My year in 2016 – The Edtech Podcast
2016 was quite a momentous year for me. It was the year I quit my job, and launched a podcast.
What have I learnt from the experience? This post documents the highs and lows of launching The Edtech Podcast and some reflection on the amazing journey so far, as we move into 2017.
Before we start, some background for context:
Events become you
On April 29th this year, I quit my job as Head of Content, Bett. Why? One reason is events are all-encompassing, they become you (said in the ‘I see dead people’ voice). From Informa (who created Mobile World Congress) to Ascential (of Bett and Cannes Lions fame), I’ve worked on and delivered events in Johannesburg, in Dallas, in Singapore, in Barcelona, in the UAE, in Vienna and in Rio de Janeiro across a 9 year career. I’ve met incredible people, worked with incredible teams, boarded flights, missed flights, and heard inspirational speeches including from Sir Ken Robinson, Bill Gates, and Cindy Gallop. I am extremely lucky to have done so, picking up production, business and product development, internationalisation, executive, management and leadership skills along the way. But just shy of 10 years in, and with a young sprog now in tow, is a good juncture to take stock and embrace Dr Lynda Gratton’s approach to life and work.
And those inspirational speeches from keynotes and ‘upstart’ startups, heard at the back of many a low-lit conference room, definitely got into my own philosophical DNA.
My own ambitions to explore new platforms for content creation and publication, whilst also developing a more smart working lifestyle (outside of waking up in the middle of the night worrying about various Ministries of Education), became ever more appealing. But it was on my maternity leave that I decided that this platform would be podcasts, and it was inspired by the moments others were living that hurried the re-evaluation. And, as I’ve told many a person before, I think being pregnant/having a child can make you even more productive and get you in the mind-set to take on any challenge.
Podcasts are a content form experiencing high growth. According to The Pew Research Centre, there has been an increase in the number of downloads, up to 2.6 billion in 2014 from 1.6 billion in 2012. In 2015 Zenith Optimedia, which tracks advertising spends, predicted a $34 million spend on podcasts — a rise of 10% on 2010. It’s also claimed that National Public Radio makes $4.7 million from podcasts. Edison Research, conducted in February 2015, identified that one-third (33%) of all Americans (aged 12 and over) say they have listened to at least one podcast and awareness of podcasting among Americans has more than doubled since 2006 to 49%. Such growth mirrors a similar pattern in audio book consumption, with audio books the fastest growing segment in publishing. According to a recent report by the American Association of Publishers downloaded audio had the highest growth in the first eight months of 2015. The number of audiobooks sold increased 43.3% in August, compared to August 2014. This brings the year-to-date growth for this format to 37.8%, compared to the same timeframe in 2014. Both podcast and audio book growth are driven by the mobility of listeners and smartphones.
64% listen to podcasts on smartphones, the majority in the car, on public transport, or at the gym, and 93% of podcast listeners are on social media. Podcasts allow us to do deep dives into subjects and get to know the personalities of those featured.
The format is more intimate, arguably, than video and listening has been shown to increase retention of knowledge.
In a spoken message, 38% is indicated by the tone of voice, while only 7% is conveyed by the words used (Mehrabian, 1981).
I am a personal fan of the podcasting format and it was whilst on maternity leave, listening to Edsurge and TES to keep abreast of sector changes, that I thought a podcast on education innovation, out of the UK, but with a global reach, was an exciting confluence of my many worlds personal and professional. The need for more sharing between those in the ‘ed’ and ‘tech’ camps, to better bridge the gap between educators, students, investors, start ups, blue chips, publishers, Government and media (all necessary to drive impactful change) was something that the podcast form lent itself perfectly to. Indeed, the mission statement for The Edtech Podcast is:
Whilst I wouldn’t say ‘never again’ to the events world, I was excited to offer something different to this community and see where that led.
