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‘Ed Talk with Dr. Bob Bravo’ explores innovative teaching at LAUSD

Craig Clough | March 30, 2015

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ESC South Area Superintendent Robert Bravo (L) conducts his weekly podcast

ESC South Area Superintendent Robert Bravo (L) conducts his weekly podcast

With 154 schools under his supervision, Robert Bravo can never be in as many places as he wants or talk to as many educators as he’d like.

But every Thursday, Bravo reaches hundreds of teachers and principals from around the district, and even some from as far away as Pakistan and Russia, with his weekly podcast, “Ed Talk with Dr. Bob Bravo.”

The podcast is part of Bravo’s weekly ESC South Weekly Planet newsletter and is unique to LA Unified. There is no other podcast or anything like it anywhere else in the district.

“I decided to start the podcast because I can’t have a personal conversation with everybody, but I wanted to have some conversations that maybe would say something about my aspirations for everybody,” Bravo told LA School Report.

A typical podcast features Bravo’s interviewing an LAUSD educator doing some unique or celebrated teaching or an outside expert brought to the district for staff development.

“I do feel like I’m an instructional focused practitioner,” Bravo said. “The term ‘educator’ is a really big umbrella. Within that umbrella some folks tend to be really into budgets, or some of us are into policy, or operations, you know, ‘Is the bus coming on time?” that kind of thing. And I think I tend to focus on instruction itself, the process of teaching and learning. And so I have learned things about my own schools through doing [the podcast].”

In the most recent offering of the podcast, Bravo sat down with Donn Cottom, an English and journalism teacher at South East High School in South Gate, and five of his students. Cottom is also the advisor to the school’s newspaper, the award-winning Jaguar Times, and all five of the students work on the paper.

Bravo helped Cottom explain how his demanding editing methods, in which he sends students back to do rewrites on their stories multiple times, has become a key to the paper’s success. The students repeatedly referred to the tough process he puts them through, and it seems to be working: a number of Cottom’s students recently won awards at the Southern California Journalism Education Association regionals.

“We can talk about riding a bike a lot. We can lecture on it, we can look at all the mechanics of it, we can look at how it works, but there is nothing about like learning how to ride a bike until you ride that bike, until you get on it and actually do it,” Cottom said on the podcast. “I feel that the best way our students learn journalism is by doing journalism.”

The interview took place in Cottom’s classroom, as the podcast is mobile, and Bravo goes where the story is, along with the Rudy Rizo, the podcast’s technician and an instructional technology specialist with ESC-South. Bravo looks for stories that would have value to educators in the district and beyond.

“There are so many stories you could possibly tell, it is not meant to be a counter to anything,” Bravo said. “I don’t do it because I’m trying to counter negative stories from the news media. It really is meant for principals and teachers to get a sense of, what are the expectations? What are we supposed to be doing, or what does good look like?”

Bravo also said a reason for the podcast was to learn something new himself, and show students and teachers that the desire to learn more should never end.

“I wanted to show that we are all still learners. We didn’t grow up with Twitter, we didn’t grow up with podcasting, but we can try,” he said.

Bravo said he gets an average of 300 or so downloads per podcast, but he hopes the audience will grow. He said he hasn’t found any other podcast quite like it — not just in the district but anywhere — with a hyper-focus on K-12 instruction techniques.

“Rudy says we’ve gotten downloads from other parts of the country and places like Pakistan, Ghana, France, Russia, Argentina,” he said. “I’m like, ‘If I was a French guy, why would I look at this?’ But I don’t see anything else like it.”

Bravo posts a new podcast every Thursday during the academic year. Click here to subscribe.

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