There are several reasons to start podcasting, from tackling a certain issue, getting news and information out quickly, replacing a blog or journal as a means for reflection, or just having fun with friends around a microphone. But each journey is unique, and finding that path may take you to some out of the way places!
Podcasting has been around for over 10 years now, and the roots of podcasting stretch back to the earliest days of radio. But radio and podcasting are fundamentally different. Radio is more of a live event, happening repeatedly and updated constantly, where podcasting is more of an audio snapshot in time. Podcasting is the audio Polaroid: produced and admired for its ability to capture a moment quickly, and then shoved in a box somewhere, maybe to be heard from again, maybe not. But in the back of our mind, we take comfort in knowing it is there if we need it.
I started podcasting in 2012 as a project. I was heavily involved with my teacher union, and this new case was filed that could change teacher seniority rules, just absolutely flip them on their head. It was well covered in the news, but when speaking to my colleagues and teacher friends, they were in the dark. Being an English teacher, and feeling it was my duty to help inform them as a union negotiator and vice president, I dove into the podcast pool with both feet. My first podcast, “Tom Talks About” had three episodes. The first one was dedicated to the Vegara v. California case, a Detective Friday-Just-the-Facts-Ma’am hour long snoozer. I researched for about three weeks, making sure I had all the salient points and knew what I was talking about.
I was going to be putting this online, and I didn’t want to look/sound ignorant. I recorded (which took about three-one-hour-takes) edited and published over three nights, and it was on iTunes two days later. I followed up with a heavily pro-union opinion piece, where I could let out my shock and amazement and show some more mention about what I thought the case would mean to seniority and unions in general. I was passionate and had my soapbox moment. The last episode of “Tom Talks About” was dedicated to back to school, what certain things you do to get your classroom ready and such, but my heart wasn’t into it. I spend all my passion and fire on the first two episodes and didn’t have (so I thought) anything else to talk about that I thought others would want to hear.
It was a fun and insanely geeky adventure I loved, because it had cool tools, an underground cult following, and I was immersed in a world I knew nothing about. I was constantly learning new tips, techniques and ways to make my craft better. I was on podcastanswerman.com almost daily, listening to his and other podcasts on the art of podcasting. I was geeking out on gear and software and consumed by a new world. Sad thing was, I didn’t have anything to podcast about. Tom Talks About ended after three episodes, and anything else I tried to talk/write/podcast about just didn’t ignite that fire inside like the Vegara case. I scrapped episode after episode. I thought the fire was gone. I was sitting on great gear and some good podcasting methods, but didn’t think I had anything worth sharing.
Then two years ago I became a Tech TOSA. Well, a “Technology Integration Specialist” to be exact. It was now my job to teach others how to use tech in the classroom, how to integrate strategies and tools to increase engagement, and thereby increasing attendance, behavior and scores (at least that is dream, right?) In my district of just over 200 teachers, there are two Tech TOSAs and there is no way to meaningfully address the needs of all those teachers with personalized and differentiated technological instructional practice improvement. And it wasn’t like technology was the only thing on their plate either. We had 8 big district initiatives to drive home to teachers: Common Core Alignment, Project Based Learning (PBL), Positive Behavior Intervention Strategies (PBIS), Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a new math textbook adoption, a new English textbook adoption, transition on a Microsoft Office 365 Environment, and one or two more things that have become lost in the shuffle.
I needed a meaningful and lasting way to reach all my teachers to bring them tech, on their schedule at their pace–Lightbulb—Podcasting! It sounds like an easy decision now, but I struggled with convincing my co-host, Michael Jephcott, to join me, and then struggled to make sure that we had enough material and practiced enough to convince people we knew what we were doing. Podcasting is not like leading a PD session or helping someone one-on-one, it is a performance. More of a portable and lasting conference session than a training. Jumping in with both feet, we “practiced” a podcast. Without telling Mike, I quickly edited and added bumpers, and that afternoon it was on iTunes.
We had another one in the can (producer term for recorded but not edited) and that was when we went to FallCUE. There we met Brian Briggs and Ryan O’Donnell. Inspired by their session on podcasting, we surged on and have been going strong since. Has it been easy? No. Has it made us insanely rich and famous? HA! (If you are asking that, you are in the wrong place) But what it has done is made us better at our craft, improved our researching and networking, and connected us with the #PodcastEDU community, and gave us a built-in time for reflection. Sure, podcasting is part of our job, but it is more than that. It is something we enjoy making and we hope you enjoy listening to.
If you have some feedback or suggestions, we can be reached by email (edtosas(at)bassettusd.org) or you can leave a comment here. Your feedback is always welcome!
To read and learn more from Tom, visit his page here: Tom Talks About
As we step into spring and out of our last breaks before summer, teachers, TOSAS, and other EdTech enthusiasts are reflecting on lessons learned from CUE ‘17. Along the west coast and the neighboring states, educators flock to Palm Springs every March for our own kind of madness at the largest regional annual tech conference. For many this year, it was a step into a sunny paradise from an unrelenting winter. Stepping out into the dry desert air and seeing the faces of those we usually only get to interact with on Twitter or Voxer set a positive tone for everybody on day one to enjoy another killer conference.
Over the last few years, CUE has really started to take shape, leaving a wide variety of activities to be lead by dedicated volunteers who want to show everybody a good time. The more the organization turns things over to the teachers, the more locked in everybody seems to become.
This year was no exception, as evidenced by lines wrapping around the hallways to get into the most coveted sessions (with strict “NO SITTING ON THE FLOOR” signs keeping everyone on the straight and narrow), and the huge amount of sharing and virtual high-fiving on Instagram. Perhaps the greatest proof of what can happen when you leave it to those who love what they do was displayed on Friday night at CUE Karaoke. This year the organizers were given a dedicated room, which was promptly used to raise the roof and blow out the walls.
Whether people went for inspiring keynotes from the likes of Taylor Mali, Jo Boaler, George Couros, or Cathy Hunt, or some practical hands learning in workshops, or Rockstar Jam Sessions, everybody walked away with something they could bring right back to their districts, schools, and classrooms.
Take the time to reflect on your own experience and sort out what you’re really going to be able to apply to your role as an educator. If you were at CUE, you’ve got a lot to digest and play around with. If you were #NotatCUE, there are still plenty of resources to learn from. Why not start with reflections and feedback from #PodcastEDU, where episodes have already come rolling in from TOSAs Talking Tech and Check This Out, and more are likely on the way.
The sunny oasis of Palm Springs may be behind us for the year, but as we ride off into the sunset, the visions developed and the friendships forged will travel with us into the future!