Case Studies

The Higher Biology Podcast

The Higher Biology Podcast

Paul Downie

Key Facts

Created and hosted by Biology teacher Paul Downie (Faculty Head Science, Hyndland Secondary School in Glasgow), this podcast is the latest in a series of interviews with scientists, authors, filmmakers, broadcasters, journalists and politicians. The podcast not only provides invaluable depth and insight for students preparing for the SQA Higher Biology qualification, but also provides a fascinating insight into the world around us for anyone with an interest in living things.

How did the project develop

The podcast was created during the COVID 19 lockdown as a response to my own personal frustrations in trying to deliver a more engaging learning experience for young people at that time. Myself and my wife listen to a lot of podcasts and so I started wondering if it could be possible to produce something that would have educational value for young people to add depth to their learning. On further reflection, I felt that the Higher Biology course lends itself well to this format and so gave it a go! There was a lot of figuring things out and learning as I went initially - but that was quite good fun.

I have also felt in the past that young people have limited access to leading experts to enhance their learning and the podcast has provided a platform for some really remarkable people to assist young people in understanding the curriculum and its relevance. I think it can best be summed up in a quote from one of my own students ...."Sir, it was much more interesting than just listening to you talk."'

What have you gained from developing the project?

I have enjoyed the positive feedback from each episode, and it has really spurred me on to produce more. I guess it has given me the confidence to build on the initial pilot episode and think about interesting ways of bringing the curriculum to life for listeners. The listener numbers continue to grow into the thousands and I hope that the more teachers and schools become aware of it, the more they can begin to share episodes with as many young people as possible in the coming years across Scotland.

Outcomes and what pupils gained

The Higher Biology podcast gives young people, in Hyndland Secondary School, and beyond, access to experts from across the globe. An increasing number of Scottish schools are directing learners to listen to the podcasts. However, engagement has far surpassed original expectations with a growing number of listeners tuning in from 53 countries across the globe.

Through the podcast, learners benefit from input to the curriculum from leading experts including leading primatologist, Frans de Waal; David Attenborough's Principal Cameraman, Doug Allan; Chief Veterinary Officer,Sheila Voas; Scotland's first black professor, Sir Geoff Palmer; round the world-cyclist, Mark Beaumont; and authorJonathan Drori, amongst others.

Prof Jason Leitch has also appeared on the Podcast twice sharing his own journey from Airdrie Academy to becoming the National Clinical Director, but more importantly providing young people and teachers with updates on COVID restrictions and the impact on schools including what a move to Tier 4 might mean for schools and how confident he is that Higher examinations will take place in 2021.

Sustainability

Yes, I think this will be a resource that will benefit young people for years to come and can be easily updated to cover topical, curriculum linked science stories or any future changes to course content.

Cost

The podcast is produced fully by myself. This involves recording, editing and publishing as well as hosting the podcast too. This involves a time factor which although was supported initially with the remaining STEM grant, is something that I am actively seeking further support in covering. The podcast is recorded using my home computer and Leckie Scotland were supportive in ensuring that this was suitable while also covering some of the associated costs of publishing the podcast to mainstream platforms.

Partners

The Podcast is sponsored by Leckie Scotland, who were very supportive from the initial pilot episode. The Podcast received a small amount of financial support supported through Education Scotland's STEM Grants programme in 2019/20 left over from another project. In the initial phase of funding I delivered a Cell Biology, Anatomy and Cancer themed event across twelve schools in partnership with the National Cancer Research Institute. The Institute was holding a major conference in Glasgow in 2019,which I sat on the organising committee for their Schools' Event held at the SECC. Following the closure of schools during COVID lockdown, Education Scotland provided flexibility for the remaining funds to be used to support the creation and development of the podcast. The podcast has also formed a partnership with Young Scot following a special episode on Coronavirus and face coverings in schools with Prof Jason Leitch. Young people receive 100 Young Scot points for every episode they listen to.

Advice For Practitioners

I think my main advice for practitioners thinking about organising something similar for other curricular areas is to simply give it a go. If you are passionate about your subject, and you want to share that passion with others then podcasting is definitely an effective way of doing that although there are other ways of doing this and there are lots of examples of colleagues across Scotland producing material on YouTube and other platforms.

Additional Information

You can listen to The Higher Biology Podcast on all mainstream podcast providers.

You can follow on Twitter for updates about new episodes and more - @BiologyHigher

Contact

Paul Downie

Links

https://thehigherbiologypodcast.buzzsprout.com/

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