2023: Our year in podcasts

This podcast from Teacher is supported by MacKillop Seasons, whose Seasons for Life project supports schools with loss and grief following a suicide and other loss event.

Jo Earp: Hello and thank you for downloading this podcast from Teacher magazine – I’m Jo Earp.

Rebecca Vukovic: I’m Rebecca Vukovic

Dominique: And I’m Dominique Russell.

JE: We’re all here again, it’s December and it’s time for our podcast highlights episode. So, we’ve all selected some of our favourite episodes of the year. It’s been difficult to do because it’s been another fantastic year for Teacher podcasts with some amazing guests, really different topics across the different series. If you’re a listener, you’ve probably got your own favourites as well, so you never know, we might be picking out some of those.

RV: I love this time of year and getting the chance to look back at the incredible range of podcasts that we’ve published. There are so many highlights across all of the different series. I can’t wait to get into it and delve into them a little deeper.

DR: Yeah, we’re so excited to be back here with you once again for another year to look back and share our personal highlights from the last 12 months. Keep in mind as you’re listening, we’re of course only sharing quite small snippets of our highlight episodes, and if you haven’t had a chance to listen to the full episode yet, you can just search for it directly in your podcast feed, and we’ve also got the full transcript of every episode on our website, teachermagazine.com.

Jo, would you like to kick us off with your first highlight?

JE: I love that, Dom, a little pun to start off with. I think you’ve been taking a sneak peek at my first highlight. So, I’m going to bend the rules slightly here, straight off, straight out of the gate, I’m not bothered about it, I’m bending the rules. I’m actually going to pick 2 things – I’m going to give a double shoutout. I’m going to take everyone back, cast your minds back to the Southern Hemisphere winter – it was just a glorious time to be in Australia, a glorious time to be in Melbourne, the Matildas gave us all Women’s World Cup fever. So, bookending that amazing tournament and their performance in that tournament, there were 2 episodes from our School Assembly series. So we had the finale of Season 1, where we’d been following Ray Boyd and Rachael Lehr at Dayton Primary over in Western Australia, and then Episode 1 of Season 2, where I headed out actually in person to Truganina in Melbourne for the first time to interview Jo Camozzato.

I just love doing the School Assembly series – if you haven’t listened, we follow a principal, or a leadership team, for a year as they navigate some of the challenges and the milestones of opening a new school from scratch. The first school, as I said, that was Dayton Primary, and this year it’s Bemin Secondary College. So those 2, one an ending and the other one a new beginning, those are my first highlights. Here’s a clip covering both those episodes. First up you’ll hear Ray and Rachael talking about the 2 bits of advice they’d give other leaders who are about to start a school from scratch; then you’ll hear Jo (and this is the second time actually she’s been a founding principal) talking about her key learning for the month.

Ray Boyd: The first one from me would be don't doubt yourself – you have the skill set (that imposter syndrome, getting over that) And the second one is gather good people around you. And I don't mean good people as in ‘yes’ people, I mean, gather people around you who you're happy to take criticism from…because they would be the same people you'd go to for advice.
Rachael Lehr: Yeah. And one for me would be just to have a really clear ‘why?’ and a vision (a bit like Simon Sinek says ‘start with “why?”’), because everything you do will come back to that. So, aligning everything back to that vision. And also just be prepared for some really hard work, it's going be tough, so be prepared for that.
Jo Camozzato: I suppose it’s a key learning but it’s also a remembering. You see, no school is the same. It’s like a production, no drama production is the same, you don’t repeat the same thing. So, this is a different play, a different story, a different narrative and you know it’s good to learn and remember that. And so, you need to respond to the community that you’re serving …

RV: I love that you chose the School Assembly series as one of your highlights, Jo, because it certainly is one of mine every month. In particular, I love how candid Jo Camozzato is and how she gives us that really honest understanding of what it has been like to build a school from the ground up. I can’t wait to follow along next year once the school opens its gates to students.

