Welcome to Episode 116 of the Think UDL podcast: The UDL Gears with Loui Lord Nelson. Loui Lord Nelson is an author, leader, consultant, and educator in Universal Design for Learning in a global context. She is also my esteemed friend and colleague as well as the host of two podcasts on UDL, UDL in 15 minutes and UDL Research in 15 minutes, both of which cover a multitude of subjects focussing on UDL around the world mostly but not entirely focussed on K-12 . Together we cover a lot of UDL ground and I am so happy to have her on the Think UDL podcast today! In this episode we discuss a fabulous new resource Loui has created to help all of us understand and implement Universal Design for Learning a little better called the UDL gears. Through this tool, Loui has created an accessible visual representation of the mindsets, skills, and practices of UDL practitioners. And in this conversation we discuss how these three things are related and how we can dig a little deeper into them together. You’ll find a link to the UDL gears and some supporting materials on the resources page for this episode on the ThinkUDL.org website.
Listen to her podcasts at The UDL Approach Podcasts
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Lillian Nave, Loui Lord Nelson
Lillian Nave 00:02
Welcome to think UDL, the universal design for learning podcast where we hear from the people who are designing and implementing strategies with learner variability in mind. I’m your host, Lillian nave. And I’m interested in not just what you’re teaching, learning, guiding and facilitating, but how you design and implement it and why it even matters. Welcome to Episode 116 of the think UDL podcast, the UDL gears with Loui Lord Nelson. Loui Lord Nelson is an author, leader, consultant and educator in Universal Design for Learning in a global context. She’s also my esteemed friend and colleague, as well as the host of two podcasts on UDL named UDL in 15 minutes, and UDL research in 15 minutes, both of which cover a multitude of subjects focusing on UDL around the world, mostly, but in not entirely focused on K 12. Together we cover a lot of UDL ground, and I am so happy to have her on the think UDL podcast today. In this episode, we discuss a fabulous new resource Louis has created to help all of us understand and implement universal design for learning a little better, called the UDL gears. Through this tool, Louis has created an accessible visual representation of the mindsets, skills and practices of UDL practitioners. And in this conversation, we discuss how these three things are related, and how we can dig a little deeper into them. Together, you’ll find a link to the UDL gears and some supporting materials on the resources page for this episode on the think udl.org website. Thank you for joining us to learn more about UDL. Thank you to our sponsor Texthelp, a global technology company helping people all over the world to understand and to be understood. It has led the way in creating innovative technology for the workplace and education sectors, including K 12. right through to higher education for the last three decades. Discover their impact at text.help/learnmore. That’s LEARNMORE Welcome to the think UDL podcast, Loui. I’m really glad to have you.
Loui Lord Nelson 02:53
Thank you so much. I’m so glad you asked me I really am. And I’m a longtime listener, that would be number one. But I do have to file a complaint. And that complaint is you have made me spend so much money. Oh no, I already had really full bookshelves. And now they are way more full and my Kindle bookshelf. Anyway, it’s all good stuff. But you have cost me money. Yeah, no. I have started reading three times more. I you know, by doing this podcast is Oh my goodness. Let me find out about this book. Yeah, it also eats into my budget as well. I must say you’re not the only one.
Lillian Nave 03:35
Yeah, yeah. So I am a longtime fan of your work and excited about this particular new resource you’ve got. But before I get there, I got a few things to ask first. And the first is what makes you a different kind of learner.
Loui Lord Nelson 03:52
Yeah. So I think what it is, is that I’ve always been really observant of my own learning. Like, I’ve always been my own case study asking myself, like, why did you choose that? And was that as helpful as you thought it was going to be? I think it started in grade school because I was in an IGE program, which was individually guided education, which is actually one of the precursors to UDL. And as students, we were expected to set weekly goals. We worked with the educator or teacher to do that. And that could be anything from the number of spelling words to the amount of reading that you wanted to do to, you know, what were your indicators for your science project to me got pretty deep. And we would then reflect on those goals right with the teachers. So I think that helped. There’s a positive effect there, and then there’s as an adult, the effect of that piece of me is that I see how I change change with technologies, right? And so whereas I used to know pretty confidently fiction and nonfiction, how I consumed those, that’s even changed a little bit. And of course, context. Makes that. But I’ve surprised myself lately with the writing part, because I’m using technology more to like compose my blogs, and the gears, which we’re going to talk about, that really surprised me. So I love it. When I have the AHA, I just tried something new. I’m like, Oh, my gosh, because you know, we’re, of course, we’re all inherently variable. And we, we have these differences inside of us. But I think at the same time, we consciously and subconsciously, try to squelch that it’s really weird. It’s like, we have this this thing in our head, I have to do it this way. Or this is the way I was taught, and then we get stuck. And so I get really proud of myself, when I like, let my variability run free and be wild. And I try new things.