With this in mind, I booked myself on a Guardian Podcasting course for £50 and subsequently went on an online shopping spree to buy headphones, microphones and a ridiculously overzealous mixer which never turned up. In early February, I forced myself to hand in my resignation to my boss – a huge decision – and news I delivered through a sea of snot and gasps of hyperventilation. But, it was the right thing to do.
The following week I spent in a converted barn near Glastonbury, hiking with our young family in the day time and staying up late learning how to record and edit in the evening.
It was EXTREMELY EXCITING and I celebrated my birthday that week knowing new adventures were afoot. I met with friends of friends already well versed in the podcasting world, uncovered a podcasting underground scene based in my place of birth on the Isle of Wight, and joined Facebook support groups. Then, I recorded my first three episodes, with the now Head of the Association of Colleges, the CEO of Here East and the head of E-Learning at Hackney Learning Trust.
It was terrifying and exciting and I liked it. I dedicated a whole 48 hours weekend to editing the footage, uploading the episodes via Libsyn and iTunes and launching on my final day of work as I exited the building. I was extremely lucky to carry industry support from associations such as NAACE, BESA, events such as BETT, ASU GSV, EdtechX, Reimagine Edu, Websummit, accelerator and incubator groups such as Emerge Education, Edtech Exchange and media and interest groups like WomenEd, Innovate My School, twitter chats, UK Edu Weekly and Education Technology, who helped spread the word.
The press release drafted at my in-laws showed that in the first two days of launching The Edtech Podcast received 200 downloads from 8 countries.
At the time of writing (8 months later) The Edtech Podcast has received 28, 275 downloads from 96 countries.
Here’s a map of those countries listening in:
The audience continues to grow, with countries continually vying for the top 5 country listener places, currently held by the UK, US, Australia, Ireland, and France. (Germany, China, Canada, Spain and the UAE make up to the current top 10). The social following on twitter, instragram, newsletter, facebook, anchor and linked in reflects this global community, offering up brilliant feedback and interaction with resources. For example, the 475 views of the shownotes on Slide Share for Maarit Rossi’s interview on Finland and Maths.
(BTW, if you’d like to offer up edtech prizes for the social community, I’d like to start doing weekly give aways with the podcast audience via Facebook in 2017).
Given my target was to reach 100 educator leaders listening by October 2016, the 800-1000+ downloads per week the podcast now receives across multiple episodes is wonderful to see. And I am lucky enough to receive amazing feedback from people listening all over the world from across teachers, leaders, investors, startups and media:
Rather wonderfully, bar one Chinese investor who did not want to represent the whole of China (which is fair enough!), I have not been turned down for an interview yet. As such, we’ve had amazing insight from Dominic Norrish, Group Technology Director, at United Learning; Deborah Quazzo, Angel Investor, GSV Partners; Brian Subirana, Director of the AutoID Laboratory at MIT; Chemistry students at the University of Southampton; Kameshvari Flynn. Deputy Director in the early childhood development directorate for the department of social development, Western Cape and Andrew Harper, Head of Innovation at UNHCR.
What’s been amazing is to hear through third parties that people have picked up the phone and called each other to start up a conversation again after hearing a podcast episode.
The podcast has also been used as a place by guests to request help from the community , whether on ideas for how to get teaching and learning to 65 million displaced people or how to use technology to get help for young Dyslexic learners (upcoming Jan 8th), as well as for general news and event updates.
The ability to connect and shape thoughts through the podcast as a catalyst is an exciting idea.
In all, there have been 45 episodes to date. Early sponsors have also allowed me to develop The Edtech Podcast and its mission to bring together the ‘ed’ and ‘tech’ communities, taking up ad spaces, takeover slots, or sponsoring events. A big thank you to each of them trying something new in the podcasting medium.
Most recently, Microsoft Education UK are sponsoring a series including an episode on how technology can aid learners with dyslexia, featuring the CEO of the British Dyslexia Association and Mike Tholfsen of One Note.
