I had the chance to join Mike Washburn and Glen Irvin from the podcast OnEducation for their most recent episode and turn the tables on their show by interviewing them. We discussed their meteoric rise to the top of the education technology category, how they became such avid believers in gamification for learning, and what advice they have for anyone looking to start their own podcast.
Below is the full audio interview. If you want to listen to the full episode, entitled “Baby Shark,” you can do so here.
Our Audio Interview with the Hosts of OnEducation
Full Audio Transcript of Our Interview with OnEducation
Mike Washburn: Alright, welcome back to the podcast. We’re joined by Dylan Rodgers. Dylan is the managing editor of Innovation & Tech Today. Welcome to the podcast, Dylan.
Innovation & Tech Today: Thank you, it’s great to be here.
MW: So, we’re doing something a little different this time. This is gonna be a whole lot of fun. We know Dylan from other things, and Dylan got in touch with us recently, and said, “Y’know, we should do some stuff together.”, and we like doing stuff with people, because doing stuff is fun.
Dylan, Innovation & Tech Today is a magazine, and you guys do lots of stuff. Actually, before we go into what’s actually happening here, why don’t you tell us, I’ll give you a little chance to do little plug; what’s Innovation & Tech Today, Dylan?
I&T Today: Okay, so, I am the managing editor, like you said, of Innovation & Tech Today, it’s an online and print publication, we have some subsidiary publications as well. It’s all about the way that tech is transforming the human experience. So, we cover different topics, anywhere from news and business, and outdoor tech, I mean, all kinds of things. There’s something there for everybody. And education’s a big part of that, right? Education tech is such a big market, but also just such a big driver in what’s happening in the world today, and that’s exactly why I wanted to come on here and talk with you guys.
MW: Awesome. Okay, so, this is what’s happening. Dylan is actually interviewing us, which is-
Glen Irvin: Woo!
MW: Bizarre, but we’re gonna actually just- I’m gonna stop talking, believe it or not, and pass it off to Dylan. Take it away, dude.
I&T Today: Awesome. Well, this is good. Have you guys been interviewed- You haven’t been interviewed on your podcast before, have you?
MW: I don’t think so.
I&T Today: Excellent. Well, there’s a first for everything.
So, let’s go ahead and kick this off. So you launched your podcast on education in March, 2018, and I remember when this happened, and then, all of a sudden, it was just at the top of the education, education technology podcast categories … First of all, what’s that like?
MW: Glen, what’s that like?
GI: It’s really surreal, I would say. I mean, we knew that there was a need, I thought- No, we both thought that there was a need for this, but I didn’t- It was going to be difficult, I thought, to just kind of get the word out. That’s actually probably the most difficult part, is jut trying to get- Once people start listening to it, I think they really enjoy it. They like the topics, but it’s- I didn’t think it would be that quickly, that a lot of people would start listening to it. How about you, Mike?
MW: Seeing ourselves on the charts the first time was surreal. Like, on the charts themselves, and then, the first time we were number one on the charts was really weird. There was a lot of language back and forth between Glen and I. You know, we were excited, like, it was crazy, I couldn’t- I couldn’t believe it, to be honest. So, it’s pretty weird. I don’t know what other word to use. It’s- Obviously, we’re honored, and love the people like it, but it’s been a weird experience, that’s for sure.
I&T Today: So, what was the reason for starting your podcast in the first place?
GI: I think Mike had the original idea, because he approached me at Schoology NEXT twenty …
MW: Just after- Just after Schoology NEXT, yeah.
GI: Because it was a while back, and I thought he was just some crazy guy talking to me. I didn’t really take it seriously, but then he came back- When did you actually start talking to me for real, Mike? November, maybe?
MW: Yeah, probably in November of 2017, and basically, you said, “Listen, things are happening over here.” Like, he was leaving his job, and getting ready to move, and start a new one, and said, “You know, why don’t we wait and talk about this more in December or January of 2018?”, so I waited. I didn’t want to do this alone, so this was my- I love podcasts, I listen to tons of them, it’s really the only thing I listen to in my car. Mostly politics podcasts, but a little bit of other things as well, and I wanted to do one.
I thought, “This is something I can figure out how to do,” I think, but I didn’t want to do it alone. I wasn’t as confident in my voice, I guess, as I am now, but I certainly didn’t want to do it alone. I was looking for someone that was interesting, and smart, and engaging-
MW: There we go.
GI: That sounds like a proposal.
