started with podcasting: the technical requirements, the hardware, the software, and so on.
Sharing images creates a variety of ways for students to get involved in the class. In some classes, such as Photography or other Fine Arts courses, images provide a way for students to showcase their work. In other courses, online image sharing can be used to enhance the curriculum.
In this article, we will focus on cutting through the noise, and setting up your site to work as a podcasting and image sharing platform. This article will break down the technical aspects of publishing audio and images, along with ways of integrating podcasting into your class.
Getting Started with Podcasts
To create a podcast, you will need:
- A mp3 file
- A place to store the mp3 file
At the risk of stating the obvious, a good podcast requires thought and planning before you make the actual recording. Later in the article, we will discuss some of these general mechanics. But, from a technical perspective, once you have your audio file, you can upload it to your Drupal site, and you will have published a podcast.
The Audio module supports the playback of audio files that have been uploaded to your site. To install this module, we will also need to install two helper modules required by the Audio module: the getID3() and Token modules.
In this section, we will cover installing the Audio module, as well as the getID3() and Token modules.
Install the getID3() Module
Download the getID3() module from http://drupal.org/project/getid3, and upload it to your sites/all/modules directory .
Do not, however, enable the module, as we need to install an additional piece of code described as follows.
Install the getID3() Libraries
The getID3() libraries are a tool that automatically extract information about audio files. These libraries don't require you to do any additional work; rather, they detect information that can be used by the Audio module.
Download the getID3() libraries from http://getid3.sourceforge.net/. Unzip these libraries onto your hard drive.
As shown in the preceding screenshot, the libraries include some demo and helper files, in addition to the readme and license files. The only files we need are contained in the getid3 directory. The getid3 directory is the only directory that you need to upload to your website.
Then, use your FTP client to connect to your web server, and navigate to sites/all/modules/getid3. Upload the getid3 directory into sites/all/modules/getid3 as shown in the following screenshot:
Once the module and the libraries have been uploaded to your site, enable the getID3() module by clicking the Administration | Site building | Modules link, or by navigating to admin/build/modules.
Following these instructions the path to your getID3() library is sites/all/modules/getid3/getid3. If needed, this path can be adjusted at Administer | Site configuration | getID3(), or admin/settings/getid3.
Install the Token Module
Download the Token module from http://drupal.org/project/token, and install it. Once this module has been uploaded to your site, enable it by clicking the Administration | Site building | Modules link, or by navigating to admin/build/modules.
The Token module is a helper module, and its functionality will be largely invisible to the end user. The Token module supplies pieces of text, or tokens, which can be used by other modules. The Audio module relies on the Token module and the getID3() module to help automatically generate titles and other information for audio files.
Install and Enable the Audio Module
Download the audio module from http://drupal.org/project/audio. Upload the module to your sites/all/modules directory, and enable it by clicking the Administer | Site building | Modules link or by navigating to admin/build/modules.
Select the Audio and the Audio getID3 modules.
Click the Save configuration button to submit the form and enable the modules.
Configure the Audio Module
Now that we have installed the Audio module and its helper modules, we need to configure the audio module to support our needs.
Click the Administer | Site Configuration | Audio link, or navigate to admin/settings/audio.
As pictured in the following screenshot, you will see three tabs across the top of the page: Audio, Metadata tags, and Players.
The Audio Tab
The options on the Audio tab, pictured in the preceding screenshot, allow you to set some default values that are used when audio posts are uploaded. The values here can be created automatically, which can be useful if you are working with songs. For most cases, however, you will want to delete the option for the Default node title format, and leave the other default values intact.
When you have adjusted the settings, click the Save configuration button at the bottom of the page.
To save your settings, you must click the Save configuration button before moving on to the next tab.
