An Update to Free Podcasting in the Classroom

Posted on February 18, 2010. Filed under: General, Podcast |

by Tim Cushman

Gcast made podcasting incredibly easy.  With Gcast, a user could record a podcast by phone (for a minimal cost) or upload recordings from a computer for free.

I was first introduced to Gcast a few years ago during a workshop by presenter and teacher extraordinaire, Chris Craft.  Using a cell phone, Chris created daily podcasts during his morning commute that were automatically posted and broadcast by doing nothing more than calling an access number and recording a message.  This feed could be subscribed to by students via iTunes or accessed through the classroom website.  [Note: Chris now uses BuzzSprout.  It is a pay-only model, but includes some nice features.]

It appears that Gcast is no longer an option with the site freezing new registration and blocking all new uploads effective February 1, 2010. Gcast was unique in that you could create a podcast for free if you opted to record in a program like Audacity, save it as an mp3, and then upload the audio file.  This was an effective means of distributing student-created podcasts.

While I liked Gcast, I have found that is a suitable alternative for distributing content at no cost. Think of as on-line storage with sharing features (up to 100MB for free).  Just create a folder, or “drops,” and add your files for free. is built to be social so audio files easily become podcasts.  Each drop has its own call number assigned so that the user can create a podcast by calling and recording a message.  Teachers can continue to record student podcasts in Audacity and upload the file to  These recordings can then be tied to iTunes for syndication.  The steps for creating a “dropcast” can be found here.

The uses for extended beyond podcasting.  This is an amazing tool and worth exploring.  Make sure you start by watching the short “how to” video.

There are several ways to integrate podcasting in to any classroom.  Explanation of podcasting projects like book talks, literature circles, drama, meet the author, science logs, art critiques, historical audio diaries, and oral histories can be found here.  I have resource materials for blogging on my website at

How have you used, or plan to use, podcasting in your classroom?

How else could you use to support learning?

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It Takes Teamwork!

Posted on November 19, 2009. Filed under: General |

By Fran Mauney

As we prepare for the Upstate Technology Conference, I am reminded of the importance of teamwork and how crucial it is that we work together to improve student achievement in our schools. As a teacher, I see the importance of working with others who have experienced success in the classroom.  Research shows that grade level planning and sharing creative ideas  positively impacts student achievement.  As a teacher, I enjoy learning from the experts in the field and I can’t wait to implement the newest technology tool or research findings when I work with students. I look forward to the Upstate Technology Conference each year because it is led by some of the most dynamic teachers and leaders in our area. These teachers inspire me to try new techniques that motivate students to learn while positively impacting achievement.  In Greenville County Schools, we are fortunate that we have an outstanding team of experts who work with Educational Technology Services in systems support, instructional technology, and administrative computing.  These professionals are part of the team that improves instruction in our school system. How often do we take for granted that we have computers in our classrooms or phones in each room or several interactive whiteboards in our schools? As I travel around the state, I’m always reminded of how fortunate we are to have the latest technology and I’m grateful for the resources we have available in Greenville County schools.  For example, Greenville County has our own Help Desk with four engineers who help remotely without having to travel to the schools which provides much faster service. We are fortunate to have technicians in the field who handle hardware, software,  infrastructure cabling, servers, switchers, phones, wireless access, Promethean or SMARTboard troubleshooting.  There are 11 network technicians in the field and 1 engineer that supports 30,000 PCs. All of these professionals are basically behind the scenes each day and aren’t in the schools to see how their jobs affect learning.  So, the next time you see a technician or place a call to the Help Desk or complete a form for your school TAC, remember all the hardworking professionals at ETS who make technology possible for you and your students each day. (They love cookies, too!)

It is time to start thinking about how you can improve student achievement in the Upstate as we prepare for the technology conference.  There are so many outstanding teachers out there who are doing amazing projects with their students and we want you to share these ideas with those outside your classroom walls. Think about the technology lessons that worked well and plan to present these ideas at the conference on June 22 and 23 at Wade Hampton High School. (Keep in mind, you’ll earn technology points for your technology recertification.) The ETS technicians will be on hand to help set up and solve any technology problems that might occur, so leave those issues up to us!  We look forward to hearing from you as you plan to attend and/or present at our conference.  The UTC10 website will be up and running before the winter break, so stay tuned for more information. Learn how to meet the needs of students today at our conference: “The Face of Today’s Learner “….c u at utc!

