Stephen Hurley is one of the reasons why I love Twitter and the concept of creating a Personal Learning Network. I’ve learned so much from him, I’ve driven by his community so many times, and yet we’ve never met face to face. Yet, I feel like I know him so well.
Stephen is an educator, creator, and above all a thinker whose work and efforts have really pushed my thinking for so long. For that, I’m so grateful.
Doug: We’ve certainly never met face to face but we’ve been connected for so long. Do you recall when our paths first crossed online?
Stephen: It has seemed like close to forever! I believe that we first encountered each other virtually when I began my journey into Internet broadcasting through #ds106radio. That would have been after the very first Unplugged gathering that Rodd Lucier et al convened at the Northern Edge of Algonquin Park. That event led me to Andy Forgrave and so many others.
Doug: One of the areas where you’ve pushed me is in using more than blogs and text has been in the area of multimedia, specifically audio. This certainly has ties to your years in the classroom. Can you share a bit of your background?
Stephen: You know how to get me talking! I realized that I wanted a career in radio when I was in grade 4. It was the mid-60’s, just after the release of the Hall-Dennis Report here in Ontario. Things were changing. I was in an open concept classroom that year and the teacher recognized something about me that led her to hand me a microphone and cassette tape recorder. I recall being allowed to sit in an area of the classroom for hours at a time (well, it seemed like hours) creating my own “broadcasts”. My bedroom at home became my studio. Radio Shack eventually became a second church and I spent years nurturing an appreciation for the sound of the human voice (not just my own). In high school, I listened to talk radio, applied to become a summer reporter with CFRB and wanted desperately to go to Ryerson for Radio and Television Arts (I still long to enrol in that program). At the time, Ryerson was a Polytechnic Institute, and my parents wouldn’t have anything to do with the idea. This, of course, made my passion for this stuff even stronger.
When I finally began a career in education, the love of audio continued to influence how I taught, and how I spent my time preparing for lessons. I used to spend hours during the year and entire days during the summer months at our District AV/Tech facility, looking for multi-media resources, using their technology to create my own resources and imagining how sound, music and video could be combined to create powerful learning experiences. My assignments and projects would always include a multi-media option and I was always excited when students got excited about exploring the tools and technology available to them for creation.
My love and appreciation for media and, in particular, radio has only become stronger and I’m excited that, today, students and teachers have so many more ways to bring a sense of voice to their work!
Doug: You’re very active with the Canadian Education Association. Can you give us an example of some of the things that you contribute there?
Stephen: I encountered the CEA for the first time when I attended one of their annual symposia in Montreal back at the turn of the century. I knew immediately that this was an organization that I wanted to work with at some point in my career, but it wasn’t until a few years later that the opportunity presented itself. I started blogging for Edutopia in 2008 and it was through that work that Max Cooke, communication director for the CEA got in touch with me to do some writing for their magazine, Education Canada. I took that as an opportunity to reconnect with the organization and submitted a proposal to begin a series of podcasts under the banner, Teaching Out Loud. The idea was to raise the voices and stories of educators right across the country. Well, one thing led to another, and I soon found myself working with the CEA on some fairly robust research and facilitation pieces, including Teaching the Way You Aspire to Teach; The Challenge to Change and, most recently, the EdCan Network Regional Exchanges. Each of these projects has allowed me to move across the country and talk to education shareholders at various levels, listening to their aspirational stories and, in a very real sense, help the organization keep its ear to the ground across the country.
Doug: What prompted you to take the leap into voiceEd Radio?
Stephen: Leap is the right word to use. It’s a great description for most things that I do. Sometimes I make it across the moat, and sometimes I don’t! Back in December, I was reading The Age of Discovery by Chris Kutarna. It’s all about how we’re living in a period of Renaissance and there was one line, in particular, that caught my attention and imagination. It had to do with the idea that, in a period of renaissance, the lines between creator and consumer are blurred. Internet radio is one way that the lines between listener and broadcaster have been blurred.
I thought of my foray into the world of Internet Radio a few years ago with #ds106radio.
Something clicked and I quickly began to connect some possibilities.
5 years ago, I started voicEd.ca—a multi-author blogspace dedicated to deepening and broadening some of the conversations that we have about education. It wasn’t a great leap to begin to imagine how that writing space could be transformed by the addition of a radio space.