A Brief Explanation of Tokens
In the preceding screenshot, there is a collapsible fieldset titled List of available tokens. Click on the link to expand the fieldset. A portion of the tokens available are shown in the following screenshot:
As suggested by the preceding screenshot, tokens expose pieces of information about content created within a site. Tokens can only be used when a module has been written to work with the tokens. Because the Audio module has been written to depend on the Token module, we have the option of using tokens if we wish.
For example, we could set the title of audio nodes to automatically incorporate the username and the creation date. To make this work, we would set the Default node title format (as shown in the Audio settings screenshot) to Created by [author-name] on [yyyy]-[mon]-[date].
In most cases tokens run invisibly in the background without requiring any adjustments by the end user.
The Metadata Tags Tab
The options in this section will be useful if you are setting up podcasts as part of a music or radio station, but will be less useful in other environments. By reducing the number of required options, you can simplify the form for uploading podcasts. The settings pictured in the following screenshot are all you need to get started publishing audio on the web.
The Players Tab
The Audio module comes with several different players that can be used to play your audio files. You can use the settings on this page to choose your preferred player. As you can see in the following figure, you can specify a different player for each type of audio file. The "best" player will largely be determined by your aesthetic preference; all of the players do a great job playing audio stored on your site.
After you have chosen a player, click the Save configuration button to save your preference.
Assign Rights to the Audio Module
Now that we have installed, enabled, and configured the audio module, we need to assign rights to it. Click the Administer | User management | Roles link, or navigate to admin/user/roles.
The possible rights that can be assigned are shown in the following figure:
We will need to assign rights for the teacher role, the student role, the authenticated user role, and possibly the anonymous user role.
For the authenticated user role, assign rights to download audio and play audio.
For the student role, assign rights to create audio and edit own audio.
For the teacher role, assign rights to create audio, edit own audio, and view download stats.
For the anonymous user role, assign the rights you think are appropriate. In most cases, if you are allowing anonymous users to see content, allowing them the rights to download audio and play audio is appropriate.
Each time you assign rights to an individual roles, click the Save permissions button to save the rights for the role.
Adjust Existing Views
Currently, three views are being used to display student and teacher-created content. We will need to edit these views so that they return any audio nodes created within the site.
To edit these views, click the Administer | Site building | Views link, or navigate to admin/build/views.
We need to edit three views: the teacher_blog view, the student_blog and conversation views.
As shown in the following screenshot, these views can be edited by using the Edit link on the main Views administration page.
Editing the student_blog View
Click the Edit link as shown in the preceding screenshot. Then, in the Defaults display, under Filters, click on the Node: Type link, as shown by Item 1 in the following screenshot:
As shown by Item 2 in the preceding screenshot, add Audio to the node types returned in this view. Click the Update button to store this change, and then click the Save button (not pictured in the preceding screenshot) to save the view.
Editing the conversations View
Click the Edit link for the conversations view. Then, in the Defaults display, under Arguments, click on the Search:Links to link, as shown by Item 1 in the following figure:
As shown by Item 2 in the preceding screenshot, add Audio to the list of node types where this view will be validated.
Click the Update button to store this change, and then click the Save button to save the view.
As we add additional content types into the site, we will need to update these views to account for the newly-added content types.
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Uploading an Audio File
The instruction for uploading an audio file is shown in the following screenshot:
To create a new audio file, click on the Create Content |Audio link, or navigate to node/add/audio.
- Give the post a title
- Enter a description
- Click the Browse button to select the audio file to upload
- Click the Save button.
Once you have submitted your podcast, you will be able to play it back as shown in the following screenshot:
Using Podcasts in the Class
Podcasts can be used in a variety of ways to support learning in the classroom. Some of these uses require extensive planning, but there are a range of ways that podcasts allow both students and teachers to share material quickly and easily.
Creating Podcasts—Notes on Hardware and Software
Many podcast tutorials focus a large amount of attention on specialized hardware and software required for podcasting. If you are looking to create complex podcasts involving live music, complex transitions between scenes, or professional-quality production, then you will probably need to invest in specialized equipment to help create your podcast. However, most podcasts require very little specialized software and hardware.