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You Say Potatoe…

Posted on September 23, 2009. Filed under: Elementary School, English/Language Arts, Foreign Language, General, High School, Mathematics, Middle School, Science, Social Studies/History |

by Tim Van Heule
Distance Learning Coordinator

Education always has some great buzzwords… developmentally appropriate, instructional time, differentiated instruction, etc. But what about virtual field trip?

As the economy continues its downward spiral, virtual field trip is a buzzword that continues to gain popularity. If you can’t take your students to a location, take them via a virtual field trip! But are all virtual field trips created equal? Are there different versions of the virtual field trip, maybe an e-field trip? Are they the same thing, or if there are differences, what are they?

The difference between the two is more a difference in the language. Both allow teachers to take there students to destinations outside of the classroom; however, one is highly interactive while the other is not. What I term as the virtual field trip involves the use of videoconference, incorporating live audio and video communication. This type of virtual field trip is highly engaging, allowing students to speak and interact with content experts (content providers). Does this mean that what I term is the e-field trip is a lesser activity? Absolutely not, both of these activities provide students with valuable  opportunities that enhance the curriculum.

This link (please note this video plays best in Internet Explorer) is an example of a virtual field trip that one of our schools participated in during the 2008-2009 school year. WYFF, our local NBC affiliate, produced this video as they highlighted how teachers are becoming more creative to provide opportunities in the classroom in light of a poor economy. The students connected with the Discovery Center of Springfield as they learned more about magnets during a program titled, Magnet Mania! While I agree that teachers are finding ways to be more creative in light of the current economic situation, I don’t agree that the use of a virtual field trip such as this is only due to economics. Through virtual field trips such as these, our students are able to connect with an expert in the field who reinforces the standards being taught in the classroom.

Unfortunately, not everyone has access to this equipment that allows these connections to occur. You have to ask yourself, “What can I do with my students if we do not have videoconferencing equipment in my school and/or district?” This is where the e-field trip comes in. I’ve always been impressed with eFieldTrips. I think they do a great job of producing interactive web-based content. There programs contain great visuals, appropriate use of audio clips, and the content is appropriate in length. While doing a little research for this post, I also found the Utah Education Network and their Virtual Field Trips.  One thing I really like about this site is that you can tour anything in any of the content areas, and if the content you are searching for is not available, there are links and tutorials for you to create your own virtual field trip that you can share with others. This is a great project that students would find meaningful.

Again, this is just a difference in the meaning of the terminology. I don’t consider one to be more correct than the other. The important thing is that they both provide opportunities to enhance the curriculum while providing engaging opportunities for the students.

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How do I get students to read? Look no further, this is a great new site!

Posted on September 13, 2009. Filed under: English/Language Arts, General, High School, Middle School, Teachers |

by Cathy Arnold

Any of you that know me knows that I hate to read!  I know, I know…I’m an educator and I need to foster that desire to read and to learn in students.  We need to encourage students to read the great classics!  I agree, but for me this never came easy!  Ugh…I’m a math geek and I could never figure out why some people could sit for days and read those hundreds and thousands of pages of text called literature.  Reading is hard for me and frankly when I was young my parents had to practically bribe me to read (…or threaten …whichever way one looks at it!  🙂  )   Being mathematically inclined, everything is literal to me.  I absolutely cannot read between the lines.  Why then should I read something I do not understand?

Well, here comes Miss Havisham!   I came across this article in the USA Today which explains that a young, very tech-savvy and very smart woman is opening doors for those students like myself to actually understand the reasons behind those long, long novels.   This is a huge task to accomplish, but from the samples on her site that I’ve seen so far, this idea is a winner!   Hey…she even has tempted someone like me to want to read!