That … That seemed to be Glen, so I approached him, and we started talking about it seriously in January, and worked for a few months, and then in March we kind of hit the “Go” button on it. It’s been a lot of work, but I think that the genre and the medium is- There’s very low barriers to entry, it’s easy for a lot of people to actually just get into and do. Being successful is a different story, but it’s not overly hard, I guess.
I&T Today: I know you guys have day jobs, so how many hours are you putting in a week on this, you think?
GI: Mike puts in a lot more hours than me.
I&T Today: Oh, I see.
GI: Because he manages basically all of the business aspects of this, which I didn’t know, that there would be business aspects to this, and now there’s a lot of different things to go ahead and- Which is great, there’s a lot of things to deal with, whether it be sponsors, or anything else that has to do with gas, or anything like that, Mike is managing a lot of those things.
I mean, there’s people that we both know, or that we communicate- We’re trying to get out to different people to get them on the show, but as far as the ins and outs of the business itself: Mike, tell us about the time spent on this.
MW: I mean, things are getting easier, thank God. I think when we started, I was probably putting twenty hours a week into it. I was really working hard. The outlines are easier to write now, we are paying attention, we’ve got a pattern down a little more, so I’m probably in between five and ten hours a week now, but I’m still putting in- And I’m always thinking of things related to it, even if I’m not physically actually at my computer typing, or something like that, so it’s a lot of work to do this the way we wanted to do it.
Now, almost anyone, to be honest, can put out a podcast. Really. [crosstalk 00:07:21]
GI: [crosstalk 00:07:21]It is pretty- possibly, you could do it super easily.
MW: You could set up a SoundCloud account, get yourself a microphone, and just start talking. Doing it with the production level and quality level that we wanted with a level of discourse we wanted is quite a bit harder, and then to go places and do things like we would like to do or that we do, like going to ISTY, and we’re going to FETC in the winter, and Schoology NEXT, those things take work to get there.
Like, you can’t just- I mean, things cost money, right? Going to ISTY cost us close to four grand, all total, and that money had to come from somewhere. If we want to do stuff like that, you gotta work, you gotta make sure it’s a good quality production, so you can get some sponsors, and we’ve been lucky with that. Super happy with the way that all of that has worked out for us.
It’s been work, but- I’ve said it a few times in the last few months at least, that I’m probably doing the best work of my life right now, I feel, and this is definitely part of it. I’m really proud of what we’ve done.
I&T Today: Very cool. So, let’s- I wanted to back up a little bit. In our previous conversation, you guys talked about how you had really different journeys to education, to developing effective technology strategies, and ultimately coming and converging into this show. I was hoping you could tell me a little bit about that. Since, Glen, you’ve been talking first each time, Mike, let’s start with you.
MW: I dunno if you wanna do that. Glen and I are both- We come from similar veins in a lot of respects, our game-based learning backgrounds, our passion for video games in general, and gamification. That’s kind of where the core- If there was like, a core of the things that we have in common, those are kind of the things that we have in common. We’re pretty different in a lot of other ways, and that’s what makes the podcast a little more compelling, is that we do have slightly different personalities in lot of other ways. My pathway here is as a computer science teacher, Glen is a language teacher, and that’s pretty rad.
I’m a big fan of Glen’s work, and when I was thinking about who to deal with on this, that was a factor, is that we’re in two different places, and he’s been teaching a lot longer than I have too. I’ve actually only been teaching about seven years, actually in the classroom, so there’s that as well. I have some other perspectives related to what I was doing before I was teaching.
Sometimes, things just happen and work out, and maybe this is just one of those things. It’s been a really cool experience.
GI: Awesome. Do I get to talk now?
MW: I’ll let you speak, sure.
GI: That’s awesome. I actually think it’s pretty cool, once Mike and I actually started talking, because we really didn’t know each other; the only thing we knew about each other was what Mike said, the thing that we had related, which was game based learning, gamification concepts, and the passion we have for those things. Then, we found out that we have a lot of other things in common. We both are pretty liberal, as far as in politics, so we have that in common, but we also come from such different backgrounds, in the U.S. versus Canada kind of perspectives are interesting, I think, especially to our audience.
GI: I’ve had different people comment on that, that they think that that’s a cool- A back and forth between us, that Mike shares, kind of, what’s happening within Canada; what it’s like to be Canadian, and have a healthcare system, and the way their education system works, and then the different perspectives here, as far as the politics that are concerned within education itself.