RV: On to my first highlight now. Back in March, Dom and I recorded a fascinating podcast on the topic of ChatGPT and the future of learning. It was in response to all the chatter that had begun about ChatGPT, which had launched to users in November 2022. This podcast was so interesting because we actually used ChatGPT to write the introduction of the episode, and we did an interview with the chatbot itself as part of the episode as well. We spoke to 3 experts in education, Dr Catherine McClellan, Dr Pasi Sahlberg and Professor George Siemons to hear about what they thought about whether ChatGPT and similar AI tools were going to change teaching and learning as we know it. I’d love to take a moment to share a quote with you, it’s Professor George Siemens, the Director of the Centre for Change and Complexity in Learning at the University of South Australia. He’s discussing whether there are any misconceptions we might have about ChatGPT.

George Siemens: So, first of all, we're starting to understand what its limitations are in some ways. Like we're introducing language into our vocabulary like when it produces a citation that literally doesn't exist, we're calling that a ‘hallucination’. And so, we're adding, you know, we're building our vocabulary to be able to describe what we're interacting with. We're also starting to see some limitations on what it can do. It's particularly bad at math and doing a few things in that regard. It's particularly good at programming and being able to do some even code debugging and editing, which you know has been an interesting insight that we haven't heard enough about. So much so that someone at ACM wrote an article recently that said, this is the end of programming, like ‘this is the most significant disruption I've seen in my career’, was basically the author's perspective on it. ACM is probably the top publication in the computer science field. So, it's not an insignificant statement. We're also seeing that there are some, a very fluid relationship to truth. In fact, it doesn't even care about truth, and there's no sense in which that's a priority for it, which makes for pretty interesting results and outputs. And so, it changes how we relate to information, ‘cause we've traditionally seen information as it's accurate information or it's not accurate. And we've been talking a lot about misinformation over the last few years. With the current version of ChatGPT, we're actually talking about complete ambivalence to truthfulness, like truth just isn't a part of a thing that it does, or it aspires to be.

DR: Yeah, I really loved recording that episode too and it was really interesting to use ChatGPT to write the introduction for the episode and to have a little bit of an interview with ChatGPT as well. I want to add that that is the first and only time we have ever done that for our podcast episodes. I’m sure it would have been really challenging to pick just one snippet from this episode to highlight today, but it really is a great one. Even though generative AI has continued to develop and evolve from this conversation we had back in March, so many things from this episode, and particularly this point from George about the limitations of ChatGPT, they’re very much still something educators are keeping front-of-mind and some are even exploring the limits of ChatGPT with their students explicitly, which is something that we covered in an article a little while ago. It’s all really, really interesting and still very relevant.

DR: My first pick is also one from earlier in the year – it’s from back in May and it’s Episode 82 in our Research Files series. Dr Anne Southall and Associate Professor Fiona Gardner from La Trobe University in Victoria joined us to talk the about the reflective circles education model they’ve developed for use in schools.

Essentially, it's an adaptation of a model that has been used in the allied health field, and in a school setting, it involves educators meeting with their peers twice a term to talk about situations they've found challenging at work.

I wanted to include this in our highlights episode because the insights they share from the trial they ran, shows just how much of a positive impact a model like this can have on a teacher's feeling of self-efficacy, which I think is especially important in the current context of teacher burnout.

This quote here is a great summary of why I liked this episode so much:

Fiona Gardner: And I would say that almost always at the end of the reflector circles that I do, somebody will make a comment about, ‘I feel so much better’. So, it's very interesting. I think it's partly around feeling less alone. I think there's quite a strong culture often in schools and in our society generally to say, ‘you should just manage, you should keep this to yourself. Don't tell people you're struggling. They'll think you're a failure’. Whereas this model is based on an expectation that everybody finds some things difficult in their workplace. Doesn't mean you're not a great teacher and a great worker. It's just normal for this to happen. So, people emphasise that a lot, how good it is to hear from other people that they're experiencing either a similar struggle or that they are having their own kind of struggle, you know, I think that's incredibly reinforcing.

