Joe Houghton

Assistant Professor, UCD Smurfit Graduate School of Business

During my Fellowship, I set out to explore how to connect educators across schools and disciplines as a way to enable innovative and creative approaches to learning.

The experience of completing the Professional Diploma in Creativity and Innovation for Education at the Innovation Academy had opened my eyes to the possibilities of learning from others in different types of education, from primary and secondary, tertiary and also wider adult education. I wanted to follow this idea further and see where it might lead, opening a door and stepping through without really knowing what my destination was going to be.  I hoped that exposure to new ideas, hearing how other educators practice their craft and interact with their students might inform my own practice and stimulate ideas for positive change in my delivery, teaching and approach to programme design.

Creating a podcast surfaced as a potential vehicle for this investigation early in my planning process.  Podcasts are an increasingly popular mode of content consumption for many people, students included, and I saw an opportunity to gain some technical skills as well as connecting with inspirational educators from different fields and parts of the world.  It had always been a medium that I had wanted to explore, but the Fellowship gave me the confidence to jump in and try it, to experiment and let the idea develop and mature.  

My early podcasts were with educators I already knew from the Innovation Academy which made the first episodes a “safe space” for me to figure out what worked and what didn’t.  In studying Universal Design for Learning (UDL), a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn, I had learned about plus one. Plus One is a concept in UDL that simply says – just make one positive change at a time to improve your teaching. In a nod to this, I named my podcast the Plus One Podcast

I created a website for the project, Plus One Teaching, which shows outcomes, a poster presentation I did at the Sligo UDL conference in May 2021 and other linked materials.  

“The space to think, try new things and just see what developed has been a valuable and welcome creative oasis.”

In common with several other Fellows, the work I began during my Fellowship is continuing on past the confines of the semester.  I have released 20 episodes of my podcast so far, with half a dozen more recorded and scheduled for release, and more educators on the list to be interviewed.  It’s becoming an ever expanding network of referrals as each person I interview suggests new names for me to talk to. There have been over 1,100 downloads of episodes to date from more than 15 countries.  In best UDL fashion, each episode is offered in audio and video formats.

In the past month I’ve delivered a seminar for EPALE (Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe) on “Podcasting for Teachers”, and this has also been requested as a Masterclass by the Institute of Management Consultants and Advisors, and also by AONTAS, the Irish National Adult Learning Organisation.

I am turning the first season of episodes into a book on inspirational educators and what other educators can learn from them; Plus One Teaching will be released in 2022. I have formed a collaboration with Florida International University which should see my students collaborating on an international project with students from another university, and have also begun work on improving my measures of student outcomes working with Prof. Jackie Carter at Manchester University who kindly shared her process with me following her podcast interview.

Overall, the space to think, try new things and just see what developed has been a valuable and welcome creative oasis.  Convene is sowing seeds which will grow and flourish for years to come, in many unexpected and unforeseen ways.

Joe Houghton was one of 11 Convene Innovation Fellows to participate in the inaugural Convene Fellowship in 2021 at UCD Innovation Academy. Convene is a collaboration between UCD Innovation Academy and TU Dublin funded under Human Capital Initiative Pillar III. HCI seeks, among other aims, to promote innovative methods of teaching and delivery.