“Unlike the professional development at your school, you are not limited to the knowledge base in your building. Podcasts are where the great education thought leaders and practitioners of today can be found teaching others.”
What is wonderful about this age of education is that administrators are beginning to discover the need for personalized professional development. In fact at my school, our administration has totally revamped the PD model for its staff in order to offer more voice and choice. So with all these great opportunities for personalized learning, why do we really need another source of professional development?
In an in-school PD cycle we are limited to the resources in our own building. Podcasts are a powerful tool to move our PD from school-based to global.
It’s usually best practice to address the why first, but before we do that we need to be clear on what a podcast is.
In the simplest terms, it is an audio program (or it could be video) that is available to download (or stream) to an portable audio player or computer to replay at your convenience. Think of it like on demand radio. Need more info? Watch the video below.
Podcasts are great for entertainment purposes, I have my personal favorites.
One of my biggest “why’s” is time. I really don’t have time to read about the best practices in education. I’m trying to read more blog posts, but it’s a losing battle. Podcasts allow me to get PD when my eyes and hands are busy doing other things. The other time piece is that educators who make podcasts know that the time teachers have to listen to episodes is limited. So, the length of most education podcasts are short. They get to the heart of the matter and don’t spend time smelling the roses. They value your limited free time and make the most of it.
The format of most podcasts are different that the PD we get from a blog post or a written text. It is usually a conversation among educators. Unlike a written work or presentation where you may only get one point of view on an issue, podcasts offer multiple points of view and responses to a topic. It ends up being a dialogue rather than a pronouncement. As we wrestle with so many new innovations in education, it’s wonderful to have a space where experts can be questioned about the finer points by a novice or dig deep into a robust conversation with other thought leaders.
It’s great that we are engaging in personalized PD in our schools. But unlike the PD at your school, you are not limited to the knowledge base in your building. Podcasts are where the great education thought leaders and practitioners of today can be found teaching others. On a podcast, experts know they have a broad audience, so they start from a base understanding and grow from there. Also, they know that they have limited time. They present their most innovative ideas to ignite that spark and get your interest in a new topic or way of thinking. If the listener is interested, then they can seek out further information. Great podcast hosts always look to help their audience get useful information, making sure that the information the experts provide is actionable. This means that you can listen to a podcast on the way home and use that information to inform your instruction tomorrow.
We’ve all experienced PD that was not applicable to our goals or interests. Even when given a choice in PD we can be limited to the interests and goals of those in our building. The wonderful thing about podcast PD is that if you have an interest in education, there is probably a podcast about it. Podcasts have so many different focuses like grade level, content area, student focused, teacher focused and administration focused. I really enjoy listening to podcasts that focus on topics that drive my pedagogy like personalized learning and educational technology. Now, even if you can’t find a podcast themed around an area you're interested, a simple search in iTunes will probably bring up a list of individual episodes to meet your needs.
Like the internet itself, podcasts open you up to a global view of education. Through Skype and Voxer, podcasts hosted in the US are able to bring in educators, innovators, and thought leaders from around the world. Many podcasts are hosted by individuals who are on opposite ends of the world. They are able to collaborate in real time and provide a global perspective on every topic they present. Not many blogs can do that. If we expect to prepare our students for the global economy of today, we need to start having that perspective as teachers. It is interesting to hear that even though we are a world apart, many teachers are dealing with the same problems in education. If we want to get true out-of-the-box ideas, we need to look outside of our system, and a global view can provide this perspective.
Not every great educator loves to write. Which means the idea of sharing their experience and ideas via a blog will never happen. If we simply limit our PD research to blogs, we are ignoring a large segment of the innovators out there. We are missing a world of experts who cannot be found in print in the blogosphere of educational literature. Podcasts allow these unique voices to be heard. Just like great writers can unleash the power of prose, great speakers can move us to action with their voice. Podcasts provide them with this platform. It allows the individual to have their thoughts heard the way they intended.