GI: And then, my background, I like to talk about that my inspiration for everything that has come through education and being Spanish teacher specifically, has been my mom, who was an immigrant into the United States. I always tell people she was an illegal immigrant, so that people understand that the lies and myths being perpetuated about people who are coming here are not true, mot of the time; that a lot of people come here because they want a better life, and that’s kind of the story of the United States. I like to make sure that people know that, that that’s my number one inspiration, is my mother coming to the United States, and basically giving us- my brother and I- a better life.
GI: I like to make sure I share that story with others. Teachers, students, community members, just so they can know kind of where my perspective is at, and why I’m so passionate about teaching, and passionate about the Spanish language and culture.
I&T Today: Right, and, you know, I’m curious also about- at least a lot of the stories I’ve heard, working in education technology for a while- there are those “Aha” moments when teachers who are in it for a while, or even maybe for a few years, maybe they’ve been using education technology since the beginning, or maybe it’s something that they picked up along the way; I’m just curious if you guys have any sort of “Aha” moments, or could tell me what it was like before you started really effectively using technology versus when you really got your groove in it? What was that like?
MW: I’ve told this story a couple times, and it’s a little bit of hero worship, I guess, but when I was in teacher’s college, and doing my B.Ed., I read Kurt Squire’s PhD thesis. I don’t know how it came up. I think I was talking about games based learning and video games a lot in my classes, but didn’t really have any academia to back up all my nonsense, and so I started kind of looking around. I’m looking for ammunition, for these debates I was having in my B.Ed. classes on why I thought video games could be used in the class, and I found Kurt Squire’s paper on Civilization III, and history, and using to teach in elementary class, and I was like, “Oh my g-“, it was like a lightning bolt in my head. It was like, “Oh my God, I could do this! This is real! And he’s showing me how to do it!”
It was just like a light went off in my head, and then I found other things, then I found Jane McGonigal’s book, and her TED Talk on how video gamers are these- We should be cherishing these people, and fostering this culture of gameplay, because people who play games are dedicated to completing tasks, and winning things, and we need people who are desperate to win, because we have so many problems. We have lack of clean water, we have oil that’s disappearing, and wars, and famines, and all of these things going on, and we need smart people to solve those problems.
We solve those problems all the time in video games, to be honest, and so, we need these gamers to grow up and become scientists, and psychologists, sociologists, astronauts, and all of these things that we need to solve all of these problems, and to tackle them as if it was that game that they loved playing when they were a kid, that they spent hours and hours and hours just smashing their lives against a finish, and to beat that monster.
It was an earth-shattering moment for me in my Bachelor of Education, to realize that I found the proof I was looking for, and I’ve actually told Kurt, because we’ve talked now, which is weird for me- this is another weird experience of the podcast, is my heroes now, will talk to me on Twitter- I’ve told Kurt my story about this, and he loves it, he thought it was great, but that’s what it was for me for sure. How about you, Glen?
GI: Yeah, so, I think even before I got into gamification, or game based learning, I was just wanting to push the boundaries of what could be possible inside of my Spanish classroom. I’ve never been satisfied, with even this previous year’s status quo, so I wanted to push those boundaries with whatever tech was available to me, and that started off with old tech like SMART Boards, which me and Mike have had some discussions about those.
MW: SMART Boards are awesome.
GI: And then it progressed to- I read a blog post, by this guy named Chris Aviles, and he’s Teched- [crosstalk 00:17:17]
I&T Today: Oh, yeah, Teched Up Teacher.
GI: Yeah, Teched Up Teacher. And his first blog post that he wrote, I was like, “Oh my goodness. I love what this guy’s talking about!”, as far as how he’s using gamification. He was basically telling us his journey, and it was fantastic, his journey in his literature class and how he was using gamification, so I started basically emulating and borrowing a bunch of the things that he was using. Then one of- just by happenstance, I was coaching basketball that year, and my assistant coach told me, “You should take a course by this guy, Dr. Haskell.” I was like, I already had my Master’s Degree, and I was like, “Who is that, and why should I take a course?”, you know what I mean? He’s like, “No, this is right up your alley.”
GI: And so, the course is called Teaching and Learning in Virtual Worlds, and I took the course, just by the recommendation of my friend, I didn’t need it or anything, I just was like, “Well, let’s just see what happens.”, and that was my “Aha” moment, because Dr. Haskell basically had us, as graduate students, participating in a class in these different virtual worlds, including Minecraft.
One of my first projects, if you want to call them that, was building a world that then exploded, as far as people wanting to know more about it, which was kind of this commerce world that I built so it would immerse my students in the Spanish language while they were roleplaying as different careers within the world of Minecraft. I was just kind of borrowing a little combination of what Dr Haskell taught us, and then also what Chris Aviles was doing, which was documenting what was happening. ‘Cause I didn’t find anything online or on YouTube that anybody else was doing, so I was like, I’m just gonna create YouTube videos and I’m gonna write down everything that I do, and however it goes, it goes.
And it just happened to be that it became the thing that I was like, “Okay, this is something that I can do and it’s something that I can share with people, how to go about doing this.” And it really is making a humongous difference as far as, for my classes, engagements but also, just the ability for my students to go ahead and stay in the Spanish language, which was a big push that I wanted to make sure happened.
MW: He is selling himself short a little bit there. He used Minecraft to teach Spanish.
I&T Today: It’s crazy. [crosstalk 00:19:50] That was one of my ah-ha moments, with gamification. So Mike, you’re talking about some hero worship. Glen, I’m gonna take this opportunity here. Gamification was always something that I remember playing Reader Rabbit in school, and I thought that that was it. That was the pinnacle of what it meant. And then seeing what you’ve done with Minecraft to teach the human body in Spanish. Okay, build this giant human body in Minecraft, and then build a rollercoaster, a working rollercoaster that goes around all that, and then you video taped it and everything. That was definitely … I don’t wanna say Earth shattering, I’m not sure it was that level, but man, it was something special. It definitely pulled the wool off my eyes, I’d say.
GI: My students were just so ready to go ahead and take this leap with me. They knew it was something strange and different, but they were ready. They were like, “Yeah, we can do this.” And they were also willing to go ahead and play along, which is super important when you’re talking about playful learning, or gamification, whatever it might be. Especially with my high school students, talking about 16 to 18 year old kids, having to pretend that they’re role playing different things and then staying, again, within the confines of the Spanish language, which can be very difficult. But it was almost like a fun game that we did every single day, so it didn’t seem like it was actual, hardcore learning, which it wasn’t. It was just super fun and learning was just part of what was actually happening within the class.
I&T Today: Yeah, so that makes me wonder. I started working in education technology in 2012. Gamification, game based learning, it was pretty niche as far as I could tell. Maybe I’m wrong about that, feel free to correct me. It was on my radar, but I’m not sure it had taken off the way it has now. It is becoming a regular term in the educational lexicon these days. How have you seen the growth of this? What’s that been like for you? And Mike, go ahead and start with you.
MW: I think that it’s funny. I spoke at [Istee 00:22:18] in 2014 on Minecraft and I might have been one of the only sessions that had any serious games based learning element in it. Then you go to ISTE last year and it’s everywhere. The booth alone for Minecraft on the show floor was gigantic. It’s exploded. I think I try to remind people that it’s not exploding without reason. It’s not exploding because … There are some reasons, and some of them have little to do with education.
There is a whole generation of people growing up to be educators that played a lot of video games. It coincides with people who were teens in the 90s, that played video games constantly. Now those people are adults, and can make decisions and are wanting to take their passions and use them in their jobs. I actually joke all the time that my goal in life is to bring my hobbies as close to my work as humanly possible. I’m getting really good at that. I think that that’s what a lot of other people are trying to do too.
Glen loves video games and we have a lot of friends that are educators that love video games and grew up with them, and now we’re just using them because we think that this is a fun way to work and to learn. But it doesn’t come without backup. I could drown you in paperwork. I use that term all the time, but I could dump a truck load of journal articles on your desk now about how game’s based learning is effective and why it’s effective and best practices and models. It’s not like it doesn’t have any academia in its corner either.
In the end, I think I say this probably every other or every third podcast, but we need to teach kids where they are, not where we want them to be. Our kids are home, and they’re doing the things they love and we need to find a way to let them do the things they love at school too. Because when they do the things they love at school, they’ll do whatever it is that they’re doing better. If we can find a way to get them to do their math better, and their language better, and their social studies better, why wouldn’t you use whatever tool that is? I think that those tools, in a lot of cases, are games. That’s, I guess, my two cents on that.
I&T Today: As a follow up on that, Glen, it sounds like Mike is somewhat talking about somewhat a generational thing. “I grew up with games, therefore I’m using games.” I see the benefit of that. Are there any other elements to this that you see in the mediocre rise of game based learning?
GI: I think that people have found out that and done studies, and really used it in classes and really have some evidence behind why it is such an effective way of teaching. So it’s not, what Mike just said, he has tons of research behind it now, and I think a lot of people are now taking it more seriously, I would say. But then, the other part too, is that a lot of us are sharing how to do it right also. Because there’s a lot of things, and Mike and I have talked about this, that we did wrong. Getting started with game based learning and some different things that now we’re like, “Oh, we should have done this differently.” Which is anything in teaching. Especially at the beginning, but more and more people are willing to share those things.
GI: Whether it be within articles or videos on YouTube, or books that are being written, like by Matt Farber or Dr. Haskell, whoever is writing these different books, they’re actually talking, basically now, how do you go about doing this? And then when I go speak at places to teachers, I just tell them, “Choose the things that you think will work for you right now, and then make a long term plan about those things that you can go ahead and use later on in your class with some planning.” Another misconception too is that this is easy to do, and it’s not.
GI: It takes a lot of planning, and maybe takes more planning than regular lesson plans. To make it really effective, Mike and I have talked about this. We spend hours, basically play testing this, and we even use some of our students and sometimes our children to be able to play test what we’re about to do in our classes, because we don’t want to use Minecraft in a way where we’re ruining the game. So that’s the number one element that I always tell people. If you’re gonna use something, make sure that it still has the element of fun in it. That you haven’t ruined that part-
GI: The play, exactly right Mike. That you haven’t ruined that, ’cause then that sours that then for everybody else. So you wanna make sure you know what you’re doing, but there’s so much information out there about how to do it. There’s lesson plans, there’s all these things that highly encourage other teachers to take the leap and at least try it at very low level. Which would be like gamification elements in your classes, which would be kinda like Michael Matera describes. And then push yourself to then say, “Okay, can I actually add games, whether they be physical, boardgames.” ‘Cause you can use those too, they don’t have to be video games.
We’ve seen tons of people using different adapting board games to fit into different things into the classroom, and there’s some amazing examples of that too. So just, being willing, number one, to go ahead and do it. And then doing some background research. And then being able to go out and implement it and take the risk.
MW: Board games are making a comeback, right? There are some pretty legit board games [crosstalk 00:28:48]. I predict that you’re gonna see a lot of these same game based teachers that are into video games, a lot of them are also into board games. I think you’re gonna see a bit of a renaissance on boardgames in the class room.
GI: Big time.
MW: But not just playing commercial board games, but even things like making your own board games. I’ve had this vision in my head for years of getting a hold of a bunch of 3-D printers, and then having kids create their own pieces and their own tools and their own items for a board game, and making the board game themselves. We have that technology now, and I think it’d be rad to see.
I&T Today: We’ve had that technology a long time, Mike. I think that was a project that I worked on in second grade, if I’m not mistaken.
MW: Well yeah. Well you know what I’m saying, to make your 3-D printing, to take it and make plastic figures and stuff, would be rad. I can’t get over that.
I&T Today: Oh definitely. How do we adapt Warhammer to education?
I&T Today: Okay, so you guys cover a lot of topics. It’s something that, when I heard you were doing an education technology podcast, education podcast, I was kind of expecting it to stay … or to be more narrow in the topics, but you guys tackle politics, gaming obviously, K-pop, even life itself. Do you feel like this approach where you’re treating education and educators as more complex, multi-faceted, varied in interest, is long over due in this space?
MW: I think a lot of our feedback that we got … well first off, covering the politics in particular, very early on when just Glen and I were talking and stuff, we realized that, thank god we aligned very well politically. Pretty similar political views, and that was a relief. I hadn’t really even thought of it to be honest, until I thought about it and I was like, “Oh my god, what if he’s a crazy, right wing Republican guy?”
GI: That actually might have been interesting though too.
MW: It might have been interesting, but it would have been a lot-
GI: It’s important to have that dialogue.
MW: Well, I don’t know if I could get on the air and argue with you every day. I mean, that’s been interesting, and we’re passionate about this stuff. Especially about the politics. We do realize that it’s important. It’s not just important for society in general, but it’s important for education. And it’s important that we have those conversations.
But also, one of the things that has come up, and it’s been part of our … not our marketing sort of speak, but we’ve used the term, ‘this is kinda like the lunchroom’ a little bit, in the sense that, I think that some of the feedback I’ve gotten is that people like that we don’t just, “Hi, welcome, we’re going to talk about education today, and we’re going to talk about assessments.”
People like that we don’t do that. There are podcasts that do that. We listened to them, and we didn’t wanna be that. We wanted to have fun, we wanted to laugh, we wanted other people to laugh and to talk about things we liked to talk about. But then, we still have serious conversations about education.
