How About Using Podcasts to FLIP Professional Development?

Over the past 6 months, it has been my great joy to appear on 10 podcasts. These wonderful conversations have afforded me the opportunity to thoroughly explain my ideas to a boundless audience. Podcasting has been a blast,and I’ve made so many cool friends in the process. I’ll be vacationing in Colorado with one of my hosts, Sung Lee of Inspiring Educators, in a few weeks. How’s that for the power of podcasting? I BELIEVE, however, podcasting has great potential to revitalize, transform, liberate, and elevate professional development.

I’m a veteran teacher who has endured 30 years of PD. The lion’s share of these experiences have been droning exercises in direct instruction. Ironically, many of these marathon lecturefests have promoted the opposite…”Differentiate your instruction. Teach to diverse learning styles. Consider flipping your classroom. Incorporate technology.” Has anyone else noticed the hypocrisy?

Since my book was published, I’ve conducted a lot of PD. I always get the audience doing, and interacting, early and often. That’s the way my message makes an impact. I’ve enjoyed these experiences. I love meeting people. Nothing can replace being there, shaking a hand, sharing a laugh, reading a nonverbal communication, and chatting in the hallway during a break.

But, contemporary professional development involves a lot of travel and expense. ENTER THE PODCAST! Jonah Weiner of Slate recently published an article promoting the amazing potential of this remarkable form of communication.

Today, my most recent podcast interview was published…Episode #72 of the Pivotal Podcast.


The Pivotal Podcast is out of the United Kingdom. A few months ago, I visited their website, and listened to an episode. I was hooked! I loved the way these British dudes interacted with guests. I contacted them, and was invited on the show. The ONLY cost involved in this endeavor was time. I sat in my classroom in Sunbury, Ohio USA and interacted with these fascinating guys via Skype. I’ve always loved British humor, and these two did not disappoint. They asked me about #cheekynandos. I was totally lost! Listen to the episode if you’d like to solve this hashtag mystery. Just a decade ago, this simple process of being interviewed by someone 5 time zones removed would’ve been SO expensive and complicated.

Central Office types in charge of professional development might be wondering…So, why do podcasts represent a unique opportunity?¬†Well…how about utilizing podcasts to FLIP professional development? That’s right, have participants listen to an intriguing program before the PD session. Then, once you all congregate, engage in enriching and compelling activities based on the program. There are a few websites dedicated to flipping professional development. However, I’m promoting using podcasts to achieve this. Podcasts embody what the internet does best:

  • Eliminates distances
  • Connects people around the globe
  • Provides valuable resources at little, or no cost

I’ve been involved in professional development that involved a book study. This is the same idea without the expense of buying the book! I’ll wager many podcast interviewees (like me) would be so honored someone was utilizing their appearance, they’d be happy to join the discussion via Skype or Google Hangouts. I’d also be willing to share engaging activities that go along with the broadcast. I’ll bet I’m not alone.

Here’s a simple activity one can do with any podcast. I teach dual enrollment World Civilization. My favorite flipped lesson is the Socratic Circle. We do one such circle on the siege of Tenochtitlan (the Aztec capital). The students listen to the In Our Time Podcast, then come to class raring to discuss!

Using podcasts in professional development has great potential in terms of enlightenment and engagement. Additionally, because most podcasts are free, scarce financial resources are preserved!

My book “You’ve Gotta Connect” is all about how teachers can forge strong relationships with students. You can also listen to me dialogue about bonding with students on numerous podcasts.

I love doing professional development. If you’re interested, here’s my email:

2 thoughts on “How About Using Podcasts to FLIP Professional Development?

  1. James, wonderful idea. I agree with your approach; it’s time that districts need to leverage open source technology and means of communication with their staff. The very methodologies educators praise, such as flip teaching, are not being leveraged. On the flip side (no pun intended), educators have to be open to these ideas. You can grow old, crusty, and close minded or become innovative, creative, and open. “You’ve Gotta Connect” dude!

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