Technology has changed not only how students learn, but how teachers learn. Educators across the globe can now choose between traditional professional learning — as mandated by the district or state — and nontraditional modes of learning such as teacher-led conferences.
Gone are the days when we could learn a new skill only by listening to boring lectures. Now we're empowered to take our own professional learning by the horns.
The last few years have seen the rise of the unconference, Google Hangouts and, most recently, the Vox for professional learning. Teachers have become creatures of conversation and interactive exploration. We share our knowledge on blogs and social media. We interact daily, hashtag by hashtag.
One could argue that educators have become some of the world's most active content consumers online. Why, though, aren't more educators creating their own digital content?
Getting ready for podcasting
I have personally witnessed the rise of amazing professional learning in the form of educator-created podcasts and broadcasts. Teachers can create powerful learning experiences for themselves and each other as well as for their students.
When I founded the TeacherCast Podcast in the summer of 2011, creating a podcast involved a lengthy process. I recorded conversations with my guests in Skype, then had to break the audio up for editing, fit it with an intro and outro soundtrack and cross my fingers that all of the coding was correct when I finally uploaded it. I'd spend about three hours editing a one-hour podcast.
Luckily that time-consuming process is behind us. Today, producing a podcast or broadcast can be as simple as turning on your webcam.
YouTube, for example, lets you record video directly into your account using your device's built-in webcam and microphone — just click the "upload" button. If YouTube is blocked in your school, try one of the many educational video sites, such as MediaCore.
It doesn't take much money to produce high-quality video and audio content on an iPad or similar device. I recommend the following free or low-cost apps.
My studio setup includes ScreenFlow, Final Cut Pro, WireCast and more. The availability of free video conferencing services, such as Skype and Google Hangouts, allows me to easily host guests on my screencasts, audio podcasts and live videos.
Instructional Tech Talk, hosted by Jeff Herb, provides detailed and informative resources, including hardware and app demos.
Podcasters Roundtable, a weekly show hosted by broadcasters Dave Jackson, Ray Ortega and Daniel J Lewis, dissects all aspects of podcasting and broadcasting.
The Tech Buzz Network, hosted by Stephen Haywood, offers a weekly show that teaches the ins and outs of live streaming and video broadcasting.
Professional learning challenge
Now that you know how easy podcasting can be, I challenge you to look around your school. Talk to your fellow teachers and administrators. What do they want to learn? Take that and run with it.
Did your school recently adopt Google Apps for Education? Create a screencast teaching basic Google Doc skills. Are your teachers confused about the new college application and recommendation process? Make an audio how-to guide with step-by-step instructions for writing letters of recommendation. The possibilities are endless.
Create a professional learning podcast or video, and help bring your school into the digital age.
Jeffrey Bradbury is an educational media specialist and director of orchestras for North Brunswick Township Schools in North Brunswick, New Jersey. Got questions about podcasting? Email him or reach out on Twitter via @TeacherCast.