Within 24 hours, I found myself owning a radio station!
Doug: I was pleased when you asked me to do a regular bit on there and talk about some of the blog posts that I feature on my regular Friday “This Week in Ontario Edublogs”. What made you think of inviting me?
Stephen: That was easy! I had been reading your This Week in Ontario Edublogs feature for a long time and, as I tried to imagine the type of content that we could bring to life on voicEd Radio, you were one of the first people that came to mind. Why couldn’t we use the radio to deepen the story around your featured blogs, their impact and the people behind them. We’ve never met face-to-face, but the weekly conversation make it seem like we’ve known each other for a long time.
Doug: I recall my first attempt at getting connected; I needed to really think about the gear on my end. I had the wrong browser, a microphone that didn’t give the results that you wanted, a reminder to close the door and keep external noises out, and so more including turning the fan off on hot summer days. Now that we have a routine, it’s pretty simple. Just the correct browser and my noise cancelling headphones and I’m good to go. But, things are far more sophisticated on your end. Can you share what’s in your studio to make it work?
Stephen: I broadcast from “the cave” in Milton and it is pretty simple. I have an iMac computer with a 27” screen. That gives me enough visual real estate to keep everything in front of me from a software perpsective.
I also have a PreSonus Firepod that allows me to plug in up to 8 mics. This connects to a simple piece of software called NiceCast. That drives the live broadcasts.
In terms of gathering guests in the room, I use Zencastr as a type of virtual “kitchen table”.
In the next couple of weeks, I’m going to integrate my electronic music software into the mix in order to create some original intro and outro music for broadcasts.
I’m just starting to gather the resources to allow voicEd Radio to head out on the road. At the beginning of November, we’ll be broadcasting live from 3 separate events, and we’re pretty excited about that!
Doug: The results certainly are very professional and I enjoy digging into the archived programs available on the voiceEd site. As I write this, I’m listening to your interview with Paul McGuire. We’ve chatted and you indicate that this is a personal project of yours. All of the setup is totally funded by you?
Stephen: voicEd Radio is a non-commerical/non-monetized project. Currently, it’s completely self-funded. I’m spending the first year playing with concepts and ideas in an effort to create a sense of value in the community. After our first year anniversary, I will begin looking for alternative structures, some funding models and some governance structures that work for us.
I’m actually looking for folks that might have some interest in helping me imagine how BlockChain technology might allow us to create a different metaphor for funding and value.
Doug: So, it’s a project that’s just gone wild! I do recall a conversation that we had once about the music on voiceEd. Many, including me, might guess that you just take license with YouTube but you go the whole distance with licensing. Can you tell us how and why it’s so important to you?
Stephen: I believe in attribution, but I also believe in making sure that I’m contributing to the livelihood of those artists whose work we use. My work on the Board of Directors for Access Copyright has attuned me to some of the copyright issues that are “out there” in the content ecosystem. It’s very important to me that I’m respecting those conversations, as well as the laws currently in place.
From the very start, we’ve had a non-interactive music license with SOCAN. Under our license, 80% of our station content can be music. We play very little music, with the exception of the work of some education-related singer/songwriters. But we also use music clips for intros and outros.
I’m not sure whether we’re in full compliance, but I’m working to explore with SOCAN what all of this means for us and our podcasters/broadcasters.
Doug: Recently, in looking for new blog posts, I fell into the blog area on voiceEd Radio and recognized some of the names there and found a few new names. What does it take to become a voiceEd Radio blogger?
Stephen: Simply a desire to share your thoughts and ideas in a respectful way. Currently we have contributions from some of our radio personalities, and some folks who would just like to write. I’m working on nurturing the blogging side of things in the months to come.
Doug: You even now have a Community Manager. Can you tell us about her and what her duties are?
Stephen: So, Sarah Lalonde is in the second year of her teacher preparation program at the University of Ottawa. She has been involved with voicEd Radio right from the start and has been instrumental in supporting its development.
Sarah has enthusiastically agreed to be our Community Manager. Sarah has embraced our social media presence, creating promotional materials for a variety of platforms, ensuring that social media announcements are up-to-date and helping me program the live stream each day. She is also a great sounding board for some of the crazy ideas that I sometimes have!
