Zencastr allows users to create one online podcast with multiple speakers, each of whom has a separate track. The tool then creates a series of mp3 files per participant. Zencastr can then compile the tracks into a single merged file which is stored in the user's external Dropbox account.
Type of Material:
Group projects for the classroom; professional development; interactivity between student and instructor; communication drill and practice (especially for language learners); remote presentations; any musical presentation; dramatic readings; storytelling.
External storage account with Dropbox is currently necessary for the person creating the podcast in this beta version. Those invited do not need either a Zencastr or a Dropbox account. Flash is required for all participants. A microphone (built-in or external) is necessary to do the recording.
Identify Major Learning Goals:
There are no prescribed learning goals for this tool. It allows users to create podcasts that meet their own educational goals.
Target Student Population:
Any age group could use this. However, the host must be someone who has a Dropbox account. Classroom teachers of even young children could create a podcast using this tool with his/her account.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
User needs to be able to create an account, verify an account, set up computer microphone and download files from Dropbox. It is also good practice to establish content for the podcast (develop a script or notes) prior to the recording.
Provides individual tracks for each speaker in a podcast and then is able to consolidate tracks and check sound for the creator of the podcast. The resulting podcast file can be downloaded and used in a variety of ways. The individual files are also available and can be used separately as well as within the compiled file.
The ability to mute individual microphones and have participants leave the room allows for interruptions that might occur during the recording.
In the editing, the tool will remove coughs, outside sounds, and other audio issues automatically. It saves the user a great deal of time in the editing process. The files are only sent to the host (the Zencastr user) who can share as needed.
It is currently impossible to create a Zencastr account without having a Dropbox account.
The recording function may be difficult for users to find. Once found, it functions easily.
If you are not the host of the room, you cannot start, pause, or stop the recording.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
Allows for participants at remote locations to be involved in a recorded conversation or presentation.
The technology makes the user experience even, regardless of differences in microphones, locations, and computer configurations.
Based on the functionality of the technology, this could be applied to various disciplines or assignments.
As long as the host has a Zencastr and a Dropbox account, the other participants need not have these.
Effective usage of Zencastr requires the establishment of a user as the host, with associated technical requirements to be met by the host.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
Once accounts are connected, the tool is easy to use. There is a series of videos on the Zencastr site for support purposes. Only the host needs to meet the technical requirements other than Flash and a microphone. The formidable task of post-production work is done automatically.
The system for choosing your microphone is simple. When a headset is removed, for example, Zencastr automatically switches over to the default microphone.
Currently the Dropbox account is required to proceed with establishing an account. The login process can be confusing. There needs to be a portal on the main screen which allows users to either join a call or begin a call. The user interface needs more clarity for both hosts and participants.
The sticking point is accessing the account and getting it set up. Once it is successfully created, the recording process is a breeze.
Other Issues and Comments:
We recognize that this product is in beta and we are hopeful that Zencastr will continue to improve the functionality and usability of this product. They expect to incorporate Google Drive in the future and we see that as a positive step.
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