Lillian Nave 06:02
Yeah. Wow, that whole reflection part as an like elementary as a young student is fantastic. And not something I had as part of my early formative learning parts, it was all very achievement, and oh, you finish here. Let’s move on to the next, you know, where I didn’t really reflect on it, it was just sort of done, move on. And one of those things that when I got into UDL is like, oh, there’s a whole part here on reflection. And I used to really value that very poorly. And, yeah, and UDL has really changed my view on how reflection is, honestly, that’s where the learning happens. And I would just kind of gobble up to it, like chewing gum. Next, you know, get my quiz grade back, and then go next, and not even think about any of that. So, like, it’s like, you have been doing this your whole life. Yeah, you know, it’s it’s in there. So the good part is that I think it’s, it definitely helps me.
Loui Lord Nelson 07:09
Oh, kind of discern how I want to go into a project, it helps me, you know, think back through all those wonderful reflection points, but also think that I can get stuck in my reflection. So I have to be really careful about that.
Lillian Nave 07:23
Gotcha, gotcha. So you have your own UDL podcasts. So you actually have several we, we started or launched our UDL podcasts, coincidentally, at almost the exact same time in 2018, which I thought was really fun and interesting. But it was like the time it was the time for you to podcast. So can you tell me a little bit about an end? My listeners hear about your UDL podcasts and how they might differ from this one from thinking? Yep, sure, sure. Sure. So the first one that I have, in the most consistent one is called UDL in 15 minutes, and the big difference would be the 15 minutes.
Loui Lord Nelson 08:06
We’ve gotten longer and longer. So when I was originally conceptualizing this, the 15 minutes, just like popped into my head as okay, it, you know, I mostly talk with K 12 educators. However, I do have higher ed and I do have folks outside of actually education that I’ve interviewed, but that time barrier of over 15 minutes anyway, but just felt good to sit in that. And I interviewed educators around the world about their experiences with UDL. That’s it. And I meet with the guests beforehand, just to give people some background, I meet with them beforehand. And we help help find the storyline because it’s 15 minutes. So we have to be really pretty succinct, right? And some come with that idea. Some come, but most who should say come with like a variety of diverse pieces and parts. And so then I help we find that narrative together. And then we go into the recording. And that’s it. The other way that I think it’s that it is different. I have a blog. That’s I call it an associated blog, because I kind of riff on something out of that 15 minutes. And then I have two photo montages that I create that said on YouTube. So one is photos that have been sent in by that guest and then the audio and the subtitles go together so that you know the transcription that I use, I create subtitles. And then I also create an audio description version of that photo montage for those with who would benefit from that for whatever reason. And then that transcript has that there. So next week, I send out my 99th episode, so there was a while there that you guys were able to keep producing it. I was like I need a break. So So I took my little break the other podcast, which unfortunately is the dormant for a little bit UDL research and 15 minutes, I desperately want to get back to it, but I produced both pretty much on my own. And so it’s just the time thing. So it’s it’s really the Yeah, the time thing. It’s all a passion project. You get that? Yes, absolutely. Yeah, I I’ve had a couple, you know, three is supposed to be every two weeks that they come out and sometimes, lately it was a three weeks a little bit longer. But yeah, it’s it’s a, it is a passion to keep it going and to and to be consistent. But wow. 99 100 episodes. That’s it. That’s quite a milestone. So yeah, getting getting close the UDL research, one I should say didn’t explain that. It’s it’s people who have either done research in the area of UDL or it’s related. Right. So
Lillian Nave 10:57
like, I had somebody on talking about executive functioning research. So hello, you know, thinking, yeah, that’s huge in higher ed too. So that’s, I thought that many of my listeners would find some kind of crossover to to listen to some of your episodes as well. Fantastic. So you are quite creative. I mean, even just talking about your montage that you make for your, for your podcast, it’s so very UDL of you with multiple means. But you’ve created this very impressive new research resource called the UD l gears. So what brought you to create this resource?
