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Celebrating 100 Episodes of the Leading Lines Podcast

Posted by on Tuesday, November 30, 2021 in News.

by Derek Bruff, executive director

Five years ago, I pitched the idea of a podcast about educational technology to a group of colleagues at Vanderbilt. I had been thinking about this idea for a while, interviewing faculty and others at Vanderbilt and elsewhere who were using technology creatively and effectively to enhance student learning. I even had a list of ten or so people I hoped to interview for the podcast. But I wasn’t sure how I could produce such a podcast by myself. I could probably learn what I needed to make a basic podcast, but conducting interviews, scripting introductions, editing audio, all that would take a lot of time. This was a project that would go better as a team effort, and fortunately my pitch was warmly received by my colleagues. After a few months of planning and preparing and interviewing, the podcast Leading Lines was born!

We posted our first episode, an interview with George Siemens, in July 2016. If you pull up that episode page on the Leading Lines website, you’ll see we labeled that episode with a 001. I remember thinking that we might hit triple digits sometime far in the future, so we might as well use a file naming convention we could stick with for a long time. It was hard to believe at the time, when we were wondering how we would find enough interviews to finish our first season, that we would ever reach episode 100, but as of this month, we finally reached that milestone. We posted episode 100, featuring an interview with Vanderbilt alumna Zoe LeBlanc, on November 15th.

In Leading Lines, we explore creative, intentional, and effective uses of technology to enhance student learning, uses that point the way to the future of educational technology in college and university settings. Through interviews with educators, researchers, technologists, and others, we hope to amplify ideas and voices that are (or should be!) shaping how we think about digital learning and digital pedagogy. In art, leading lines are visual elements in a drawing, painting, or photograph that guide the viewer’s eyes into the scene. I hope that the interviews we share on the podcast lead our listeners through the educational technology landscape, helping them understand what’s happening now and pointing the way to what should happen in the future.

We’ve covered many different elements of the educational technology landscape, from digital literacy to active learning classrooms to massive open online courses to teaching with games. We’ve had so many great guests that there’s no way I can pick favorites, but I did want to share a few episodes that stood out to me as particularly insightful, at least to me and my explorations of educational technology.

  • Episode 54: Mike Caulfield – Mike’s interview was the first time I heard that some of the traditional ways of teaching digital literacy weren’t holding up in the current era of fake news. Luckily, Mike shared a number of great strategies for helping students re-think how they make sense of information they encounter on the web.
  • Episode 61: Randall Bass – Randy was on that short list of potential guests I had in my head way back in 2016, and we finally had him on the podcast in 2019. Randy is such a creative thinker and gifted communicator, and his interview is full of bold ideas for helping higher education meet its aspirational goals of meaningful student learning for all.
  • Episode 62: Chris Gilliard – I had been following Chris on Twitter (where he’s known as @hypervisible) for some time, and I knew I wanted to bring his critical perspectives on educational technology to the podcast audience. He didn’t disappoint, and he helped me think about the unintended consequences of digital technology use for students of color and first-gen students.
  • Episode 77: Robin DeRosa and Martha Burtis – In 2020, we used Leading Lines to explore the impact of higher ed’s pivot to remote teaching and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Robin and Martha described the challenges our students faced during remote learning in such compelling ways that I added this episode to the syllabus of the CFT’s online course design institute.
  • Episode 90: Betsey Barre and Karen Costa – We talked with Betsey and Karen about the workload dilemma that emerged in the fall of 2020. Faculty, mindful of the challenges of learning during a pandemic, were cutting back on course assignments, yet students experienced that semester as more work than usual. Betsy and Karen had so many useful insights into this seeming paradox.

These five episodes and the other 95 wouldn’t have happened with that team I mentioned above. I would like to use this anniversary moment to acknowledge all the many Vanderbilt colleagues who have helped make Leading Lines possible.

  • Thank you to Rhett McDaniel, assistant director for digital media at the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching and our longtime podcast editor. There’s no way Leading Lines would exist without Rhett’s hard work, and we certainly wouldn’t sound this good without his expertise.
  • Thanks to John Sloop, one of our original producers who was, at the time, Vanderbilt’s associate provost for digital learning. John had also been thinking about making a podcast as part of his portfolio, so when I threw the idea out, he was immediately, 100% supportive. I’ve found John is always 100% at whatever he does, and I’m grateful for all the energy he brought to the team in our early years.
  • Thanks also to all the producers we’ve had over the years: Cliff Anderson and Melissa Mallon from the Vanderbilt Libraries, Stacey Johnson and Julaine Fowlin from the Center for Teaching, and Gayathri Narasimham and Ole Molvig from the Vanderbilt Institute for Digital Learning. Their efforts to find and interview fascinating guests doing interesting work in educational technology has enable the “big tent” approach we take to the topic here on Leading Lines.
  • And thanks to our guest interviewers Alex Oxner, Paula Andrade, Derek Price, and Thayer Walmsley who brought us great guests we wouldn’t have featured otherwise!

I’m also extraordinarily grateful to all our listeners, both new and old. Leading Lines would be a productive experiment for us, even if we didn’t have any listeners, since it gives us an excuse to reach out to people and learn about the great work they’re doing in educational technology. But knowing there are hundreds of you out there who listen and even listen regularly, well, it’s an honor to produce a podcast you find useful.


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