Ed Tech Vox Populi

6 min read

Here’s what I am working on.

A serialized audio version of Martin Wellers’ book 25 Years of Ed Tech featuring volunteer contributions from 25 different people in education, edtech, open education.

Martin doesn’t know this, but he planted the seeds of this project with me long before he published the book. Each year, Martin writes a blog post recapping the books he reads and I have always been in awe of his prodigious annual book consumption; 93+ last year! I am lucky if I get through 2.

I asked Martin how he managed to do this. His secret? Audiobooks. So on his recommendation, I decided to give the format a try and discovered 3 things;

  1. It makes a big difference in how quickly I can get through a book. I am still nowhere near 100 like Martin, but am seeing a big uptick in the amount of reading I am doing.
  2. I really enjoy the format. I mean, the full cast version of American Gods by Neil Gaiman? Epic. Many of you know I used to have a radio career so have an affinity for audio, despite getting burned out by doing it for a living. Honestly, the old “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” axiom doesn’t really fly with me. But….well, another post.
  3. It has really expanded the physical spaces I read/listen in. Run on the treadmill? In goes the audiobook. Walk Tanner? In goes an audiobook. No longer is my book reading limited to the 5 minutes in bed before I fall assleep, which used to be the case.

Thanks to Martin, I’m hooked and a fan of the format now, too.

So, when his book was nearing the final stages of being (openly) published by Athabasca Press, I thought, “Well, for the huge fan of audiobooks that Martin is, his own book isn’t available as an audiobook. That’s a shame.”

Wait a sec. I have a radio background. I’ve done audio work before. I wonder how much work it would be to do an audiobook version of it? Hmmmm…..

Light. Bulb.

I emailed Martin and said, “Hey, I have an idea….” To which he immediately sent me a PDF advanced copy of the book so I could test out how much effort might be involved with creating an audio version of the book.

But then I thought, “You know, I am not the only person with audio experience in my network. There are a ton of wonderful educators who do podcasts. I wonder if they might want to participate?”

So I started sending out some exploratory messages to people in my network whom I thought might be interested in taking part. And before I knew it, I had 25 people lined up each to read a chapter. I am sure I could have easily got 25 more to participate with the enthusiastic response I had (and I am sorry to the dozens of other people whom I had on my list to contact, but ran out of chapters).

I was also trying to be mindful of ensuring that we had a diversity of voices participating. And by voices, I mean that in the literal sense of the word as the overall narrative voice is, of course, Martin’s. It is his book and these are his words, which makes it an odd sort of thing when you are asking people to read someone else’s words in something so intimate as their own voice.

Maha Bali was the first to notice this. Shortly after she test read her chapter she emailed to tell me that she felt the urge to want to comment on the contents of her chapter. However, we are adhering closely to the No Derivatives restriction on the book (more on this in a moment), so our readings need to be word for word of the original. But it was Maha who first tossed out the idea that maybe there could be some way to have a discussion about each chapter that was separate from the audio version of the book.

And into the project comes Laura

Laura Pasquini was also someone I had asked to participate, knowing that she was an active podcaster. She picked up on Maha’s comments.

“Hey Clint. What do you think about doing a podcast that is kind of like a book club where we could invite people to discuss the chapters? Oh, and by the way, I have a pro account for Transistor and I would be happy to host the podcast and can take care of setting up all the feeds and such for syndication.”

Um….yes please!

So the plan is to release the book as a serialized podcast with one chapter released every Monday read by a different volunteer narrator and then release a second podcast on Thursday which is the discussion of the chapter. I am gathering the book chapters and Laura is producing the supplemental podcast. Both will be pushed out on the same feed. It will soon be available via the podcast tool of your choice, but for now, if you know how to manually set up a podcast subscription you can use this RSS feed.

Open Win

I alluded to the copyright license earlier, but want to hit on it here explicitly as the open license that Martin and Athabasca Press have released his book under (CC-BY-NC-ND) plays an incredibly important role in making a project like this possible, and the possibility lies in a nuanced detail of the Creative Commons license that may not be obvious when you see a -ND restriction.

At first blush, many might think that the -ND clause would restrict this type of activity from happening. However, what we are doing in this project is something called format-shifting – moving from print to audio, one format to another. We are being very careful not to alter the actual words in the book which would then start to veer into adaptation/derivative territory.

But format-shifting is allowed even with an -ND license. All Creative Commons licenses allow format-shifting. So while it may seem like the -ND is restrictive, it is still flexible enough to allow us to redo the book in audio form and redistribute as a weekly podcast without having to ask for permission ahead of time*, which illustrates the value that ANY CC license can bring to a piece of content vs. an All Rights Reserved copyright.

I should also note that the artwork we are using by Bryan Mathers is also CC licensed, as is the bg music for the podcast. Open wins all around.

The launch date is November 4th and you can see a full list of all the wonderful people who are participating on the podcast website. Martin has also written about the project.

* side note: even though CC licenses don’t require asking for permission, I do like to keep people in the loop when their stuff is involved and I have been in regular contact with Athabasca Press & Martin and they have been very supportive.


Christina Hendricks October 8, 2020

Wow, what a fantastic thing! I have also developed a habit of listening to many books rather than reading in print, and what you have written about doing so resonates with me…I walk a lot, and I really enjoy listening to audio books while doing so. I am excited to listen to these chapters and the podcasts. Thank you to you and everyone involved!

Clint Lalonde October 9, 2020

Thanks Christina. It has been a very fun project to work on. The audiobooks have been a game changer for me, especially with fiction books. And have been a bit of a motivator on those days when i can’t seem to drag myself out of the house for a walk without some kind of motivator.

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