Personalizing your PD part II; Podcasts

Personalizing professional development has become something I have become passionate about; I hear the stories of my colleagues who are sent to “sit and get” PD which has no merit to their particular grade level or subject. I am constantly trying to get better, so I can better serve my students. My late grandfather, a former General Manager of a local telephone cooperative, would always remind me: “Complacency is the silent killer.” Complacent is not where we want to be in education; we constantly need to evaluate our ways to keep up with the every changing world. Which leads me to our next stop in our series over professional development, podcasts.

Since the first family computer my parents bought in the 1990s I have been a huge proponent of technology. I would watch Leo Laporte and the screen savers when I would get home from school. TechTV was bought and changed its name to G4 and Leo left my television screen. I was upset.  For the next few years, I have used the internet for my questions about technology. In 2007 I discovered the world of podcasts and my dear old friend Leo Laporte was leading the way. He had created an online podcasting network.(now IP-based television network) Here I could geek out to my hearts content with the excellent programming created. Since then I have branched out to other shows such as: This American Life, Serial, Stuff You Should Know, Things you missed in History Class, Freakonomics, and Planet Money. All of whom have enriched my knowledge.

Podcasting can trace its roots back to the 1980s and was more commonly known as audio blogging. Radio shows would record episodes of their program and would send it to stations for replay. With internet popularity rising in the late 1990s information could be moved at a faster rate and a little company called Napster took the world by storm. People from all over the world could now share audio files with anyone. (The legal system eventually gets involved with Napster, but that is a different story.)  With the surge in digital audio, hardware companies begin to create devices to make the files more portable. Some companies entered the game of Mp3 players but when Apple debuted the iPod the company has not looked back since. The term podcast and the downloading of shows become more widely used with the introduction of Apple’s iPod in 2001.

In part I of the series I wrote on Twitter and all the excellent educators sharing content on that platform. Around the middle of my summer break 2015 while on Twitter one of the teachers I follow Greg Bagby @Gregbagby tweeted he Mari Venturino @MsVenturino and Justin Birckbichler @Mr_B_teacher were releasing a new podcast called Edu Roadtrip. I listened to the first episode and loved it. I witnessed the power of Twitter when I tweeted to them about how great their show was, and on episode two I was referenced as a listener on @Eduroadtrip. Receiving the shout out made my day, I then contacted Justin to see what recommendations he would have for other educational podcasts. He recommended Cult of Pedagogy by  Jenifer Gonzales, and House of #Edtech by Chris Nesi. I downloaded both podcasts and a few others. I was amazed by the content available by these educators who just wanted to share what they have to offer.

So, you now have a brief history of my discovery of podcasts a short history of the origins of podcasts, and my discovery of educational podcasts. Now you want to know how can I use podcasts for my professional development?

If you are an iPhone user, the native podcasting app works well, but I prefer the Overcast app. Overcast lets you sync your podcasts over the internet, if you want to listen on your desktop at school it will pick up right where you left off. If you are on Android, I have read good reviews about the podkicker app which is free. Just search for any of the shows I have listened or you can check out the Education Podcasting Network to see some of their shows. ( The Education Podcasting Network is my favorite place for educational content. The majority of the hosts are in still in the classroom, or they have extensive classroom experience.

I had the privilege to interview some of the stars of the Educational Podcasting Network. Chris Nesi, Host of House of #Edtech, Justin Brickbichler and Mari Venturino of Eduroadtrip, have also taken time from their busy schedules to answer a few questions.  We will begin with the Host of the House of #Edtech podcast Chris Nesi.

Chris Nesi has been in education since the fall of 2007, before becoming an educator he was involved with children for years as a volunteer. Chris was first inspired to become a teacher by his father, and many of the teachers he had in throughout his life.  “One particular teacher, my high school English teacher and Drama advisor, Mrs. MaryAnn Cochran. She was a teacher, mentor, and friend and still fills these roles even today.”

Chris became a “connected educator” and mentioned; “I love interacting with people and having conversations about the things I am interested in. Fostering relationships with people who have similar professional interests outside my place of employment has been very powerful and has given me what I need for learning and to gain an outside perspective on the good and bad of my work.”

Discussing podcasting I questioned Chris about his interest in podcasting his response was; “I started the House of #EdTech Podcast because I became tired of being merely a retweeter of other people’s voices and content. I knew I had a unique perspective on technology integration and education technology tools that I wanted to share with the world. A little nudge from my wife, who suggested podcasting, was all I needed to go all in on creating something I am very proud of. Prior to getting into this artform I was aware of podcasts but was not a consumer and I am now addicted to creating my show and consuming a wide variety of podcasts for my own growth personally and professionally.”

I asked Chris, How can an educator benefit from podcasts? His answer; “A podcast should cause the listener to laugh, think, cry, or do in addition to educating and/or entertaining you. Everyone, not just educators, should consumer podcasts. They are more enriching than radio and they can be consumed anytime and anywhere. You don’t need to focus solely on what you’re listening to in order to enjoy it. You can do laundry, mow the grass, run, etc.”

Becoming a well rounded person via this platform can only enhance your teaching. If you consume podcasts related to your content that’s growth. If you consume content related to education in general that’s growth. If you consume content related to your passion — you guessed it, that’s growth!

So grow!”


Getting to interview Chris Nesi was great, and I have more from him later in the article. I will now turn my focus to two of the three hosts of the Edu Roadtrip Podcast Mari Venturino and Justin Birckbichler. Starting with Mari; Mari just finished her fourth year teaching 7th grade Science and is a Blended Learning Specialist in San Diego, CA. She is a Google For Education Certified Trainer, a Google Certified Educator Levels 1 & 2, and is Leading Edge Certified in Online and Blended Instruction. She is the co-founder of #FlyHighFri, a movement to share positivity in person and on social media, and the co-founder of Breakout EDU Digital with Justin Birckbichler.