All educators agree that the best PD is not one and done. The best PD revisits a topic over time with a clear plan. It is ongoing. Like great PD, podcasts are ongoing. The best podcasts are published on a regular basis. This way you can get your PD fix regularly. The best podcasts have a mission and provide a narrative. They have routines and structures that are in place. They leave you with actionable practices or something to reflect on until next time.
As educators, we should always be looking to grow our personal learning network. Podcast hosts and guests will immediately be part of your circle. Twitter is great for making new connections, but for me there is more power to hearing someone speak passionately about their interests than can be conveyed in 140 characters. This initial connection could lead to great conversations and resource sharing on social media platforms like Twitter, though. Giving a shout out via Twitter is a great way to initiate that connection. I have done it many times. You will find professionals who share your same passions and interests. This doesn’t just mean connecting with experts; novices have their own stories and experiences to share as well.
Unlike celebrities you may find on entertainment podcasts, educational podcasters are wonderfully approachable. In fact, they love when you reach out to them. It is your feedback that helps drive where there shows are going. Feedback lets them know about what topics you are interested in and what structure the show should take. It’s the conversation around the show that brings the audience together. Think of the audience like a cohort.
As I've said, many podcasts are a jumping off point to learn more about a person or topic. That's what show notes are for. They are so important because it's hard to write down notes when on the road or at the gym. The best podcasts have extensive show notes for each episode. The notes include summaries, links to dig deeper into content, and contact information to get in touch with hosts and guests, allowing you to make them a part of your personal learning network.
Podcasts are on demand. Once you find a favorite, you'll discover an archive of episodes ready to be discovered. You can go back years depending on how long the podcast has been around. In education, a good idea is a good idea so it won't spoil. So once you find a podcast that speaks to you, binge away.
It opens you to ideas that may not be on your radar. Once you find an area of new interest, you can dive deep and become an expert. This will allow anyone to be a PD leader by bringing their new ideas into their school. Choice in PD is fantastic, but many times it seems the same people may be leading PD. There are enough resources out there for educators to find and become experts in the areas that interest them. But, the idea of searching for information can be daunting. That is why podcasts are great. Listener-chosen content is delivered on your schedule.
BONUS: Three podcast recommendations that match my educational passions.
Every Classroom Matters is a bi-weekly inspirational podcast that interviews excellent educators who have important trends to share with teachers, principals, professors, and anyone who cares about educating people of all ages in today’s technological world. These short 10-12 minute shows are meant to be listened to on your break or a short drive and can be subscribed to on iTunes. Just look for “Every Classroom Matters.”
Hear teacher’s stories with a focus on personalized learning: i am ME. Podcast
Get ready to have an epiphany! In this exciting, power-packed podcast, you will learn from captivating exchanges between Laura Henderson and her guests as they explore their journey to transform education through human connection. The world's most forward-thinking educators, thought leaders and administrators weigh in on their personal obstacles and successes with personalized learning as they aim to create passionate, life-long learners. Guests share awesome, powerful stories that can be implemented in your own district, school or classroom - engaging and inspiring you to make things happen in your own school. The i am ME. podcast promotes the importance of student agency and personalized learning that starts first with a growth mindset and supportive culture.
Stay connected with the latest in EdTech: On the Vendor Floor
Melissa Emler, host of On The Vendor Floor, strives to engage educators and entrepreneurs in conversations that enhance learning. Melissa interviews entrepreneurs from the Edtech community about their classroom solutions just as if these conversations were happening on the vendor floor of a major conference. The goal is to bring the vendor floor to educators not in attendance. It is also an opportunity to learn about the people behind the products because their stories are rich with passion and enthusiasm. In the midst of the interview Melissa provides direction and support for educators trying to understand why or how to utilize the tool being discussed. Education is changing faster than most of the world is ready to accept, and Melissa is here to help bridge the gap.
Author: Mike Mohammad
Mike Mohammad hated high school science so much, he decided to teach it himself. As a high school educator of 15 years, 11 of which have been at Brookfield Central High School, Mike is passionate about putting students at the center of their own learning experience. He's also the voice behind the blog Mo Physics Mo Problems. Mike was a recent guest on the i am ME. Podcast- you can listen to his episode here!
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