We’re still having detailed conversations with people and we wanna talk to the smartest people about the most timely and interesting topics. I think that that’s what we’ve done. It’s about balance. I loved talking to Refrance David about K-pop and we turned that into a really good conversation about education. If you listen to that episode, we talked about how that relates to education and how kids should be passionate about-
GI: I think too, what Mike was just saying, that people’s reactions, at least what they’ve told us, either through our reviews or they’ve told me to my face, is their favorite parts are just me and Mike talking back and forth on a variety of different topics. Sometimes arguing, sometimes agreeing with each other, but basically showing that teachers have a diverse aray of topics that they’re interested in.
So it’s not just specifically education, it’s not specifically just politics and education, but it’s a variety of different things that we might be interested in. And tech, we try to pick out different topics of those, and sometimes our conversations just end up getting steered to other things, which is awesome. I think those are the best conversations that we have. I think they give people a connection to us then too. We’re more authentic, ’cause we wanna make sure we have an authentic conversation between us.
MW: 100 percent.
I&T Today: And speaking of that, and this has been brought up before and anyone who’s listened to your podcast knows probably, that Mike, you’re in Canada, Glen, you’re in the US. So that gives your discourse about education, politics, an interesting dynamic. Do you feel that educators should be more openly discussing these ideas about politics these days? Even with such a broad audience as you are?
MW: I think that it’s important to talk about the politics. It’s important to talk about American politics, for me. I know more about US politics than any Canadian should.
GI: That’s so true though.
MW: I practice pretty legit amounts of restraint I feel on this podcast, because I’m angry. I’m losing it up here over what’s going on down there. Because what goes on down there, effects what goes on up here. In tons of ways, not just the NAFTA and that kinda stuff, and immigration. I mean, we can talk about those things, but even just society in general.
The toxicity of the dialogue is starting to filter up here. And they’re taking their ques from Donald Trump, and it’s a permission slip to be the biggest jerk that you can possibly be. There’s no getting around it anymore, so we’re having to deal with it. And this filters into education in so many ways.
Hiring, people in charge of education that are completely unqualified to be in charge of education. It’s down there, and now it’s happening up here too. We’ve talked about the Ontario election, and how we elected Doug Ford, and it’s beyond me how that happened. But it did, so now we have our own issues to deal with, in terms of a conservative government that is really doing some pretty serious damage.
If any of our listeners want to go look up what Doug Ford’s doing to the health/sex ed curriculum in Ontario, you’ll see some pretty serious damage. He’s only been in office for four months. It’s important to talk about the politics, the stuff affects us. It affects our kids. I have kids that go to school, Glen has kids that go to school. We want our kids to have every opportunity and the best education possible. Politics impacts that. Its important that we talk about that.
If I’m Canadian and, listen, like I just said, I don’t care that I’m Canadian and talking about American politics. If you have a problem with I’m saying about US politics, come on the show and come at me, it’s fine. Let’s go. I’m good. I would love to have contrary opinions. Maybe they’re afraid od me, I don’t know.
GI: What I think is an interesting dynamic between Mike and I is we have to, a lot of times in the United States, as teachers be careful with what we say about politics, I think. It’s like an unspoken rule because we have a country that’s split between two completely opposing sides of the political spectrum. And lots of people in the middle between the two spectrums that shift one way or the other depending upon the year, the election year. I think it’s hard to talk about politics.
I thought this was kind of a nice platform to be able to do that and be able to kind of just let people listen and either they agree or disagree. People have told us that they listen to the podcast but they disagree a lot with the politics. But that’s what I tell Mike too is that it’s hard to understand how wide the gap is between the two political sides. Because it’s so wide, it creates a lot of tension and people just really don’t want to talk about it. It’s one of those things where you’re like, is it safe to say what I want to say here? Or should I just keep my mouth shut? Kind of that thing.
So it gives them a forum to be able to listen to these things and then be able to go ahead and do something about it, which we always talk about, hey, you can go ahead and write your legislators, you can talk to them, they work for you and of course, when it comes time to vote, vote on the topics that matter as educators. Here they are and we presenting those things too.
I&T Today: Well, in thinking about having this have been a great platform for you, working in education, I don’t know about in Canadian education as much, I know in US education it can be really frustrating. I mean, there’s so much pressure and responsibility and Glen is just saying there’s not always an easy way to vent because there’s that unspoken rule, maybe to not talk about it or a lot of times teachers or educators feel like they’re an island. They don’t really have anyone to talk to. Less so these days, I think, since tech has been really bringing everyone into communities.