For almost all of the books listed, she has 60 second clips of the overview, plot, cast, theme(s), symbols, motifs and conclusion.  Unlike SparkNotes or CliffNotes, these clips do not seem to give enough information for a student to attempt to take a test without reading the book.  However, it does explain enough to entice students to read or clarify information.   It seems to direct students to the correct train of thought.  Of course, don’t listen to this non-reader, watch and listen to Gabby, a student, responding to Great Expectations on this 60second club recap –  (  ).

Keep in mind, I’m not an English major and not a huge reader, so I would love to hear thoughts from those of you that are English teachers and/or avid readers.   Has Jenny Sawyer (Miss Havisham) created something that can be used in your classroom to entice young readers?  Is her information about the books on target?  Do you think this is something needed today?  Let me know. 

Visit the 60 Second Recap at .  


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Make Believe Today, Reality Tomorrow!

Posted on May 8, 2009. Filed under: General |

Jeff McCoy

I don’t know about you, but technology impacts every part of my life. There are days I curse it because it fails to do anything it’s suppose to do and then there are days where I can’t imagine my life not being surrounded by it!! I don’t usually consider myself a geek when it comes to technology because I’m not really technical. I really don’t care how it works as long as it works. Don’t bore me with the details. But, on the other hand, if you walk into my house, it is filled with all the technology gadgets I can get my hands on. My friends from time to time get annoyed with me because every time I see new technology, I immediately began brainstorming how I could see it being used in the classroom. I guess the teacher in me is never really gone. There are so many new and exciting technologies on the verge of being released that will have a profound impact on education today.

I always love seeing new movies because the technology always seems so futuristic. Many times it is, but realistically, the reality is usually not that far off from the fiction. As I travel around doing consulting work from time to time, district administrators always ask me what the newest thing is going to be. That’s always a hard question to answer because who would have thought we would be where we are today in such a short amount of time. I’m not sure any of us really predicted where we would be in 2009.  However, you can be sure of one thing, if you want to know what is coming, look to the movies. Hollywood has a knack for creating technology that seems to turn into a reality just a few years.

You might guess that thinking blocks sounds like something right out of a science fiction movie, but it is not.  A new invention by David Merrill called Siftables has the potential to change the way teachers define manipulatives. According to David Merrill, an MIT grad, Siftables are “computerized tiles you can stack and shuffle in your hands. These future-toys can do math, play music, and talk to their friends, too”. Wow, toys that actually do math, talk to each other, and change based on the interaction with other Siftables? It would be well worth your time to watch this seven minute demonstration on the new Siftables. It is exciting as an educator to think about the potential this technology might have in education. Students can literally have intelligent manipulatives in their hands. This technology is new, but I have no doubt that in a year or two, it will be in classrooms and being used in great ways to educate children. The exciting thing about technology innovation today is that it continues to take children to the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. With Siftables, students are not only learning, but creating content as well.

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Posted on April 13, 2009. Filed under: Elementary School, General, High School, Middle School |

by Tim Van Heule
Coordinator of Distance Learning

Image from

Do you Twitter? Better yet, do you know what Twitter is? Twitter has been a seemingly hot topic as of late – everyone seems to be “twittering,” even Miley Cyrus for those of you who are Hannah Montana fans.

Twitter is a social networking site that allows users to connect with their Personal Learning Network (PLN) – a PLN is a network of people you chose to be involved with. What’s most interesting about Twitter is that it is a “micro-blog,” meaning you are limited to text-based posts of 140 characters. These posts, or “tweets,” are displayed on your profile page, but are also delivered to the profile pages of your “followers” – those people who have subscribed to follow your posts. You can “follow” others who share your common interests.

Tweets are delivered free through the Twitter website on the Internet, or can be delivered through Short Message Service (SMS) on your mobile phone. Please note that if you choose to utilize the SMS service on your mobile phone all standard text-messaging charges apply – be sure to check with your mobile phone providers before choosing this delivery option.

‘Twitter has become a powerful tool for community organizers, marketers, and others who want to share and receive information in a fast, friendly environment. It’s no wonder, then, that teachers have also found success on Twitter, using the tool to connect with students, share information with parents, and find useful resources” . This blog post lists “100 tools that can help twittering teachers make the most out of this helpful microblogging tool” (, April 2009).