JE: That was a great interview and 2 more excellent guests as well – just a note on that, all the guests that we’ve had this year have just been brilliant. On this episode, that idea that you feel less alone when there are challenging things at work, I think that’s something that I think will resonate with a lot of listeners. And, earlier in the episode Anne talks about ‘group wisdom’ they call it – so, in this case 6 educators sit in a circle and they kind of deconstruct and offer their own perspectives on what you’ve experienced, and then from there, you all start to think about ‘well, okay, if this happened again how would we prefer that it plays out?’. I think it was a really clear example of how talking to other people, sharing what you’re going through but also seeking a different perspective and kind of stepping back, how useful that is. So definitely worth a listen.

Okay then, we’ll be back with more from our highlights of the year after this quick message from our sponsor.

You’re listening to a podcast from Teacher magazine, supported by MacKillop Seasons, whose Seasons for Life project supports young people affected by suicide and other loss events throughout Australia. Free for Australian high schools and based on the strong evidence-base of the Seasons for Growth change, loss and grief education programs, the Seasons for Life project builds wellbeing, resilience, social and emotional coping skills, and strengthens supportive relationships.

JE: Welcome back to the podcast highlights. My second (well, technically third I guess, if you’re being picky) choice was my favourite podcast interview of the year. Astrophysicist Dr Kathryn Ross, who is an Associate Lecturer and Science Communicator at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research at Curtin University, joined me for an interview on some shocking results that had be throwing my arms around in despair during that podcast! So, after Kat found out that Marie Curie wasn’t even mentioned in the radioactivity section of a state Physics syllabus here in Australia, she set out to explore if the contributions of other women were being overlooked. The research team analysed 4 senior secondary science courses across all the states and territories and they found 145 unique scientists were mentioned – just one woman, Rosalind Franklin. So, I asked Kat if the research team were shocked at their own findings.

Kat Ross: I think yes and no. Part of the reason we even started doing this study is because the majority of us went through this system. We went through education in Australia, we studied this high school curriculum and we're all now working as researchers or studying doing our PhD's in science-related fields. So, I think it wasn't a surprise because we're all familiar with it, we all went through it. But just the extent to which it is so clearly biased, I think was what was shocking. In particular, the fact that Marie Curie isn't mentioned, despite the fact that every single state covers radioactivity, and she even coined the term ‘radioactive’. But she's not mentioned once anywhere in Australia. I think stats like that is what's really shocking to me, that it doesn't matter how remarkable the women are or how remarkable the work is, it's still underappreciated, it’s still under celebrated and it's not being taught to the same extent that men are being taught.

RV: This was such a wonderful episode, Jo, but it also made me incredibly sad. I still remember the first time I listened to it, and I must say I was truly shocked by the findings. I do have hope that through Kat’s incredible work in uncovering these findings, that we’re able to see some improvements in the way that women are represented across all the STEM subjects. I have hope!

JE: I have hope too!

RV: For my next highlight, Jo bent the rules so I am too. I’m going to say that the entire series was my highlight! That was the Teacher Staffroom podcasts. They’re short episodes (around 10 minutes) we record every month that look back at a particular theme to emerge from the past month’s content. For example this year we had an episode on teacher planning, another on diversity and inclusion and one on wellbeing and mental health. But what makes these episodes unique is we encourage listeners to pause the audio and gather some colleagues to think or discuss the questions that we pose throughout. These episodes are meant to support your professional learning and encourage you to read the research we discuss in our articles, and then look for ways to apply the evidence into your own school context. We often pull comments that readers have left on articles on the website and share them with listeners. And in 2024, we’re keen to have listeners even more involved so we’re going to be encouraging you to send in your voice notes and we’ll include them in the episodes as well. I’m really excited to see where we can take the series next year!

