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summer project: teacher workflows podcast

May 30, 2012
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I just finished entering my grades, so summer is officially here. In a few days, I’ll probably have a few more reflections about the end of the year, but right now, I’m thinking about a project that’s been spinning around in my head since December.

First, a bit of background: I’m a huge fan learning more about how pros do their jobs. I love watching Dan Meyer show how you can add timecodes in AfterEffects (even though I don’t have the funds for a copy of this software). I love reading about a pro sports reporter gave up his paper notepad and now reports on NASCAR using his iPad. I really enjoy it when someone pulls back the curtain and shows the process of creation and the tools that make it possible.

The great podcast Mac Power Users created a “Worflows” series where they interview talented people in all sorts of fields and talk to them about how they use their mac to do their jobs. One of most fascinating episodes in this series was their show with film producer and director David Wain, who wrote Wanderlust. This episode is 90 minutes of awesome insight into how a film gets made and contains many ideas and tips that I found very relevant to my own work. A bit closer to home, the excellent mac blogger Eddie Smith wrote an incredible post about his workflow epic: How I use my mac to teach over the web. Eddie’s post is an incredible walkthrough of how he uses his mac to run a business preparing students for actuarial exams virtually, using screencasts and conferencing software—it’s awesome.

All of this got me thinking that it might be interesting to create a podcast focused on teacher workflows, and I’ve always wanted to create a podcast. Nothing fancy, just a Skype chat with some of the many excellent teachers I’ve met in person and online discussing their craft in details large and small. How do you plan lessons? How do you grade tests? How do you manage paper? How do you set up your classroom? What are the simple little tips that make your day better?

Do you think this could work? Would people be interested in listening to a podcast like this? Would you be interested in being interviewed for a teacher workflows podcast?

14 Comments leave one →
  1. May 30, 2012 2:38 am

    I think people would be interested, particularly if the podcasts are fairly short and focused on a reasonably specific task. People who are looking for more efficient ways to do their work are unlikely to want to spend an hour to figure out how some other teacher has improved their practice.

  2. May 30, 2012 4:50 am

    I agree with David – if it were focused a bit more on a particular task, I could see this as being useful. The ideas I get most excited about for teaching usually come from playing around with an idea on my own or pop into my head when I am doing something tangentially related to planning lessons. This wouldn’t be efficient to watch. When an idea does solidify, the actual time it takes distilling it into a student activity usually happens pretty quickly.

    Another possibility: suppose a particular math/science topic or idea or project was announced at a particular time. A group of interested people could each put together a quick 1-5 minute multimedia motivation for that topic to be submitted a limited amount fo time later. You’d get a good snapshot of how different people think about approaching a topic with students – probably the easiest way to capture the extra ‘style’ factor that makes each teacher unique.

    • May 30, 2012 9:39 am

      I’m not sure that short 2-3 minute episodes really get at what I’d like to do with this. What I love about the workflow podcasts I listen to are that they are deep dives that go beyond the surface and really get into the details of how the guest creates and the tools he/she uses to do his/her job. Since they are podcasts, they could easily be paused and listened to in chunks, while running errands, etc, so I think it might be possible for something longer to work.

      A possible example of what I’d like to do might be a discussion with Physics Professor Andy “Superfly” Rundquist. He’s done some incredible things in terms of implementing video assessment for his students, where students create short 5 minute screencasts using Jing to demonstrate their understanding of physics concepts. Though much of the details are out there on the web, I’d love hear Andy describe more of the details about how he oversees the workflow for this process. How do you give feedback to screencasts, what tools do you use to keep track of student submissions, and what other things does he do to streamline this workflow. Andy’s also done a lot of other interesting stuff with LaTeX,Mathematica and even custom building a peer-instruction database web application with PHP. So I’d love to talk these things through and find out how he got started in some of them, and what tips he has for other teachers who might be interested in doing similar things.

      Of course, the shows wouldn’t all be about technology. I’d love to interview someone like Brian Frank about how he goes about developing lesson plans for his inquiry class, or Grace Chen about how she prepares professional development for hundreds of math teachers across the nation.

      Of course none of these people I’ve just called out know anything about this idea, I’m just thinking aloud and listing some of my dream guests.

      Another way I think we could get around the length issue is by putting up some detailed show notes for each episode. It just occurs to me that just about every topic you can think of has a great menu of podcasts—and some, like technology have entire networks of great podcasts (the 5by5 netowrk). My non-exhaustive search for podcasts for teachers has only turned up a few useful ones: Steve Hargadon’s Future of Education, The Edreach Podcast, Stephanie Chasteen’s podcast on physics education research, and NSTA’s Lab out Loud. I’d love to know of more…

  3. May 30, 2012 6:30 am

    What you’re describing sounds like a podcast library of best practices, which I think would be great! It’d be very helpful if it could include a wide range of teachers (different student ages, different disciplines, perhaps even at different points in their careers). I agree with David in that they’d need to be short (say, < 2 or 3 min.?), which could work if the topics under discussion were kept very focused.

  4. Keri permalink
    May 30, 2012 7:10 am

    Great idea! I would love this peek @ how others get it fone. Please do.

  5. May 30, 2012 9:44 am

    I would be interested in listening (or watching?) such a podcast. Sounds like a cool idea.

  6. May 30, 2012 2:15 pm

    The idea of a “deep dive” is a good one, but I’d rather read blog posts or web documentation than listen to podcasts—I can search for them more easily, and read them at 3–5 times the speed of a podcast. I find it much easier to pay attention to written material than to slow-moving chatter.

  7. May 30, 2012 6:13 pm

    I’ve wanted to learn more about the workflows of other teachers, just as you described. I’ve spent the last week listening to Global Physics Dept presentations and reading blogs by many of the presenters and participants. Two people whom I want to teach me about their workflows are you and Andy Rundquist. So be sure to interview yourself in this podcast!

  8. June 8, 2012 4:02 am

    totally interested! I am such an efficiency nerd when it comes to teaching, i’m always looking for ways to make myself even 1% more efficient.

  9. June 12, 2012 9:00 pm

    Here’s another great example of what I’m thinking trying to do, but this time as a blog post from EdSurge, featuring physics teacher Greg Shwanbeck.

  10. June 16, 2012 11:57 am

    Great idea. Love it. Currently, I listen to TED Radio Hour podcasts while I walk my dog, Lucy. Episodes are 50 minutes, and I appreciate the deep dives. Go for it! Would love to learn workflows from other pros.

  11. rwistar permalink
    June 27, 2012 7:11 pm

    Yes to both your questions, although I don’t rate up as high as someone like Dan Meyer or Frank Noschese. It sounds like a great project!

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