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Make it Your Way: Summative Assessments in Flipgrid

This year, our students have the choice to be in person or virtual. So in my physics classroom, roughly 20% of my population is virtual. This has resulted in me making major changes in terms of labs (not sharing materials for in person and coming up with solutions for virtual students.) But this week is our first unit assessment. One assessment structure I used last year during virtual learning was so effective, I decide to use it again this year.This structure was a bingo choice board in which students submit responses using Flipgrid. What I love about Flipgrid is that it provides such a wide variety of expression options. So when I tell students to create a video using Flipgrid, they have so many options in terms of creation. They can use audio, they can add text, they can capture video, they can upload video, they can upload images, they can add emojis. In addition, they can annotate live over everything. On the Bingo board students choose the content of the video. On Flipgrid, stu…

Why Podcasts for PD?

I am loving seeing the shift in educator professional development across the nation. While we still have traditional sit and get PD, educators have to opportunity for more anytime, anywhere PD. I was particularly excited when my school Principal Brett Gruetzmacher approved educational podcasts as an accepted form of Professional Learning hours. I was excited for myself personally, but also for the ability to promote podcasts as a legitimate form of professional development for educators!

Podcasts have really changed my PD workflow. I discovered podcasts back in 2005 and have never looked back. Up until about 3 years ago, most of the podcasts I listened to were for entertainment. Now, the podcasts I do listen to have a balance between personal enjoyment (film, cooking, music, news) and educational ones.

In the simplest terms, it is an audio program (or it could be video) that is available to download (or stream) to a portable audio player or computer to replay at your convenience. Think of it like on demand radio. Listening to a podcast can be seen as some like listening to the radio. But it is far from it. If we are listening to local radio over the public airwaves, our choices are very limited. I actually hate most talk radio because so much of it is dead air, information that I am not engaged in, or frustratingly provocative for the sake of entertainment. Having the ability to find sources that tie into our passions or areas we are looking to improve in is part of personalizing our lives. When you listen to a podcast, you can connect to a network of like minded individuals. Also, it's not a one way conversation. Educational podcast creators want your feedback and ideas. When you provide feedback, your voice is heard.

As we put on our headphones or earbuds, we tune out the world around us, but it doesn't have to be an isolating experience. The educational podcasts I listen to have gone a long way to introducing me to brilliant thought leaders, incredible practitioners, and ed tech innovations. You'll be surprised at how many new people will instantly be a part of your PLN after just a week of listening. It's great to hear the voices you may see as a part of your Twitter feed when they flesh ideas out in more than 280 characters.

Why do podcasts make great PD?

Education on Your Time

One of my biggest “why’s” is time. I really don’t have time to read about the best practices in education. I’m trying to read more blog posts, but it’s a losing battle. Podcasts allow me to get PD when my eyes and hands are busy doing other things. The other timepiece is that educators who make podcasts know that the time teachers have to listen to episodes is limited. So, the length of most education podcasts are short. They get to the heart of the matter and don’t spend time smelling the roses. They value your limited free time and make the most of it.

Multiple Viewpoints

The format of most podcasts are different that the PD we get from a blog post or a written text. It is usually a conversation among educators. Unlike a written work or presentation where you may only get one point of view on an issue, podcasts offer multiple points of view and responses to a topic. It ends up being a dialogue rather than a pronouncement. As we wrestle with so many new innovations in education, it’s wonderful to have a space where experts can be questioned about the finer points by a novice or dig deep into a robust conversation with other thought leaders.

The A-List

It’s great that we are engaging in personalized PD in our schools. But unlike the PD at your school, you are not limited to the knowledge base in your building. Podcasts are where the great education thought leaders and practitioners of today can be found teaching others. On a podcast, experts know they have a broad audience, so they start from a base understanding and grow from there. Also, they know that they have limited time. They present their most innovative ideas to ignite that spark and get your interest in a new topic or way of thinking. If the listener is interested, then they can seek out further information. Great podcast hosts always look to help their audience get useful information, making sure that the information the experts provide is actionable. This means that you can listen to a podcast on the way home and use that information to inform your instruction tomorrow.