Twitter is being used in classrooms worldwide already. “TeachJeffCorwin” is a classroom of sixth graders in  Columbia, SC who want to teach Spanish to TV personality, Jeff Corwin. This classroom provides links and updates about their projects.

Tweets can be sent out to parents, students, and other educators. You, your students, and your parents really have to be clear and concise to get the message out in 140 characters or less! Basically, the importance of the message is delivered, while some of the “fluff” that often fills our communication is left out. One of the challenges with Twitter is sharing URLs in such a limited space. “TinyURLl” is a free site that condenses your URLs into a smaller version. For example, the website for the Upstate Technology Conference is, but with TinyURL the web address is condenced down to

Maybe you want to join Twitter, maybe you don’t. However, you may be surprised to find out who is already Twittering… CNN Breaking News, journalists like Thomas Friedman, and even sporting events like The Masters. All of these have their own followers… these followers have chosen to subscribe to tweets in an effort to make learning more personal – choosing to learn about what interests them most.


Top 100 tools for the twittering teacher. (2009, April 2). Message posted to

Twitter. (n.d.) Retrieved April 13, 2009, from

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Window’s Live Writer…a new tool I found today.

Posted on February 19, 2009. Filed under: General |

(by Cathy Arnold)

A couple of coworkers and myself were working today on a digital imaging presentation. My part of the presentation will be to talk to the group about resizing images. Of course to increase my knowledge, I googled it! One of my finds was “Windows Live Photo Gallery”. Being a Microsoft product I felt somewhat confident it would be a safe download so off I went to learn more. While at the site I viewed two short video clips on the product’s ease of use from Alexa age 7 and Kylie age 4 1/2 (which are both worth viewing if for no other reason to verify the fact that it’s okay to ask for help from your four year old grandson or granddaughter!) I’m sold…so I start the download. While downloading this product it asked me to check which of the Live products I would like to download. Besides the Photo Gallery, I also downloaded Window’s Live Writer. This is a tool to help you with your blog writing. Since I was reminded that it was 1configure my turn to blog…I thought “why not try it?” In fact, I am writing this blog through Live Writer right now.

When I first started using the program it asked me to configure the program for use with my blog.

Next, it asked me what blog service I used and if I wanted to create a blog if I did not have one. I went through the rest of the process of setting up the blog.


Once finished, a new window appeared so that I could start creating my blog post. It was very user friendly. I would however recommend that the user check the blog after writing to make sure that it appears the way the writer intended.

After I’m finished writing, I am planning to click “Publish” at the top of the screen. If you are reading this right now…then “it worked!” This is a good little tool.  I would recommend this for those of you that would like to start blogging but need something easy to use.

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Free is Always Good

Posted on February 9, 2009. Filed under: EdTech, Elementary School, General, High School, Media Specialists, Middle School, Teachers |

by Tim Van Heule
Coordinator of Distance Learning

It is February, and the economy is still looking really rough. Budget cuts, job losses, etc. are common place across the nation. I am not an economist, but I know how the economic downturn has taken its toll on education.

Every summer for the past three years, the Greenville County Schools Instructional Technology Staff in South Carolina has hosted the Upstate Technology Conference. I have attended every conference, one as a participant, and two as a member of the staff. It is great to see how this conference continues to grow each year. I am hoping that this year is no exception.

“You get what you pay for” is a common cliche, often leading you to believe that if it is free, the quality probably reflects the price. Our conference is free, there are no registration fees at all, participants are only responsible for any meals and lodging; lunch is available on site at a competitive price.

This year’s conference will be Wednesday, June 24 and Thursday, June 25. We will also have a pre-conference on Tuesday, June 23. Currently, we are accepting proposals for presentations; this year’s presentations will no doubt be as superb as those in the past. General participant registration is open as well.

In the past we have had some of the best keynote speakers available worldwide, Annette Lamb, Ewan McIntosh, and David Jakes. This year is no exception, we are proud to have Chris Craft as our sole keynote speaker for UTC09. I have known Chris Craft since 2007 when Tim Cushman and I attended his sessions at the SC ETV Technology Workshop for Educators. Both of us were so impressed that we have asked, begged, and pleaded for him to present at UTC each year – we have been fortunate that he has always agreed when available. To have Chris as our Keynote Speaker this year really means a lot to all of us in Greenville County.

