Podcasts and cell phones

So with professors and campuses moving classes online and supplementing their in-class teaching time with podcasts, screencasts, and other casts of characters, students are now adapting their own learning methods to the mobile method.  After spending almost 30 mins with a student trying to download podcasts to her smartphone, I thought a short summation or a how-to would be a nice reminder for myself and for any others who face this issue.

1) Not all phones are created equal. iPhone, Blackberry, Android, you name it, students have it but what does that mean for you, the troubleshooting librarian?  Each phone wants to have its own software running on your machine.  At our school, downloading=game ender.  Resolution: set the phone is “Mass Storage Mode.”  What this means is that a phone must have an external memory chip (apart from the phone’s own SIM or phone card) to store media, such as photos, videos, documents, etc.  In short, by activating Mass Storage Mode, you turn the phone into a larger USB drive for storing (and hopefully playing) files.  I’ve used quotes around the name because this appears to be relatively standard across platforms and is the key to step 1 in making the phone accessible to receiving files.  For those unfamiliar with smartphones or at least unfamiliar with these features, I’ve included a set of screenshots in the photo gallery below from my own device to highlight to key icons in each step of the Mass Storage Mode engagement process.

2) iTunes and slaying the DRM dragon.  So most people are podcasting on iTunes, which is great for its findability, but beware of the DRM (digital rights managment) dragon that locks downloaded podcast files into Apple’s own format, MP4.  If you have an iPhone, you should be fine with Apple’s format, but everyone else will struggle with accessing the info.  Therefore, in iTunes, you can choose to convert your files into MP3s a more open and commonly accepted music format.  To do so, go to Edit>Preferences>General>Import Settings>and change Import Using from AAC2 to MP3 Encoder. The gallery below includes screenshots of how to find the different tabs and buttons on the PC setting of iTunes.

Once you rejigger iTunes and made it bow down to your info technology power, you can download your podcasts.  If the file still comes as MP4 files, right click the file in iTunes and select “Create MP3 Version” to make a copy of the file into the MP3 format you need.

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