Other than the politics, how has this podcast been a cathartic experience for you, Mike?
MW: I mean, I’ll tell the venting about politics has been a cathartic experience for me. I’m glad I get to come on somewhere and complain for a little bit anyway.
I&T Today: Everyone has to listen.
MW: Yes. I have a captive audience. I’m sure they fast forward, you have that ability now I suppose. Oh, Mike’s talking again, let’s move on. I’ve enjoyed this a lot. I’ve enjoyed talking and getting ideas. We’ve talked to some of the coolest fricking people.
GI: Brilliant people.
MW: I think it really hit me when we have Paul [Devarsionne 00:42:24]. He wrote a blog post for us and we read that thing and it was like, “Oh my God, this is-”
GI: It’s brilliant.
MW: “Oh my … It’s so good. I didn’t even know.” Then we talked to him, and he’s just like, it’s so good! It was amazing and it inspired me. [Refrauns 00:42:41] and Steve and Mike Cohen and all of these people that we’ve talked to have just inspired the hell out of me. I get up and I’m wanting to do even half as close a good a job as they do at what I’m doing.
MW: I mean, it’s definitely got me going. I think about what these guys are doing in the mornings and what they’re doing at work and they’re inspiring. I’m trying to go and do the same thing, work just as hard or harder and keep up with some of these folks because it’s hard keeping up. But that’s when you know you’re doing the best work is when you can keep up with some of the folks that we’ve talked to, you’re batting at a whole different level. That’s pretty exciting.
GI: I think it’s also awesome, the perspective of being able to have these amazing educators out there, them sharing their ideas and then this huge audience being able to listen to those and getting inspired, just like what Mike just was saying. But giving our audience the ability to kind of take a peek into, what is Refrauns Davis really think about and what does she get passioned and inspired with? It went a completely different direction than we ever thought as far as in the interview. But it actually ended up being super powerful to us to say, “Hey, you know what? Teachers are very diverse beings and that’s okay. We want that. We want people to be passionate about a variety of things, not just be work centric.
GI: People have told us that … Several guests have said, “I need to make sure that I take a step back away from work and that I make sure that I’m a whole person.” That’s a great message to share with our audience and all of our teachers out there, who like you just said, Dylan, sometimes are isolated. They work and live in a silo. So we want to make sure that they can hear these messages of what it could possibly be and then how do you go about doing those things?
I&T Today: Very cool. So do you think that more educators should betaking advantage of this golden age of podcasting?
GI: You don’t want competition, Mike? I think it’s a great way to reform it.
MW: That’s [inaudible 00:45:03] can dance.
I&T Today: That’s not the answer I was expecting.
GI: I think they should. I think it’s an awesome way to reflect. I think for me it’s a lot easier than writing. Mike is a very, very good writer, but it’s easy for me to just speak and talk about my ideas than it is to go ahead and put them down eloquently, for example, in a blog post. So it’s an easy ways to be to get your ideas out. And like Mike said, there’s a lot of different ways of being able to go ahead and make this happen, record it and being able to public it and sent it out to the world so that other people get to hear your story, your journey in your teaching career.
MW: If you’re a communications teacher to a media teacher in high school and you’re not doing a podcast, you’re wrong. I mean, flat out, this is an awesome project. It’d be amazing for a high school to have a podcast. You could, it is not hard folks to do this, just to get it up and going. Get a SoundCloud account and some microphones and write an outline. Then learn as you go.
MW: But I mean, what a great project this would be for any … I mean, I say at the high school level, because high school students could probably do it on their own. If it was at an elementary level you could still do it, totally, you would just have to hold their hands a little bit more and walk them through it a lot more and guide it.
MW: But I mean, for any community group, any educators community, I mean a lot of them are doing it already, which is great. But this is, it’s an awesome project to just get into and people should be doing it for sure.
I&T Today: So for those who are just starting out, what would you tell them apart from, obviously, mentioning that it’s easy technically? What advice would you give them getting started that you’ve learned along the way?
MW: I think the outline is really important. At least at the start, we worked really hard on the outlines. In the beginning, it was taking us a week to put together a really good outline. We’re both, Glen and I are both on an outline page right now on Google Docs. Our outline page is four pages long. It’s got your questions on it, its got our notes, it’s got production notes, it’s got our advertising notes, it’s got other content on it. But it was even longer when we first started. We were writing six, seven, eight page outlines. Until you get into the habit of how to do it and you develop a pattern and a rhythm, the outline is critical.