This Speaks to Me

We’ve all experienced PD that was not applicable to our goals or interests. Even when given a choice in PD we can be limited to the interests and goals of those in our building. The wonderful thing about podcast PD is that if you have an interest in education, there is probably a podcast about it. Podcasts have so many different focuses like grade level, content area, student focused, teacher focused and administration focused. I really enjoy listening to podcasts that focus on topics that drive my pedagogy like personalized learning and educational technology. Now, even if you can’t find a podcast themed around an area you're interested, a simple search in iTunes will probably bring up a list of individual episodes to meet your needs.

Global View of Education

Like the internet itself, podcasts open you up to a global view of education. Through Skype and Voxer, podcasts hosted in the US are able to bring in educators, innovators, and thought leaders from around the world. Many podcasts are hosted by individuals who are on opposite ends of the world. They are able to collaborate in real time and provide a global perspective on every topic they present. Not many blogs can do that. If we expect to prepare our students for the global economy of today, we need to start having that perspective as teachers. It is interesting to hear that even though we are a world apart, many teachers are dealing with the same problems in education. If we want to get true out-of-the-box ideas, we need to look outside of our system, and a global view can provide this perspective.

Hear New Voices, Literally

Not every great educator loves to write. Which means the idea of sharing their experience and ideas via a blog will never happen. If we simply limit our PD research to blogs, we are ignoring a large segment of the innovators out there. We are missing a world of experts who cannot be found in print in the blogosphere of educational literature. Podcasts allow these unique voices to be heard. Just like great writers can unleash the power of prose, great speakers can move us to action with their voice. Podcasts provide them with this platform. It allows the individual to have their thoughts heard the way they intended.

Same Bat-time, Same Bat-channel

All educators agree that the best PD is not one and done. The best PD revisits a topic over time with a clear plan. It is ongoing. Like great PD, podcasts are ongoing. The best podcasts are published on a regular basis. This way you can get your PD fix regularly. The best podcasts have a mission and provide a narrative. They have routines and structures that are in place. They leave you with actionable practices or something to reflect on until next time.

Growing Connections

As educators, we should always be looking to grow our personal learning network. Podcast hosts and guests will immediately be part of your circle. Twitter is great for making new connections, but for me there is more power to hearing someone speak passionately about their interests than can be conveyed in 140 characters. This initial connection could lead to great conversations and resource sharing on social media platforms like Twitter, though. Giving a shout out via Twitter is a great way to initiate that connection. I have done it many times. You will find professionals who share your same passions and interests. This doesn’t just mean connecting with experts; novices have their own stories and experiences to share as well.

The Aftershow

Unlike celebrities you may find on entertainment podcasts, educational podcasters are wonderfully approachable. In fact, they love when you reach out to them. It is your feedback that helps drive where their shows are going. Feedback lets them know about what topics you are interested in and what structure the show should take. It’s the conversation around the show that brings the audience together. Think of the audience like a cohort.

It's Not All Audio

As I've said, many podcasts are a jumping off point to learn more about a person or topic. That's what show notes are for. They are so important because it's hard to write down notes when on the road or at the gym. The best podcasts have extensive show notes for each episode. The notes include summaries, links to dig deeper into content, and contact information to get in touch with hosts and guests, allowing you to make them a part of your personal learning network.


Podcasts are on demand. Once you find a favorite, you'll discover an archive of episodes ready to be discovered. You can go back years depending on how long the podcast has been around. In education, a good idea is a good idea so it won't spoil. So once you find a podcast that speaks to you, binge away.

Podcast PD is Empowering

It opens you to ideas that may not be on your radar. Once you find an area of new interest, you can dive deep and become an expert. This will allow anyone to be a PD leader by bringing their new ideas into their school. Choice in PD is fantastic, but many times it seems the same people may be leading PD. There are enough resources out there for educators to find and become experts in the areas that interest them. But, the idea of searching for information can be daunting. That is why podcasts are great. Listener-chosen content is delivered on your schedule.

If you’re interested in learning more about some of my personal favorite educational podcasts, check out this companion post.


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