Audacity (http://audacity.sourceforge.net/) can be downloaded for free, and works on Mac, PC, or Linux-based computers. Mac users can also create mp3 files with Garageband. Either of these programs will allow the editing of audio files, and the export of theses files as a podcast.
Podcasters can use handheld audio recorders to capture sound during interviews. Additionally, handheld or lavalier microphones (a microphone that attaches to a person's clothing, also called a lav or a lapel microphone) can be purchased to improve the sound quality when making original recordings.
However, great podcasts require great content, and the best technical tools will not help overcome weak content. In this way, podcasts are directly comparable to other classroom activities: a good product requires thought, planning, and a clear sense of what the podcast is designed to achieve. Special audio effects and other bells and whistles are best left to the final part of the process, if at all.
In short, you can create great podcasts with a handheld recorder and a single computer. Focus on your content first.
Everyday Uses of Podcasts
At the most simple level, teachers can use podcasts to create a body of resources for students; in a foreign language course, for example, a teacher can publish a podcast with a dialog that emphasizes vocabulary, or that gives pronunciations for verb conjugations. In an English or history course, a teacher can publish speeches or literary readings. These primary source materials can be used to augment the curriculum.
For people looking to create a library of primary source materials, YouTube and Google Video can provide an amazing array of resources. Using a free online service such as http://vixy.net, you can extract the audio from videos hosted on YouTube and Google video. Of course, you will need to make sure that you are not infringing on any licensing restrictions when you republish the content, but the amount of content available for reuse within these sites can be overwhelming. Extracting the audio also helps avoid any issues with content from these sites being eliminated by firewalls or content filters.
The Internet Archive, at http://www.archive.org/details/audio, also offers a rich variety of freely-available primary source material.
Additionally, students can create podcasts as a form of audio blog—this can be an especially powerful tool for students who are visually impaired, or for students with learning differences who have difficulty expressing themselves in writing.
Podcasts as a Tool in Project-Based Learning
Podcasts can also be used as part of a project-based lesson. In this context, creating a good podcast requires a blend of skills used in virtually all academic work, as outlined below.
- Initial research leading to an outline/storyboard. This initial storyboard can be rough, but it should give a clear idea of the point/goals of the podcast.
- Additional research/editing. At this stage, the point that was laid out in the original storyboard should be examined. Is it logical? Is it entertaining/interesting enough to be the subject of a podcast? Are there any counterarguments that need to be addressed?
- Finalize the storyboard.
- Draft a script.
- Practice, and revise the script.
- Record the podcast.
- If necessary add sound effects.
- Save the recording as an mp3 (usually by using Audacity or Garageband, as described earlier in this article).
- Upload the podcast to your site as an audio file.
As students progress through the various steps of creating a podcast, they can use the tools within the site to support their work. Initial research can make use of bookmarks; various drafts of the storyboard and script can be published as blog posts, and students can provide feedback via comments.
Additionally, students can use their blog (or quick podcasts) as a reflective tool to assess the effectiveness of their creative process.
Ideas for Podcasting Projects
Using the general structure described above, you can work with students on a variety of projects.
Some General Examples are :
- In a literature class, you could have your students work in a group to distill scenes from a novel into a series of radio plays.
- In a history course, you could have students do news stories as embedded reporters.
- In an Art history course, you could use the body of the audio post to display a series of paintings, and use the podcast to discuss them.
- For a physics course, students could prepare a series of podcasts on sound, ranging from the physics of musical instruments to everyday phenomena such as the Doppler Effect.
