My New Podcasting Tool…

As I said several weeks ago, while at the MICCA conference in Baltimore, my iPod finally crashed.  It was in its 4th year of pretty solid use, not only for listening to audio books and podcast (and a song here and there), but also for recording my Connect Learning podcast.  I reformatted the iPod’s hard drive and restored the software, and it worked for a few more weeks, but then it crashed again and refused to take the restores.  On my way out of town, on my way to Asheville last week, I dropped by the Raleigh Apple store and bought a new iPod (Video).  Way Way cool.  Almost entirely impractical for me because of my increasing farsightedness, but totally cool video.  I am entirely impressed, and suspect that younger eyes are delighted.

WS-100But back to the podcasting, I have always tried to focus down on using information technologies for learning that are accessible for schools that are willing to invest just something into it, and consistently say in my presentations and workshop that you don’t have to go buy an iPod to record a podcast. 

“I use an iPod because I already owned an iPod.”

“Just had to spend $30 for an iTalk to turn it into a recorder.” 

They’re a little more expensive now, but what else is available?

So I went to the local Staples store and bought an Olympus digital voice recorder.  Its a WS-100, $79 (usd).  I’m still working my way through the buttons, but I tried it for the first time yesterday, when I visited a technology showcase in Durham, North Carolina, and found that the operation was pretty darn intuitive.  The event was an excellent test of the audio quality because there was an enormous amount of background noise and confusion.  But when I gave one of the files a listen last night, I was overwhelmingly impressed.

WS-100 DisassembledI especially like the built-in USB plug.  You just plug the device directly into your computer, and it shows up as an external hard drive.  Just audio drag the files off into your podcast directory, and get to work.  One glitch is that the files are saved in WMA format, so you have to find a converter to change it to a wav or mp3.  I used Switch, which worked very quickly and effectively.  The files go from there directly into Audacity or GarageBand.

My only irritation is the weight.  I’ve been accustomed to holding a very solid and substancial iPod when interviewing people.  The Olympus is extremely light weight, and cheap felling, but again the quality of the recording surprised me — and at almost a quarter of the price.

Look for the next episode of Connect Learning.

14 thoughts on “My New Podcasting Tool…”

  1. You’re going to enjoy the piece, David. I have used both that one and the higher priced stereo version regularly. They have both proven durable and of good recording quality for everything from round table discussions between 20 people to church services plugged into the sound board. The USB is VERY handy, and the battery seems to last forever. Worth the money.

    I also have the video iPod. I have ripped and added several videos to it from DVD so I can have them on long trips. It is nice to hand it to my 6 year old son on extensive drives. Best thing is that I still have tons of HD space left on it for more.

  2. Funny, I just wrote about using ours today also!

    They are extremely easy to use, handy, and great for schools. We used ours when Will Richardson spoke at our campus and it picked up the audio very well, and we’ve been using them frequently for student projects. The sound quality is excellent and it can pick up a speaker from quite a distance.

    My favorite feature is the built in USB port. For schools, that is wonderful because it’s one less piece to keep up with.

    The only problem we’ve had is with the battery compartment springing open unexpectedly.

    I found that teachers really engaged with this when we did a few workshops on using them–they found them really easy and handy to use.

    I’ve been keeping one with me in the car, so when random thoughts hit me or I hear a good news story on the radio on NPR, I can just record a reminder to myself to buy the book, or look up the story later.

    Easier than trying to find a pen and something to write on while I’m driving!

  3. Dave,
    We actually bought two for use in the classroom after you came to our district to talk about podcasting. Just recorded a guest speaker…the whole hour lecture. Now I just have to cut that down to 15 minutes for our website podcast. But loved the equipment!

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