But then being able to present that outline as if you didn’t have one is, I guess, the next part. The performance side of this has always been an interesting aspect to me because I thought I would suck at it a lot more than I do because I actually have a phobia of talking to people in large crowds. Doing the presenting stuff, [inaudible 00:48:23] and [SchoolGeneX 00:48:24], I don’t like doing those things. I do them because I’m trying to push outside my boundaries and my box and learn how to get better at those things. This talking into a microphone has been a really interesting and fun experience for me.
Yeah the outline and then performing the outline as if you didn’t have one is probably a pretty important thing.
GI: And I think having compelling topics, something compelling to talk about on a consistent basis so that you build up an audience. So I think that would be, the combination of those things, you then have something good. You have a product, people want to listen to it, something compelling to listen to and talk about. Then you running to something.
MW: Yeah, and I think just to add to that, not only is it compelling, but it’s also something that you’re passionate about. You never know what people are going to be passionate about.
GI: That’s very true.
MW: Right, and just doing something and putting it out there, there’s some crazy thing out there. I don’t know, I can’t think of any off the top of my head. Just that you could build a coalition of people who are interested in this.
The people who do the podcasts, I think when interviewed podcasts or different media, and they’re interviewed, how it started a lot of times, very often, it’s like, “We just started doing this because we wanted to. We were passionate about this topic and we had no idea it was going to bow up like this.” I think they often come from humble roots.
GI: When we talked to, our hosting service is not a normal hosting service. WE pay for it, but it’s a closed community. You have to be invited to be on it. The hosting service we deal with hosts some of the biggest podcasts on the planet. Pod Save America and NPR, not NPR, but New York Times, The Daily are all hosted by these guys.
GI: When we first started I got on a call with them and I said, “Listen, there are eight million teachers in North America and don’t you think that some of them are going to want to listen to a podcast about teaching?” And they just went, “Yeah, yeah totally.” That was what got us kind of in that door, which was hilarious. I think that there is a constituency for this. It’s growing exponentially and we couldn’t be happier with how things have gone.
I&T Today: So just thinking back, if you could … okay, so you’re here now. You’re at the top. Nowhere to go form here, right?
MW: [crosstalk 00:51:17] We could be topping.
I&T Today: No, I know. But in looking back at your former selves, what would you tell your former selves just starting out? What advice would you have for them? Maybe if there’s a particular thing you ran into that, you know don’t go down that road or whatever it is. What would you tell your past selves who are just starting out?
GI: That’s a really good question. Mike, you got an answer for that?
MW: To be honest, I still don’t think I do this as well as I could. I think I’m still wordy. Glen can attest to that. I think I talk too much.
GI: That’s awesome.
MW: And I talk for a living these days, but I’m still trying to get us into a better pattern. There’s still work to do. Listen, if you’re not constantly trying to improve, then, you know … I mean, I always listen to these things and see where we could do better. I mean, well, we spend a decent amount of time at the top of the ed tech charts and stuff like that, there’s a lot of room to grow still. We’re wanting to just keep getting better at it. So I’m still thinking about ways I can [crosstalk 00:52:45].
GI: I would tell my former self to just relax during the … Because the initial podcasts were kind of robotic on my end. I just wanted to make sure I followed the script and I was saying certain things or blah, blah, blah whatever it might be, but really the best thing for anybody doing this and for myself starting at the beginning, if you just relax and just have a normal conversation, then great things will happen, because that’s what this is about, just basically having a conversation on interesting topics. And then having a back and forth dialogue, which I think has been the best part of how we’ve grown for the last few months.
I&T Today: Very cool, well, hey guys, this has been awesome. It’s been a very … It’s been a pleasure of mine. I’ve had my own podcast equipment for a while and I’ve never used it for a podcast, if you can believe it. So this is the first opportunity I got and it’s an honor to talk with you guys. It’s really cool what you’re doing. It’s awesome, so keep going.
GI: Thank you so much.
MW: Yeah, thanks for joining us Dylan. This has been a blast and hopefully we’ll have you on and we’ll talk again soon.
I&T Today: Definitely. We’ll talk soon.
MW: On Education is an on podcast media production. My name is Mike Washburn, my cohost is Glen Irvin. You can get in touch with us or ask us questions to answer on air by visiting our website, OnEducationPodcast.com.
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