We look forward to seeing you at UTC09! Please continue to read our blog or check the UTC website for updates. Questions can be directed to our office,

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Professional Development in a Flash

Posted on August 19, 2008. Filed under: Elementary School, General, High School, Instructional Coaches, Middle School, Teachers |

by Tim Cushman

The primary challenge in the successful implementation of technology in the classroom is the buy-in from the individual teacher.  Many districts elect to channel all of their technology funds into the purchase of hardware and software at the expense of end-user training.  This short-sighted approach leaves many teachers floundering to learn the new technology on their own time, often with limited access to self-study materials.  This frustration is enough of a roadblock for many teachers to ignore technology tools all together or to use them only at a very basic level.

I do have to wonder, at one point do we as professional educators include the pursuit of learning technology under the umbrella of personal growth?  I am not referring to simply staying current with a variety of new products in order to continually “wow” a group of students as a means of crowd control (listen to Wesley Fryer’s “Strive to Engage, Not Enthrall”).

Single Image Set
Image details: Single Image Set by

Technology is a tool that serves as a powerful conduit to learning in the hands of the master teacher.  A colleague of mine, Tim Van Heule, often quips that, “the effective use of technology makes a good teacher better, but the misuse of technology makes a good teacher poor.”  Like a master craftsman building a house, it is about using the right tool in the right way.

I recommend the following method for staying current: read blogs, listen to podcasts, watch video tutorials.

Start Here
David Jakes provides an excellent resource on his wiki for teachers interesting in deepening their understanding of an array of technologies.  The tasks are straightforward and can easily be completed in fifteen minutes.  David’s site is full of great resources and is worth a thorough examination.  Do this if nothing else.

Click here for a clear explanation of blogs and here to learn how to get blogs automatically delivered to your computer.

A few of my favorite blogs are dy/dan, edu.blogs, Ian Jukes, Steve Hargadon, The Strength of Weak Ties, and 2 Cents.

Click here for a clear explanation of podcasts.  iTunes is a great way to manage your podcasts.  Click here for a video tutorial on how to subscribe to podcasts through iTunes.

Video Tutorials
More video tutorials on the use of hardware and software packages are being posted online thanks in large part to the YouTube revolution.  Atomic Learning is well worth the money if you can afford it because of the volume of tutorials and the speed at which they load.  You can find some decent user content on sites like YouTube or TeacherTube if you don’t mind putting in extra time searching.

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SMART’s Notebook Software Version 10

Posted on July 13, 2008. Filed under: Elementary School, English/Language Arts, General, High School, Instructional Coaches, Interactive Whiteboards, Middle School, Science, Teachers | Tags: , , , |

by Tim Van Heule

I recently downloaded Notebook Software Version 10 from SMART Technologies. As a SMART Exemplary Educator, and a former Peer Educator, I like to make sure that the training and support I provide on SMART products is current and knowledgeable.

There are many great features that have been added or improved upon. The “Alignment Tool” is one that many teachers have been most excited about – aligning objects on the page is easy now. And the “Properties Tab” has combined all of the object options in one place, including new object action additions. Of course there are new pens – the “Magic Pen” and the “Shape Recognition Pen.” The “Table Tool” is also a welcome addition, including features for text and screen shades in each cell.

The only concern I have relates to the inital installation of the software. You have to enter in the serial number from the board in order to receive the product key needed to activate the software. Finding the serial number is not difficult; depending on the model of the board, the serial number is either on the bottom of the pen tray or on the back of the board. The serial number also always starts with “SB” for SMART Board. The product key is emailed to the user. My concern arose because I imagined teachers across the county struggling at they tried to locate their serial number, getting the email and then entering in the product key. I have since learned that the product key can be used multiple times, even throughout the entire school. So, if the product key can be used throughout the school, why do you need it anyway?

Any previous versions of SMART Notebook also need to be removed, along with the driver, but do not remove the gallery.

I’ve been using SMART products for the past five years, and I think that this release is one of the more exciting software upgrades from SMART. Have your serial number available and download Version 10 at this link today.

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