You can look out for that on the 8th and 15th January (don’t forget to subscribe to get every episode instantly). Some example sponsors over 2016 here:
I’ve been lucky enough to run events in the London Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (where Loughborough University London were amazing hosts) and I was able to welcome 100+ to discuss bringing ‘ed’ and ‘tech’ together in front of an audience which included the Head of Comms at TES and the Chief Operating Officer at the University of London. We even trended on twitter locally!
There was also the pop-up event, sponsored by ASU GSV Summit, at WebSummit, which brought together start ups, investors and local educators in Lisbon.
Highs and Lows
So what have I learnt from this amazing experience?
Don’t allow imposter syndrome to prevent you from spending your life how you want to spend it.
The ‘mirage of success’ is just that; there’s always more complexity in life than first assumed. Everyone is extremely busy; juggling work and family/other-commitments never ends, you just get more organised. It’s never too late to start, just start, keep focused and remember daily why you are doing what you’re doing.
People can be incredibly generous with their time and support
An amazing experience for me has been an overwhelming amount of good will from friends, family and sector colleagues. This has been essential to launching The Edtech Podcast. Whether it’s support from loved ones, colleagues offering work space or Xmas parties, associations or events collaborating through media partnerships, friends volunteering at events, sector leaders taking time out to conduct an interview or listeners feeding back and promoting the podcast to their networks, the Edtech/education community are a friendly bunch.
Seek life-affirming moments in each day
By changing how I work I now walk under the parakeets and plane trees of Victoria Park in East London as my circular commute. I am able to exercise outside with Our Parks, and I can read books with my L.O in the a.m and in the evening. Although my overall workload has remained constant, or, if anything, gone up (I will do some form of work every day) I am also free to engage in those precious moments each day,whether that’s boring but essential life admin, exercise or having time for friends and family. I have also partially improved in my ability to reflect on what has been achieved each day and to congratulate myself on small wins, rather than indulge my natural inclination to review what’s outstanding on the eternal to-do list.
There have been highs
The Edtech Podcast was featured on iTunes new and noteworthy, next to Richard Branson’s VOOM Podcast.
As a result of launching the podcast in 2016 I was invited to speak at the University of Southampton, at WomenEd, at the Department for International Trade, at a Teachmeet, at Bett, at BESA, at a meeting of Chinese investors in London, and I was present at an Edtech Challenger workshop at the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy formed to develop ideas to present to ministers to help hone policy. I chaired The Nordic Edtech Conference, managed a Bettchat, moderated a panel at the Firefly Learning Conference, launched at Loughborough University London, trended on twitter and put together a POP-UP edtech drinks at WebSummit. I’ve also picked up the lead organiser role for an 800+ strong meet-up group for UK Edtech startups, and joined Tech London Advocates with a specific interest in the education and women in tech working groups. I’ve been fortunate enough to interview some truly incredible people, people like Andrew Harper at the UNHCR, Maarit Rossi of Paths to Maths, Lauri Jarvilehto of Lightneer or Michelle Thomas of New Wave Federation. Every time I listen to people’s stories for the first time, or when I run back through an edit, I feel hugely privileged to listen to the formative details in someone’s life and find out who inspired them and I hope to share the same with every listener.
Because of what I do, I am able to work wherever I want.
I’ve edited podcasts in hotel rooms in Asturias whilst walking the Camino del Norte with my father and then with my family (those episodes replete with cow bells).
I’ve edited on aeroplanes out to Web Summit or in the car on the way to meet my brother in Cornwall, or on the way back from a school visit in Birmingham. I can listen to great music really loud or sit in silence. I avoid (internal) meetings and determine my own work priority, currently working 3-4 days a week (thanks Tim Ferris). I enjoy hearing back from people who have listened to episodes in the car on the way back from camping, or on a run in the rain, or on a teaching course in Berlin, or from people I meet who have been inspired by my move to try something themselves. I’ve balanced my podcast development with consultancy and had the chance to work with TES, Digital Radish, Pi-Top and many more. All of the above has developed my skill set and introduced me to hundreds of amazing people. I’ve tried out Blab with a Global Teacher Prize Nominee, I’ve been introduced to Auphonic and Anchor by a podcast veteran, I’ve even built up The Edtech Podcast book club, developed through recommendations from guests which I’m racing through now!