DR: Yeah, listeners will know that Rebecca and I alternate hosting this podcast series, so I'm really looking forward to next year, and yeah, do have a think about sending in your own voice notes – it’s something we’re really excited about. Those 3 topics that you mentioned just there from previous episodes we’ve done are a great reminder of topics that have been in focus for us during this year. Those 3 are also something that came up in our most recent reader survey as topics our audience enjoy reading about and something that they'd like us to continue to explore more in the future. So, we'll endeavour to keep focusing on the topics that are important to you, our audience, in our content throughout 2024. And of course, you can always let us know what you'd like us to cover in the future by reaching out to us via email. Our email is teachereditorial@acer.org

And so as I was looking back on this year and the issues that are important to our audience in order to help me pick my next highlight, I found it hard to go past highlighting Episode 84 in our Research Files series which delved into recent research on student views of vaping prevention. We all know this is a really new and complex issue, and I think this episode is a great summary of the current research and it also offers some really fascinating insights into the differing perspectives of parents, students and teachers on the topic.

We were really lucky to be joined by Professor Smita Shah OAM, Kym Rizzo Liu and Catriona Lockett, all from the PERU team (which stands for Prevention Education and Research Unit). They sit within the Western Sydney Local Health District’s Research Education Network and they have been looking into the issue of vaping through their ongoing research project, the Unpacking Vaping in Schools Project. The quote that I would like to highlight with listeners here is from Catriona, and it’s a great, concise summary of how differently school staff, students and parents are perceiving vaping.

Catriona Lockett: It's worth noting that there are differences in how staff and parents and students perceive and experience vaping. Staff and parents tended to view e-cigarettes as a safer alternative, whereas students focused more on the social normalisation of vaping, experiences of low confidence to refuse e-cigarettes from their peers, and something that really stood out, for us at least, was the use of e-cigarettes to cope with mental health issues. And when it comes to concerns and what each group was concerned about vaping, again we found important differences there. So, students were concerned about the misuse, addictiveness and gateway effect of e-cigarettes, and that it might lead to the uptake of more risk-taking behaviours. Staff are concerned about the education, learning and behaviour of students, and parents are concerned about their ability to have open and honest conversations with their children about vaping. So, as we can kind of see throughout the data, everyone's concerns and the information that they'd like to receive is really reflective of their role in the students’ lives.

JE: Yeah, vaping is such a big issue for schools at the moment, and I definitely can’t see that changing in 2024. Even just recently there have been announcements [about] limiting access to vaping. So, what’s interesting about this research project though I thought was the catalyst for it was principals from Western Sydney High Schools – they were concerned about an increase in student vaping. So, the project itself was born from that school leader voice, which is fantastic. And as Catriona spoke about in the clip there, an important part of the approach is trying to understand the different perspective of students, of teachers and parents as well. So, we’ll definitely return to this one down the track to give an update on the latest phase of the project – that will be the support and resources that have been made available, and of course the impact that it’s having on students.

So, sadly, that’s all though for our podcast highlights special of 2023. Thanks to all our guests and our sponsors, and of course to you, our listeners for all your support over the last 12 months and for being a part of the Teacher community. If you’re new to Teacher podcasts, or you just want to do some binge listening over the holidays, you can access our full archive, there are something like 300 episodes in there now – from the School Assembly series, Behaviour Management, School Improvement, The Research Files, Teaching Methods, Action Research, Global Education, and that monthly Teacher Staffroom catch up, and the special episodes as well that we do throughout the year. You just need to go to the podcast tab on teachermagazine.com or you can find us wherever you get your podcasts from. For now though, from everyone here on the Teacher team, we hope you have a wonderful holiday break.

You’ve been listening to a podcast from Teacher, supported by MacKillop Seasons, Seasons for Life, supporting schools and young people affected by suicide and other significant losses. Visit mackillopseasons.org.au.