Loui Lord Nelson 11:40
So I’m going to answer this question in two parts.
Lillian Nave 11:44
Loui Lord Nelson 11:46
So it stemmed from my work both here in the US and then also overseas, but it really got ramped up in the last three years. I’ve been working with colleagues in Japan and Singapore, and Belgium and other places outside the US since 2014. I was already really cognizant of the fact that this is an American born framework. And it was born out of mostly weird research, right, the white, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic participants. But in 2016, I was asked to bring UDL aligned practices to educators in Uganda. And after that, I worked with us on USAID projects in Malawi, and I’m currently working on a project in Cambodia. And this is to say that there are educators in low and middle income countries that are there waiting into UDL, they’re being brought into it. And that’s because USAID and other aid organizations around the world have made this commitment to the framework. They’re like, Oh, hey, this is good. USAID, actually, at the 2020 Global Disability Summit, announced that they’re going to promote universal design for learning approach in all new education programs. And that’s from pre primary through higher education programming. Okay, and so that’s not even so like youth workforce development that’s not in a four wall classroom, that’s out in the field that’s working to ensure youth have access to and are participating in workforce development activities. And USAID is saying, Look, we want you to yell to influence the design of what’s delivered in those places. So then rolling off of that, I had the opportunity to work as a consultant for USAID, their center for education in the Bureau for development, democracy, and innovation. And they work to put this declaration into action. So all of this is swirling around inside of me, and it’s exciting, but I’m seeing and reading things that they don’t really counter UDL, but they bifurcated, okay. And it’s really with good intentions, but UDL is being segmented off. And I’m saying to myself, Okay, this is a really rich framework, and it’s gonna get tossed aside if it’s not better understood. And I’m always looking for ways to communicate that UDL is bigger than the guidelines. And so I set myself up with this quest to just read the global literature. I could put my hands on both research and gray, about UDL, and I needed to see what was being said and reported, knew the American literature, I know it pretty well. I dip into it as much as I can. But I wanted to see what was being shared. And what I observed in that global work. It made my brain itch and say, Okay, we got to help people see this bigger picture because I didn’t see it blossoming. In that work. What I saw was conversations about the three principles. Maybe I would see things about variability maybe. And possibly something about expert learners, but not really. So anyway, I started organizing those concepts internally and those the idea of the gears came in to me. And that’s because so gears, you know, they work together to make something bigger work. At the same time. If that gear is slightly misshapen, or it’s missing one of those little teeth, those cogs machine still works, but it’s not as efficient or effective. So because they’re a collective and they work together, they’re all the same size in that sense than the energy that’s put forth. So that’s the first part of that answer. Okay, where it came from. The second part of it is that, you know, we have this like, almost 40 year question of what does UDL look like? Right. My question is always kind of bugged me, because that questioner and I don’t blame them. But that questioner is asking for a single example. And we know that’s not how UDL works, right. And so you’re like, you can’t answer that question. So I’m gonna I’m gonna run one day. And I begin to think about kind of all the things that are around us that everyone sees or knows about. And these things have consistencies, but they’re different every time. And then I thought about, okay, a sunset, beautiful, peaceful has meaning to most. And I thought it might be a good way to help people see, to ask that question in a different way. And the question really is, what are the consistencies across UDL application? So for example, every sunset is different. Their consistency is like the sun and it’s beautiful colors. It signifies the end of the day. And every application of UDL is different, but there are consistencies. And I thought, Okay, with that, then blossomed out the ideas that went into the gears.
Lillian Nave 16:46
There you go. Nice. No, it’s, it’s fantastic. What I really appreciate is how wide it is, how much you cover in it, but how simple the form is. And of course, you being new, you’ve created an E pub, a PDF, you know, a moveable gear system, that anybody can click on and see what each one of those cogs and teeth are. And I love it. And of course, that will be in our resources for this episode. So everybody will be able to play along as well. I liked being able to just click on each one of each one of them and see it. Yeah. So you have these three gears, the three gears are mindsets and skills and practices. Why did you choose those three categories?