But Sarah is also a wonderful contributor to the voicEd community. She hosts her own podcast, is an active participant in others and is a great advocate for voicEd Radio.
Doug: voiceEd Radio continues to grow and you’ve given us an indication that it will expand again in November. What should be on our radar?
Stephen: As I’m writing this, we have so many exciting projects coming on to voicEd Radio. We have a 4-week series coming up with writer Ann Douglas, a six-week series with an Australian-born parent, Lois Letchford. We’re working with the Ontario Ministry of Education to launch season two of our mathematics exploration with Cathy Fosnot. Nancy Angevine-Sands is coming on to do some work on Parent Engagement and, in November, we’re launching the voicEd Radio Mobile—live broadcasting from events around the province and, eventually, around the world.
But those initiatives don’t tell the whole story. What started as a personal project has turned into a community and voicEd Radio is taking on a life of its own. It’s quickly becoming the open-space environment that I hoped it would become. And, as that happens, my name will fade a little more into the background and others will begin to emerge!
Doug: I am excited that we will actually meet. Plans are for us to do an episode of This Week in Ontario Edublogs live at the Minds on Media event at the Bring IT, Together Conference. It’s one thing to use your home studio but how will you take all this “on the road:?
Stephen: So, we’re looking to use the sound facilities already in place at conferences in events. A small USB interface will allow us to take sound right from the mixing board and feed it into a laptop computer. Then, hopefully, we have a live broadcast. I’m excited to explore, take some video of the process and share that with others.
My dream is to create a cadre of people across the country who would be available to do similar things at events in their areas. If I’m able to get some funding for this, we’ll be able to provide some of that equipment for people.
Doug: Recently, you had a Radio-a-thon at Voiced Radio. What was the inspiration for this? How did it go?
Stephen: Ah, 15 hours straight of live radio. What could be better? This was one of those ideas that came up in conversation over the summer. Several of us were thinking about back-to-school and how we might leverage the excitement of this time of the year to gain some traction for voicEd Radio. We actually had to expand our original plan for 12 hours as the requests to participate kept coming in! So, we began at 9:00 am and held the stream for 15 straight hours. It really solidified the community feel for this place, and we look forward to having more of these events in the future.
Doug: Even though you’ve left formal education, family life keeps you well grounded in the day to day education routine. Here’s a chance to brag about your family that you bring into our show regularly.
Stephen: It is a real gift for me to remain connected to the education system through my two boys, Luke and Liam. They are so different in the way that they approach the world that they’re allowing me to see their school experience from two totally different perspectives. Liam has a really vivid imagination and plans each and every day in his head before it even begins. Luke, on the other hand, is a puzzler—he loves codes, puzzles, intellectual challenges and the like. Both of the boys push the capacity of the system in different ways and it has been interesting to watch them grow from children into students. My wife, Zoe, is a middle school visual arts teacher and allows me to stay connected with the day-to-day life a practicing teacher. I love to think at the 30 000 foot level. My family keeps me close to the ground for at least a few hours a day.
Doug: Do you see a time where voiceEd radio gets too big for you and your Community Manager to manage? What happens then?
Stephen: That’s already started to happen. So, I’m starting to rely more on the community to offer ideas, advice and support. We’re just about to launch a request for voicEd Radio folks to contribute to a series of online tutorials under the “PodCamp” banner. We want to be able to gather together to support people that may want to become part of our radio team, but may be reluctant. Technical support, interviewing skills, bringing ideas to life, etc—these will all be part of what we hope will be a dynamic and vivid set of resources!
I’m also on the lookout for an effective way to grow the infrastructure, so that it continues to draw educators, parents, researchers and community members to this space. Lots of work to do, and lots of thinking to do. But I believe that we’re off to a great start!
Doug: Thank you so much for taking the time to share these details with folks, Stephen. I really appreciate it and I hope that people take the time to listen and perhaps even get involved with voiceEd Radio.
Stephen: I appreciate the opportunity to think out loud about all of this. I would encourage people who want to know more, or who have specific ideas about how they might become involved to reach out. Our tagline at voicEd Radio is: Your voice is RIGHT here!
You can connect with Stephen in these ways: