On your marks . . . get set . . . TEACH!

I want you to think about those words. If you were in an interview, or perhaps planning your perfect lesson, how would you do it? What tools do you have in your utility belt that you can pull out at a moment’s notice when you are faced with a difficult teaching situation? What strategies would you use? What if you were asked at the very last minute to provide a comprehensive, dynamic, user-driven learning session? Could you do it?

If you are reading this post, I’m sure you can. If you are reading this post, you already have the tools, you already have the knowledge, and you already have the ability to think outside of the box and beyond the walls of your classroom. How do I know this? Because this blog post isn’t found in your classroom. It’s a resource that you had to know about, or perhaps it was a link that you found on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest. This blog post—and, in fact, the very website you are reading right now—is a resource you didn’t know you needed, until the time arrived that you needed it.

Let me tell you something: if you are pondering the questions I presented above, then you are pretty smart and you are head and shoulders above many of your colleagues. And I’m here to say thank you for taking the time to keep up-to-date with your personal professional development.

Over the last four years of being a Connected Educator, I have come to find that two things, and pretty much only two things, are universally true:

  1. All good teachers have a need, desire, and hunger to teach their students to the best of their ability. They are the ones who get to school early, they are the ones who stay late, and they are the ones who spend their weekends going to conferences, grading papers, and revising their lesson plans. They are the ones who read blogs, communicate through Twitter chats, and create amazing infographics to help their PLN learn and move their classrooms forward. In a word, they teach “different.”
  2. All teachers commute to work.

Let’s take a look at how these two go together, and then we will dive into how this will all make sense.

Currently, I have a 100 mile drive each morning to get to school. While I’m counting the mile markers on the turnpike, I find myself rehearsing lessons I will be teaching, plotting out conversations I will be having with teachers, and thinking about how I will be able to bring innovative resources to the teachers and students in my district. Honestly, I do most of my lesson planning in the car with the help of a voice recorder and Evernote.

Does this situation sound familiar to you? Do you find yourself driving to school thinking about how you are going to share your passions with your students? Do you drive home each night reflecting on the day while trying to figure out how to be amazing for your classes tomorrow?

What I forgot to mention is that there is one more addition to my commute that is more important than any voice recorder or EZ Pass transponder. Right before I pull out of the parking lot or driveway, I plug my iPhone into my car and put on a good podcast.

Podcasts have been around for more than 10 years, and recently the personal professional development podcast model has been discovered by educators across the world. When I started the TeacherCast Podcast in 2011, there were several great podcasts in the “Educational” category on iTunes, but you would have been hard pressed to find shows created byeducators.

Today, with the rise of Google Hangouts, Periscope, and Blab, as well as the ease of streaming audio and video into your smartphone, there is simply no reason not to be taking command of your learning 24/7. Are you looking to learn about creating a flipped classroom? There is a podcast for that! Are you interested in using Google Apps for Education with your school district? There is a podcast for that, too! Podcasts are free, podcasts are easily consumable . . . and did I mention podcasts are free?

For me, the most rewarding thing about being a podcast creator is the dual nature of the medium. Originally, I created my first podcast as a way of bringing experts together to help teachers in my district learn the best practices being used across the country. I found amazing educators on Twitter and used Skype audio to put them into a round table show where I was able to ask them any question I wanted. It was pretty awesome to have this personal professional development resource. Anytime I wanted to gain new insight, I simply gathered a few experts, put a show together, and took control of my learning.

After a few shows were posted, I began to receive e-mails from educators across the country (and the world) that shared stories of how they were using my show for their professional development. I never thought of my show as instructional technology or professional learning for others; I was simply creating something for my knowledge consumption. It was through podcasting—and through social media—that I really found out how to transform my learning, my teaching, and, ultimately, my students.

Are you interested in learning how to listen and consume podcasts? Are you interested in learning how to create podcasts of you own? If the answer to either of these is yes, I encourage you to check out my resources for educational podcasting. You will find tips, tricks, and links to my highly recommended equipment, apps, and much more.

Are you an educator who commutes to work? Are you an educator who is looking for new and innovative ideas for your next class, faculty meeting, or community event? Check out some podcasts today. In fact, if you are looking to learn more about podcasting, or participate in one yourself, I encourage you to be a guest on my next show by e-mailing me at feedback@teachercast.net. I’d be happy to have you on the show!

For more Innovations in Professional Learning resources, please visit the ASCD website during Connected Educator Month.