Being the proud owner of what could only be described as a melodic Scottish accent and what some have called "a face for radio", starting a podcast seemed like a natural career step.
Although the podcast isn’t about me. It’s owned, produced and presented by our teacher community.
The vision is simple: use our expertise, professional experiences and areas of interest to deliver a series of research-informed, impactful and time-efficient episodes for teachers, available on demand.
Perhaps the best part is that it’s done at zero cost. Here’s how it works – and how you could do something similar…
Creating your own teacher CPD podcast
During the school closure period in the UAE, several teachers found themselves accessing and engaging with CPD in different ways, taking advantage of on-demand content, or viewing in real time, from their own homes, at their own speed. Most importantly, there was teacher agency.
Developing this idea further, and faced with the necessary constraints of social distancing, we wanted to create an agile form of CPD that could be accessed during an increasingly busy teacher day.
While webinars and recorded sessions have also worked well, there was also an undeniable element of digital fatigue to consider.
This brought us to the idea of producing a podcast. Teachers could turn away from a screen, go for a walk, listen at school, in the car or even at home.
While producing the podcast has been a fun experience, there was always a danger that it would become too anecdotal or obscure.
To make it as bespoke to the needs of our staff as possible, we first surveyed everyone to find out what areas they wanted to learn more about or develop in. So far, we’ve covered an in-depth look at questioning from a teacher and student perspective, as well as essential research skills for inquiry.
Behind the scenes
A secondary reason for developing the podcast was to help teachers engage with professional research and reading in an easy-to-access way.
Each episode is built from a group of volunteers, meaning anyone can take part. Once we form the episode team, they collaborate on research questions and reading to build the content.
This naturally creates powerful professional dialogue and exchange of opinions and ideas. Wherever possible, we try to keep the content research-informed.
After numerous hilarious outtakes, which could form a season of their own, we found it most useful to produce a skeleton script for each episode.
These have worked best in the form of a series of questions which we then dissect methodically.
This helps to keep the episode focused and prevents unnecessary overemphasis of the same point.
The more time you spend producing your script, the less you spend on editing. So far, an episode length of between 15 and 20 minutes seems to work best. It’s long enough to discuss ideas, and short enough that it can fit into a free period.
We’re incredibly fortunate to have a recording studio at Hartland International School, which we take full advantage of to produce the episodes[DW1]. So far we’ve been able to come together to work on it, but if the need arises, we can record individually or remotely using a smart device.
However, you can achieve a similar effect on a simple smart device or laptop. Depending on the quality of your device, the audio quality will vary, so take the time to find somewhere as quiet as possible.
The editing process might seem intimidating at first, but it doesn’t need to be. If you have ever cut a video clip, then you have almost all the skills you need to edit some audio.
If you want to build something more professional-sounding, there are simple pieces of software you can download such as Audacity or iMovie for iPads and iPhones, which help you cut out any fluffed lines, add music or layer in different production elements.
We set up a free hosting page on Soundcloud to add a bit of branding and production value, but this isn’t a necessary step. It can really be as simple as an audio file that is shared on your school network. The online hosting is ideal, though, for allowing anywhere, anytime access.
While the process is highly engaging and stimulating, it also takes time. But impact should hopefully follow.
With each episode comes a feedback form for listeners, where they can rate the content and relevance and pass any further comment. It also allows us to share further professional reading where interest has been ignited by what they have heard.
Although it’s in its infancy, it’s already proving to be a rewarding experience. It has served as a welcome reminder that schools are full of experts with incredible knowledge, which everyone can benefit from.
As the host, it’s also given me a wonderful opportunity to work with colleagues from across different subjects and phases of the school. It just goes to show that you can't overlook the power of a good conversation.
Niall Statham is head of physical education at Hartland International School in Dubai