Read books via RSS and email

DailyLitI’ve tried to read Moby Dick several times but I’ve always been interrupted. I start off strong by reading a little every night but then I skip one night. From there it goes down hill and I never finish.

That’s why I was happy to find DailyLit. Here’s how they describe their service:

DailyLit sends books in installments via e-mail or RSS feed. We currently offer over 750 classic and contemporary books available entirely for free or on a Pay-Per-Read basis (with sample installments available for free). You can read your installments wherever you receive e-mail/RSS feeds, including on your Blackberry and iPhone. Installments arrive in your Inbox according to the schedule you set (e.g. 7:00am every weekday).

With DailyLit, a short installment of Moby Dick shows up each day in my Google Reader. Each installment is short enough to read in under five minutes.

Use news feeds and your favorite websites visit you

 Are there websites that you visit on a regular basis?  If so, you must give news (or RSS) feeds a try. An RSS feed will allow new material to come to your computer automatically.  No more hunting and gathering online. RSS feeds will save you time.

Below is a quick video that explains how to get started.

[metacafe 687091/rss_in_plain_english_how_to]

(video from Common Craft)

My Video Podcast Trek

I’ve been tinkering with video podcasts the past few weeks. My goal is to use the podcast so students can review:

  • notes from the past week
  • the practice problems at their own pace
  • demonstrations and lab activities performed in class

I started off by writing out my notes with GE’s Imagination Cubed and then did a screen capture with Windows Media Encoder. It works but the video of the Imagination Cubed came out choppy and the Windows Media Encoder does not give you many options when outputting the video.I really wanted the video to be available as a Flash video— similar to what YouTube does. The best video converter I found for this job was the free version of Riva FLV Encoder. It was easy to use, provided many options and converted the files quickly. If you have several videos to convert, you make want to download the trial of Riva Producer. It does batch converting and allows you to edit your videos in a timeline.

To play the videos, I chose the Flash Video Player. This free player is easy to configure if you read the directions. I had one snag with the slider but I solved this by using the proper metatags in my flv files. To fix the metatags I used FLV MetaData Injector. Again, this was explained in the installation directions. To host Flash video at your site, you’ll also need to update your webserver’s MIME types to include the flv extension.

The best piece of software I encountered on this trek was Camtasia. It is not a free program but they do offer a fully functional trial version for 30 days. Camtasia is primarily a screen capture program (used to produce screencasts) but I found it does so much more.

Here are just a few highlights:

  • edit and trim your video
  • add zooms, pans and transitions
  • add a second audio track
  • insert captions and overlays
  • export to a wide variety of formats

Camtasia was easy to use and provided timeline style editing. After I finished editing the video, I was able to produce a Flash version and an iPod friendly version in just one step.

There is something weird about seeing your lesson on an iPod. What’s even weirder is seeing students use it!

The last step to any podcasting adventure is the most crucial—create the rss feed. Your media can not be called a podcast without it. The rss feed is a text file that contains specific information about your show and describes each episode. You update the feed each time you create a new episode. I used several templates as an example to make my feed. (examples: 1, 2, 3) If you want to be iTunes friendly, you’ll need to follow some of their special formatting rules. You’ll also want submit your feed to Apple so users can search for your podcast right inside iTunes.

Here is my final product. I welcome feedback, questions and comments.