There have been lows
I’ve given up the predictable monthly pay packet. I work less but, in reality, I work A LOT to edit each episode, weekly since April 29th 2016. I’ve cut family holidays short to get back to London for Teachmeets, coming back on my own. I’ve had recording fails with the BBC Head of Learning, the former advisor to the US Government on Edtech, and Renaldo Lawrence. (Learnings: use headphones both ends when recording over VOIP and make sure your SD card is hella big). Sometimes, jumping from cafe to cafe in between meetings makes you feel like some kind of digital nomad version of Waterworld; at such times you must work hard to negate your self worth as that of Nathan Barley crossed with Alan Partridge and seek shelter at home where good internet is free flowing and you are not constantly wired on coffee. You are responsible for everything – expenses, chasing invoices, organising files, strategy, marketing, sales, content. Good luck. Upwork is your best friend!
And, after all that, I wouldn’t give any of it up.
Xmas and the holiday season is a brilliant time to reflect and take stock. I’m a firm believer in Angela Lee Duckworth’s approach to success – hard work, failing forward and perseverance.
2016 was an incredible year and one of change for me and for many others at this unusual time!! It’s meant I have enjoyed some priceless moments, learnt new skills, connected with remarkable people all over the globe, and challenged myself. But there is so much more to be done and I’m excited already about 2017.
With much learnt in the first phase of launching the podcast, now is the time for new goal setting.
Posting this on Linked in is a great place, for each of the 3,234 of you following, to hold me to account.
I will be seeking a full year download target of over 100,000 by year-end 2017, with main listener growth coming through UK, US and Australia. As with many things, in podcasting, numbers aren’t important. It’s the quality of the content and the relevance of the content to the community. However, of course I’m keen to expand the reach of the amazing ideas sharing on The Edtech Podcast to the widest audience interested and passionate about how to develop education. Meeting this audience will also be a fantastic opportunity to say thank you for the support and I’ll be looking to throw at least two Edtech Podcast Pop-Ups for the many people involved in bringing positive ideas in education to get together, one at SxSw Edu, one at London Edtech Week and possibly one more in Australia (TBC – seeking sponsor for this). I’ll also be launching a twitter chat to bring together the various edtech/education innovation podcasts and help share relevant content to relevant audiences in one go. Seeking a long term sponsor of The Edtech Podcast, as well as continued consultancy work in the same sector, are 2017 goals and I will be launching a website to pull together everything in one place – podcasts, book club, events, speaking, infographics and more. I’ll also be playing around with new broadcast mediums like Facebook Live.
Upcoming episodes of The Edtech Podcast over the next weeks include:
- Stephen Heppell – creating the right learner environment
- Hannah Wilson – on launching a new STEAM school in Oxford and WomenEd
- Dr. Kate Saunders, British Dyslexia Association CEO with Mike Tholfson, One Note, Microsoft – on Dyslexia and Technology
- Edtech for Publishers – Trends from Future Book ’16
In the short term, if any of this excites you there are a few things you can do to find out more…
Want to connect in 2017?
- Book a meeting with me at Bett or SxSw Edu! email@example.com – about speaking, sponsoring, or consultancy
- Subscribe to The Edtech Podcast on iTunes or on Stitcher
- Join the weekly newsletter The Edtech Podcast Weekly
- Rate and Review The Edtech Podcast on iTunes
I wish you all health and happiness in 2017, to you and your families and friends. Have a wonderful year!
Feel free to post your own goals for 2017 in the comments section below!
(*And if I missed anything or anyone off my highlights from 2016 I do apologise, not intentional and I look forward to connecting soon) 🙂