Mari’s inspiration for teaching comes from; “Teaching has always been a passion, and I have had many incredible teachers along the way. However, I didn’t seriously start to see it as a career until college. I was at Camp Winters Music Camp as a counselor, leading a sectional rehearsal, when it hit me that teaching is something I’m good at and I enjoy, and therefore I should pursue it seriously.

How Mari became a “connected educator”:  It was a slow process. I signed up for a “professional” Twitter account in February 2014 (I created a personal one back in summer 2008), but it took me almost a year to actually dive in headfirst. Once I realized that there were many other teachers looking to connect and share, I was hooked. I’m thankful for #caedchat (California’s ed chat, 8pm PST Sunday nights) for pushing me to reach out, connect, and grow.

Mari, you are the host of Edu Roadtrip. What interested you in podcasts? “A lot of our podcast started as a series of inside jokes. We realized there are far too many twitter chats, so we branched out and decided to start podcasting. It took a few months to research and solidify our content, and it has been a wonderful growing experience for us all!”

 When asking Mari how a teacher could benefit from podcasts her answer was: “Podcasts are easy to access for anyone with an internet connection. I download them and listen on my commute to and from work (about 25 minutes), at the gym, or while cleaning the house. It’s easy to multitask and listen–usually. When I’m in the car, I often have idea sparks that I’d love to remember; I have tons of voice memos and reminders in my phone with new ideas and ways to approach teaching and learning.

One of Mari’s partners in crime Justin Birckbichler just finished his third year of teaching fourth grade in Virginia. Justin became inspired to become an educator from his 2nd-grade teacher Mrs. Ghessi. Justin said; “she made learning fun and was a pivotal person in his life.”

Justin stated he became a “connected educator” from a close friend named Jenn Guido.  Justin, you are the co-host of Edu Roadtrip with Mari, and Greg Bagby. How did you become interested in podcasting? “Mari, Greg, and I connected on twitter, and said let’s try podcasting.”

Justin says the biggest benefit of an educator listening to podcasts is; “You have a choice, and availability of podcasts is a help. Plus, it is on the go. Podcasts can be consumed anywhere, and with the ability to speed up podcasts help to finish an episode in half the time.”

It was truly an honor to speak with these amazing educators and picking their brain. I asked all my interviewees more questions about Podcasting. I asked all of them What is different about podcasting that makes it a great form for personalizing your PD? Justin informed me; “Choice, thousands of podcast are out there. You can also hear the passion in the voice of the person hosting the show.” Chris stated; “As a podcaster, I get to talk with people who I might not normally have access to and that’s my dirty secret. I’m the first person in line for learning from my podcast. The conversations are ones that I am having and then sharing. Guests are teaching me first and I let the listener in. The other personal aspect is that I get to choose what I listen to, when I listen to it, and if I will continue listening at any point in time. Nobody mandates anything about it to me.” Mari also said; “I love the opportunity to ask incredible teachers, administrators, and educators about their passions, their successes, and learning opportunities. It’s all recorded, so I can go back and listen at any time, and share what I learn with others. Twitter chats are great, however it’s hard to convey emotion and dive deep in only 140 characters. With podcasts we can hear the person’s voice and passion in their words.”


If anyone is interested in becoming a podcaster who would they go about doing so?

Chris: “Contact me. As someone who is 2+ years into creating podcasts I have experiences that I am willing to share along with recommendations I can make. I am also connected to people who are in the world of podcasting and aren’t necessarily teachers but they teach podcasting.”

Mari:The EduRoadTrip podcast is very low tech and is done almost entirely with free software. There are three of us on the team: Greg Bagby, Justin Birckbichler, and myself. We spent a long time together figuring out the format of our podcast and logistics. We had to ask ourselves: Will I have a theme? What segments will I have? If I have interviews, how will I set those up? How often will I release new episodes?

We keep track of everything using Google Forms (scheduling) and Docs (episode planning). Then, we record our episodes using Google Hangouts on Air, and Justin strips out the audio and edits it using a paid program. We publish our episodes through Blogger, which sends the episode to iTunes and Stitcher via Feedburner.

We released a Rest Stop episode last fall where we talk about our entire process:

Justin:Just reach out to podcasters, Jeff Bradbury is who I contacted to help us with Edu Roadtrip. All of what we do is free, but pay options could be a better option. Just don’t hesitate to reach out.”

My last question I had for the three was. Is there any advice you would like to give our readers to help with their personal PD discovery?

Justin: “Pick something you are interested in, and pick something you might want to get better at.”

Mari: “We’re all growing and learning together. It can be scary to connect and reach out at first, but remember everyone else had their first tweet, first blog post, first podcast episode, etc. Ask for recommendations from people you trust and respect, and be prepared to share your favorites too. Remember “Sometimes teaching is smooth highway, and other times it’s a bumpy mountain road. As long as you’ve got your friends with you, it’s bound to be an adventure!”

Our lives have become busier every day, and podcasts have a great opportunity for educators to expand our knowledge, traveling to work, working out, or even gardening can create your own space for learning. Finding the right podcast for you may take some time and digging, but I hope I can steer you in the right direction.”

 Chris: ““Follow your passions and knowledge is truly power. There’s always a choice and whether it’s podcasts, Twitter or something else, you have the power to choose the what, where, when, and how you want to learn. Start with subscribing to House of #EdTech :-)”

Using podcasts are a great way to enrich your life. There are thousands upon thousands of podcasts at your fingertips. Discover your passion, find your favorite podcasting app, download and enjoy. Please make sure you visit and support the websites of the individuals I interviewed.

Next week Voxer! 




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s