The podcast is a flexible medium capable of storing many different varieties of work by students. For this reason, novice podcasters will benefit from a clear structure that supports them as they develop their podcast. Podcasts are a useful tool because, if you believe the anecdotal stories concerning podcasts and student motivation, students tend to care more about a podcast than they do about a paper or a poster. Given that creating a podcast requires comparable research and analysis skills as summary projects delivered in other mediums, podcasts can provide a less traditional mechanism for reinforcing some more traditional learning goals.
iTunes or Not
iTunes and iPods are frequently connected to the topic of podcasting. While the iTunes store is a useful place to find podcasts, and can help increase the visibility of your podcast, you do not need to use iTunes as part of your podcasting regimen. In general, if the purpose of your podcast is to reach an audience outside of your school community, and/or you are creating a series of podcasts over time, then iTunes could be a good way to extend the reach of your podcast.
In situations where the podcasts are informal in nature, or where podcasts are more of a regular means of communication, iTunes is an additional step that adds little of value to the teaching and learning involved in creating podcasts.
If you want to add your podcast to the iTunes store, Apple has laid out the process on their website. Navigate to http://www.apple.com/itunes/whatson/podcasts/creatorfaq.html, and follow the link provided in the section titled How do I submit my podcast?
Images and Image Galleries
When it comes to storing images, Drupal provides many different options. In this article, we will focus on the Image module—available at http://drupal.org/project/image—but before we get into the details, we will quickly examine some of the other options that exist. Our choice of the Image module has less to do with any real problems with the other options, and more with the relative simplicity of the Image module.
One very popular method of storing images uses the following four modules:
- Imagefield: http://drupal.org/project/imagefield
- Image API: http://drupal.org/project/imageapi
- Imagecache: http://drupal.org/project/imagecache
- Thickbox or Lightbox 2: http://drupal.org/project/thickbox or http://drupal.org/project/lightbox2
In very brief terms, the Imagefield module creates a CCK field that holds images. Imagecache (using the functionality supported by the ImageAPI) scales the images to create thumbnails. Then, either Thickbox or Lightbox 2 can be used to create pop up windows to display galleries. This method of sharing images also integrates with the Views module.
Using Imagefield, Imagecache, and the Image API provides an incredible amount of flexibility. However, for many needs, this is overkill. The Image module provides a relatively straightforward solution.
Sharing Images with the Image Module
To get started, download the Image module from http://drupal.org/project/image. Then, upload the module.
Once the module is uploaded into your sites/all/modules directory, navigate to Administer | Site building | Modules, or Admin build modules. Enable the Image and the Image gallery modules.
Click the Save configuration button to submit the form and save the updates.
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Configuring the Image Module
Like the Audio module covered in the first half of this article, the Image module, when enabled, creates its own content type. As we configure the module, we will complete the following steps:
- Adjust the default settings
- Set image-specific settings
- Assign a taxonomy for images; this includes setting up galleries
- Assign permissions to create and edit images
- Adjust the Student blog, the Teacher blog, and the conversations view
Step 1: Adjusting the Default Settings
As with all content types, the default settings can be edited at Administer | Content management | Content types, or admin/content/types.
Click the edit link for the Image content type. The only settings we need to change are in the Workflow settings section; we want to set Images to be Published, and we want Attachments to be Disabled.
Click the Save content type button to save the changes.
Step 2: Adjusting the Image Module Settings
To adjust the base settings of the Image module, navigate to Administer | Site configuration | Images, or admin/settings/image. As seen in the following screenshot, we have two options: Files and sizes and Image gallery.
We will start by configuring the Files and sizes options.
Item 1 indicates the path inside the files directory; unless you have a custom storage structure for images, leave this setting untouched.
Item 2 indicates the maximum image size. Leaving this set to a larger value will, over time, use more storage space on your server. However, leaving this at a larger file size will also make the site easier to use, as people won't need to know how to resize images prior to upload. The "best" solution will be a balance between your storage needs and the technical expertise of your users.
Item 3 allows you to scale, or scale and crop images. You can use these defaults, and/or set additional size options.
Click the Save configuration button to save these options and move on to the Image gallery settings.
The settings on the Image gallery administrative screen allow you to set some basic options for how galleries are displayed.
