Over the past two months, the FabLearn Fellows have been quietly working behind the scenes to develop a podcast that we hope will spotlight the work of maker-educators from around the world, share constructionist best practices, and help us connect more meaningfully with each other and all of you. We’re calling it Meaningful Making because we want our listeners to use the podcast in tandem with this blog and our ebook of the same name. We’ll talk through essays posted in this blog, offer practical advice and pro-tips, and feature stories from all corners of the maker-ed movement.
Talking on microphone is a skill that takes real practice. Professional podcasters have teams of producers who are paid to edit out all the vocal tics and boring parts – but that’s a luxury we don’t have at FabLearn, so we use an outline to keep everyone focused.
- Before you launch your podcast, decide what kind of podcast you want to make. Who is your intended audience? How long do you want your podcast to be? What kinds of segments do you want to include? Do some research and listen to podcasts that tackle similar subject matter. For Meaningful Making, we wanted to make content for fellow maker-educators. We wanted each episode to be 45-60 mins. and include one longer interview or roundtable discussion segment.
- Schedule your recording session in advance. Use an app like Doodle that will automatically adjust for time zone differences – especially if you’re dealing with far-flung hosts.
- Type up an outline in Google Docs and share it with your co-hosts. The key is to keep things flexible so that hosts can crack jokes, tell stories, and go on delightful tangents. The outline is there to keep everyone comfortable, not to be a literal script.
- Write out a podcast intro. It can be difficult to know what to say in the beginning, so having a scripted opener can cure any on-mic jitters:
Welcome to Meaningful Making – a brand new podcast brought to you by the FabLearn Fellows where we try to unpack the world of maker education, share constructionist best practices, and illuminate incredible work of the FabLearn Fellows from around the world.
You don’t need expensive gear to record your podcast, just a microphone, headphones, and some basic audio production software. If you have a smartphone and earbuds, you have everything you need. Because our podcast hosts are scattered across the globe, we use a tool called ZenCastr to organize our projects. Zencastr records each host locally on a separate audio track, which keeps the audio sounding as good as it can.
- Microphone (For recs: “Podcasting on a Budget: How to Record Great Audio for Less”)
- Make sure you have found a quiet place to record with a reliable internet connection. This doesn’t need to be anywhere fancy — a bedroom or a closet. Just avoid public spaces with unpredictable sounds.
- Wear headphones (even a really cheap pair) to avoid re-recording the output audio.
- Log-in to ZenCastr. ZenCastr includes both free and premium tiers. The free “Hobbyist” option gives you access to 8 hrs. of recording per month with up to three hosts at a time:
- A. Only one host needs to have a ZenCastr account. He or she will use the “Invite” button to send a private link to the other hosts.
- B. Each host joining the session will be represented by a name tag. If ZenCastr recognizes your system default microphone, audio levels should appear and you’ll be able to hear yourself through your headphones. If you want to change your microphone input, you can tinker with the settings (button in the top-right corner). You can also mute your microphone or “raise your hand” to cue the other hosts that you have something to say.
- C. If you want to make a note during the recording, you can use the timeline footnote feature which will leave a time-stamped comment (e.g. “[0h42m12s] Cut out garbled audio.”)
- D. Start and stop the recording using the big button in the top-left. Once you’re finished, each host’s audio will appear as three solo tracks for you to download separately.
The editing process for a podcast can be as intensive as you want it to be. We do some light touch-ups at the end: throw in some some intro music, cut out any blatant screw-ups, and tweak the audio levels. Our process takes about 30 mins. Depending on your format and audience, you may want to do more or less.
- Audio Editing Software (Logic Pro / GarageBand / Audacity / Soundnation)
- Audio Extraction Applet (Peggo)
- Free Music Archive
- Download the solo tracks from ZenCastr and import them into your audio editing software. For GarageBand, drag-and-drop the files from your Downloads folder onto the timeline and it will automatically create a multi-track project.
- Line up all the solo tracks so they begin at the same time.
- Trim out any audio content you don’t want. There will invariably be some dead audio at the beginning and end of your clip. For GarageBand, trimming audio is super easy, just move your playhead to the locations you want removed and click “Split” (Command+T). The audio should split into two pieces and you can delete the section you don’t need.
- Import your intro and outro music. You may want a few seconds of audio to begin and end your episode. Pick music that fits the tone of your show. I use an app called Peggo to download music from YouTube. Of course – be sensitive to copyright issues when you’re downloading other people’s intellectual property. Search for “podsafe music” (Free Music Archive rules!) or compose your own. You may want to adjust the music levels to smoothly fade in and out the music.
- Normalize the tracks so that there aren’t discrepancies in volume. There are different ways to do this, but I use a free app called the Levelator, a combination normalizer-compressor-limiter with an absurdly simple user interface.
- Export your podcast. In GarageBand, click Share from the menu bar and select Send Song to iTunes…
Your audience will dictate where you share your work online. Maybe you want to post your content through a Facebook page? Or embed it on your WordPress blog? Or broadcast live on Mixlr? If you want to hit a general swath of listeners, it’s a smart move to get it on the iTunes music store, where most podcast subscriptions happen. If you want to learn more about the state of the podcasting industry, check out Nick Quah’s excellent newsletter Hot Pod.
- In order to get your podcast on the iTunes store, you need your content hosted online and have access to its RSS feed. There are a bunch of ways to do that, but we found that SoundCloud and Simplecast are two of the most intuitive options.
- To upload to SoundCloud, it’s as easy as dragging and dropping your file onto the webpage. You’ll want to add some episode cover art and follow the necessary specifications for the iTunes store: Artwork must be in the JPEG or PNG file formats and in the RGB color space with a minimum size of 1400 x 1400 pixels and a maximum size of 3000 x 3000 pixels at 72 DPI.
- To upload to iTunes, copy your podcast’s RSS feed from SoundCloud, which is available on your Content Settings page. Log-in to iTunes Connect using your Apple ID. Click the + in the top-left and paste your RSS feed. Click “validate” and your podcast information should auto-fill in the Feed Preview:
- You have to wait a few days for Apple to check your podcast for content requirements. Once you’ve been approved, you don’t have to resubmit. New episodes will auto-upload through your RSS feed.
In order to be a good podcaster, I believe that you have to make content that you’d like to listen to. If you’ve never heard a podcast before, discover some new ones. Most radio shows publish their content in pod form and some podcasts offer live recordings where you can connect to listener communities.
- If you’re brand new to podcasts, explore the Top 200 podcasts (US) and stream a few before subscribing. If you’re looking for podcasts that aren’t on that list, try searching YouTube. Many fans and content creators upload select episodes to YouTube to reach a broader audience
- Apple has published a simple primer on how to subscribe to podcasts on iTunes/iPhone/iPad. If you have an Android device, you can subscribe to podcasts on Google Play Music or through a third-party podcatcher app. My preferred app for listening to podcasts is Overcast (iOS) because it unobtrusively trims out pauses in between speech (I’ve trimmed out 28 hrs. of audio!)