I have been thinking quite a bit about the differences in using web-based tools like Voicethread, PodcastPeople, Bubbleshare or podOmatic to create audio-only or enhanced podcasts (technically speaking I suppose, “digital stories” since Voicethreads and Bubbleshares are not yet true podcasts) compared to desktop software like Audacity, PhotoStory3, or Garageband. In the past, I’ve spent most of my time in digital storytelling workshops helping teachers use desktop software solutions. That is shifting now because of several reasons, but a basic one is this: Web tools for digital storytelling require fewer clicks to complete a project.

Having greater levels of control over the details of a digital storytelling project can be important, but realistically TIME is the resource in shortest supply in most classrooms. If we want to help learners of all ages in schools (teachers as well as students) actually USE digital tools on a routine basis to share ideas and collaborate, I think we need to pay attention to what I’ll call the “ethic of minimal clicks.”

To highlight the similarities as well as differences between using web tools compared to desktop software tools for digital storytelling, I created the following flowchart in Skitch this evening:

Podcasting Workflows

If you are unable to view this because Flickr is blocked at your school or in your country, use this link to view and download the image. I think this latest flowchart is simpler and superior in several ways to the “Podcasting 101 Flowchart” I made back in October 2005 when I was teaching an instructional technology class for students at Wayland Baptist University in Lubbock, Texas:

Podcasting 101 Flowchart

In my view, the biggest and most significant differences between the two options highlighted on the latest flowchart (using web-based tools versus a client-side software program) are in steps 3 and 4: Chop and Publish. The key differences are:

  • Fewer clicks for web-based tools
  • Immediate publication for web-based tools

When using a tool like VoiceThread, literally five clicks after finishing the producing and chopping phases (steps 2 and 3) an entire project is published to the web and safely shared for feedback with others. It is true that iWeb software (for Macintosh users) makes podcast and other iLife media file publishing very seamless, but the configuration of the iWeb publishing scheme can take some fiddling (especially if the user isn’t a .Mac subscriber or trial user) and is in another league of complexity, in my view, compared with a tool like VoiceThread. In addition, I am still not entirely thrilled with the commenting options available with iWeb, and generally prefer web-based platforms for commenting and blogging.

In addition to thinking about these differences between web-based tools and desktop software (perhaps I should have called it “client-side software”) I’ve been getting quite enthused over the potential for “distributed podcast recording” using a free tool like Gabcast, to use any phone (celluar or otherwise) as a digital storytelling recording device. (For more on Gabcast, refer to Liz Kolb’s outstanding presentation “Cell Phones as Classroom Learning Tools” for K12Online07.)

To put those thoughts into action and to a test, today I extended an opportunity to accompany a group of elementary students to the Oklahoma History Center— and created a podcast with them. Several of the students recorded audio “in the field” at the museum using a cell phone (and Gabcast,) and took pictures of the objects they had described or read descriptions of into the cell phone.

I took those images and audio files (which were readily downloadable as compressed mp3 files from my channel on the Gabcast website) and created two versions of our digital story: One using Voicethread and one using Garageband. I also recorded screencasts of the process and required steps in each case. Creating the Voicethread version took just over 15 minutes. Creating the same story in Garageband took over 45 minutes. I included eight images and eight audio narration recordings in each story.

What was the big difference? The number of “clicks” when producing, chopping and publishing. (the number of mouse clicks required)

Here is an embedded/playable version of our digital story in VoiceThread, which I titled “Podguide from the Oklahoma History Center:”

You can additionally download the GarageBand published version of this digital story, which weighed in at 1.5 MB as a 4 min, 16 second digital story / podcast. (Again, technically speaking this is not a true “podcast” yet because I haven’t linked it in a web feed, but at some point I shall.) This file is also available as an audio-only mp3 file. I LOVE the fact that in Garageband ’08, you can directly export to mp3 or m4a (enhanced podcast.)

I’m also sharing the screencasts of both digital story creation procedures as video podcasts. I recorded these using iShowU (commercial software) and compressed the HUGE files it created using iSquint (free) software. Here are direct links to the screencasts in an iPod-video compatible format and size, I’ll be linking these as video podcasts in my podcast channel soon:

If you have feedback, comments or suggestions on any of this I’d love to hear it. I want to continue to improve the digital storytelling learning opportunities for our Oklahoma Digital Centennial Project, and one way I think I can do this is by spending more time helping participants learn to use web-based tools like Voicethread and Gabcast.

Please don’t be put off by the fact that I used Garageband and not PhotoStory3 software for this demo, if you happen to currently be a Windows-user. These procedures in PhotoStory3 are VERY similar, David Jakes’ step-by-step handout for PhotoStory3 is a great guide to use in workshops with teachers, and I have it linked on my digital storytelling workshop curriculum.

Also remember the web-based options to use VoiceThread and Gabcast as digital storytelling tools are available to EVERYONE connected to the web, regardless of platform, IF the site is not blocked by a local Internet content filter.

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