These settings are largely a matter of personal preference. The first option, Images per page, will need to be balanced against the width of the page to ensure that all images will display cleanly. Generally, most settings between 4 and 6 images will fit with no issues.
After you have adjusted these settings, click the Save configuration button to save the changes.
Step 3: Using the Keyword Taxonomy and Creating Galleries
As we did with our other content types, we use the Keywords taxonomy to organize posts.Navigate to Administer | Content management | Taxonomy, or admin/content/taxonomy. Click the edit vocabulary link for the Keywords vocabulary, and add Image into the list of Content types.
Click the Save button to save the change.
To create and manage galleries, navigate to Administer | Content management | Image galleries, or admin/content/image.
As shown in the preceding screenshot, creating galleries involves giving them a Name, and, optionally, a Description, a Parent, and a Weight.
By creating Parent galleries, you can nest galleries inside one another. For example, you can set up one gallery for 2009, and then individual galleries within 2009 for each month.
The Weight setting is used to order galleries, with lower numbers appearing first.
Click the Submit button to create your gallery.
Step 4: Assign Permissions
To assign rights to the Image module and the Image gallery module, navigate to Administer | User management | Permissions, or admin/user/permissions. Scroll down to the section for the Image module.
For the Image module:
- Assign student role the rights to create images and edit own images.
- Assign the teacher role the rights to create images and edit own images.
- Assign the authenticated user role the rights to view original images.
- Assign the site admin role full rights.
For the Image_gallery module:
- Assign both the teacher and the site admin role rights to administer images.
This will give users in both roles the rights to create new galleries, and manage existing galleries. In a site with many teachers, this right should probably not be given to all teachers, but should be limited to users with the technical expertise to manage it efficiently.
Click the Save permissions button to save the changes.
Step 5: Adjusting Views
As was covered earlier in this article, we need to adjust the views for the Teacher blog, the Student blog, and the conversations view to ensure that images get included in these different views.
The steps used to add Audio nodes to these views—covered earlier in this article—can be replicated to add Image nodes.
Now that the image module has been enabled and configured, we need to upload a photo onto the site.
To add an image, navigate to Create content | Image, or node/add/image.
As shown in the preceding screenshot, give the image a Title, add it into an Image Gallery, categorize it using a Keyword, and then Browse and select the image. Add some descriptive text in the Body (which will make the image easier to find via searches) and then click the Save button to upload the image.
Depending on the educational goals, podcasts can range from spontaneous acts of creation, such as an audio blog, to a crafted production like a radio play. Creating podcasts uses a range of academic skills that can be addressed explicitly in the process of creating the podcast. The flexibility of the podcast as a medium for expression can be leveraged in support of many different learning goals. However, the most important element of podcasting involves removing barriers between learners and publishing content. At the most basic level, a podcast is just an mp3 file you upload to your site. By remaining focused on the content within a podcast—as opposed to the bells and whistles of unnecessarily complex production of podcasts—you ensure that podcasts remain an accessible tool for daily learning and extended projects.
While the goals and uses of sharing images will vary from class to class, the ability for students to share images creates an additional means by which students can contribute. The technique covered in this article provides a flexible, adaptable tool that can be used to organize images for a variety of different educational needs.
About the Author :
Bill Fitzgerald was born in 1968, and worked as a teacher for 16 years. During that time, he taught English and History, and worked as a Technology Director at the K12 level. Bill began using technology in his own teaching in the early 90s; from there, he moved on to database design and systems administration. During that time, Bill began developing strategies to support technology integration in 1:1 laptop systems, and in desktop computing environments.
In 2003, Bill and Marc Poris founded FunnyMonkey, a Drupal development shop working primarily within education. Bill started and manages the Drupal in Education group on http://groups.drupal.org, and is active in various educational and open-source communities. Bill blogs about education and technology at http://funnymonkey.com/blog.
When Bill is not staring deeply into computer screens, he can be found riding his fixed gear bicycle through Portland, OR, or spending far too much time drinking coffee.