Using Slack & Trello to Organize a Podcasting Series About Literacy Education & Research
Over the last couple of years I’ve been working with a great series of colleagues in literacy research and education to develop a podcasting series. In the Research to Practice (R2P) series of shows (available on the YouTube channel for now), we bring on literacy scholars and classroom teachers/students to discuss current research in the field…identify meaningful ways to make this happen in the classroom. We’re trying to use online video and audio, commonly referred to as podcasts or netcasts to bridge the gap between research and pedagogy.
One of the challenges in organizing and running a monthly podcast series is the amount of emails. Emails come and go. Emails are sent out to invite guests on the show. Emails are sent out to the six or seven of us that produce and host the series of shows. For an average show we regularly have about 15 to 20 emails to get everyone on the same page. This is a nightmare. What is even more problematic is that people outside of the show are wondering what is happening (or what has happened) on the shows. This lack of transparency is also a big problem.
To address these challenges, we built up a system using Slack and Trello to organize and communicate.
Slack is a messaging platform for teams. I built up a Slack channel for some of my colleagues and friends that I’ve worked with over the years to give us a private place online to chat. I wanted a place that I could use to pick their brains, share drafts of publications, and generally goof-off without being judged by others. Additionally, these are all people that I have emailed with in the past, SMS texted, or communicated via Hangouts. Basically I created a semi-private room where we could all chat.
In Slack we can privately direct message one another. We can have a general feed for individual discussions. We can also share files (e.g., Google Drive, Dropbox). We can share GIFs to crack each other up. Finally, we connect it to Trello to keep ourselves organized.
Slack works on mobile, tablets, PC, and Mac. Individuals can modify their email notifications and tune in our out depending on how busy they get.
Trello is a free project management tool that makes collaboration easy and perhaps even fun. I first heard about Trello from Doug Belshaw, and even earned a couple of badges for my work with Trello. You can learn more about my work with Trello here and here. In my mind, Trello is a digital equivalent of a bulletin board with post-it notes. We set up our Trello board for the R2P show to be viewable by the public, but only members can edit.
On the R2P Trello board, we have five columns.
- UNTOUCHED — This is where we first list all of the publications and potential guests for upcoming shows. The publications and authors come from pieces accepted in the Literacy Research: Theory, Method, and Practice journal.
- WORKING — A we contact authors and invite them on the show, we move their card over to the right into this column. This basically means that we’ve started communication with them at some point. We may (or may not have received a response at this point. For our purposes it doesn’t really matter. We leave a comment on the back of the card indicating when I tried to contact them…and what response we received. Any communication with the authors is copy/pasted on the back of the card as a comment.
- CURRENT — When we identify a date and time for the show, we move the card to this column. At this point we also assign a “due date” for the show, and assign it to specific members of the Trello board. This basically ensures that they know it’s their show to host or produce.
- DONE — When we’ve completed a show, we add a link to the final video and any others materials to this column as an archive.
- TASKS FOR EACH SHOW — This column is basically a place holder to remind ourselves of what needs to be completed for each episode.
An example of the back of one of the cards for the show is embedded below.
Our Trello board is integrated into the Slack channel for the R2P episodes. This means that as something changes on Trello…it’ll show up in that feed on the Slack channel. An example of this is viewable below.
Using Slack as an alternative to chats, Hangouts, and emails provides a way for us to stay in touch as a loose team without burdening our email inboxes. Trello allows us to have a virtual “white board” that we can use to stay organized as we plan. Trello provides the extra functionality of being public to allow anyone to view what we’re up to as we’re planning. Finally…bringing these two together allows us to stay in touch as we organize this initiative.