Loui Lord Nelson 17:38
Yeah, what I love about your question is chooses the really the right word. So I will admit that none of this would pass muster as a qualitative study. First of all, I didn’t have a partner in doing this work, like reviewing alongside me, I did code. But I already had the words, skills and mindset in my head from all of the other work that I do with educators. The term practices came from that review process. And then it also came from my colleagues in the field. So I contacted colleagues of mine from Algeria, Cambodia, Chile, Malawi, Japan, Uganda, Turkey, Korea, you know, I was like reaching out to all these people and saying, provide me feedback on this language helped me make sure that the language is such that when you hopefully, are going to do some translations, that it’s going to be clear, it’s going to make sense contextually. And actually the feedback there. I went with the word practices instead of talking about policies and procedures, because that was just going to get messy, because even the concept of policy when you place that in other contexts, not only within us, but just within other government structures mean something a little different. Yeah. So they helped me these folks acted as collaborators, and they are doing translation. So it’s beautiful, because they are very eager to help you deal spread in their, their areas. So this won’t go into any jury journals. But I do think that’s okay, because unfortunately, it gets kind of stuck there behind the wall. Right. Yeah. So,
Lillian Nave 19:20
you know, come out of it. It’s a very practical, helpful tool, and I think it’s actually really good for somebody who’s incredibly new to UDL and can kind of see, oh, I didn’t realize it had all of these parts. And it’s also very helpful for somebody like me, who’s been in the UDL world for a while. And I really appreciate the organization here. And that’s really helpful in explaining to somebody else or when we get that question about what does it look like? And there is no one answer and that makes it makes the work challenging, but also plentiful. You know, to be able to Keep doing this. As we continue, we’ll have, you know, unlimited episodes for our podcasts really has unlimited answers. So I did. Yeah, I appreciated how, you know really organized it is but also how helpful it is about for anyone along the the stages of entrance beginner in UDL or an expert or, or let’s say a longtime practitioner, let’s say. Yeah.
Loui Lord Nelson 20:31
So can you let’s talk a little bit more about those gears. So can you go into a little detail about the mindsets and the skills and practices that you include? Yeah, I ended up with 14 mindset statements, 15 skill statements and 13 practice statements, you know, believe me, I wanted it to be like, five, five and five, you know, my original dream? And then I was like, Okay, maybe 1010? No, no, that just wasn’t gonna happen. between what I was seeing that folks are doing around the world, right? So how are these mindsets and skills and practices being talked about? And what’s being done those like, Okay, I gotta include all this stuff. And then there’s also that dilemma, when you’re, so I had to remove myself from like item development for a survey, or in the qualitative research mindset of kind of grouping things together so much. And then we get this really intricate language that only we understand what it says, right, so I had to move out of that mindset, and CO back over to, no, this is a tool for everybody to use make this clear. So I also decided that there were four different areas, items that I needed to define for people, so we’d be on the same page. So for example, learner, and I define that as anyone who’s engaged in the learning process, regardless of age. of barrier, I define that as it can be any action, physical object resource, lack of object lack of resource or imposed belief that prevents someone from learning kind of how to kitchen sink that one. The term expert learners, I define that as it’s used to describe a set of broad skills and traits learners inherently have, and then add to when experiencing UDL aligned lessons and environments. learners become more purposeful, motivated, resourceful, knowledgeable, strategic, and goal directed. And then the last thing I knew I needed to define was instructional leaders. And so I’ll just say what the definition is. It includes teachers, education administrators, facilitators, product designers, developers, professors, instructors with any field and any person who plans and provides instruction. And I felt like I had to kitchen sink that one too. Because if I were to say instructional leaders is any person who plans and provides instruction, my folks outside of formal education would think, well, those are that’s teachers. And they wouldn’t see themselves so. So the person who’s leading the meeting at Procter and Gamble, wouldn’t understand that they’re an instructional leader, if they are leading that meeting with the purpose of providing instruction. Yeah, they’re an instructional leader. All right, with those four things in place, then, for example, the mindset gear. It’s grounded in the stem of instructional leaders with a UDL aligned mindset Kolon. So I have things like believe every learner can learn are empathetic to the needs of all learners, consistently seek new ways to advance their own learning. Know that a barrier to learning is not within the learner. So that’s just for from that list. The skills gear starts with the stem of instructional leaders with UDL aligned skills, Colin, and that has examples like collaborate with others so they can learn about and apply new skills, lead instruction, where students make choices and help them achieve their learning goals slash objectives. Revise the selected methods and materials during instruction to lower the in moment beer barriers. And then create summative assessments that align with the goal objective and measure learners knowledge and skills in a variety of ways. So skills, these are the things that individuals hold. These are the the talents and skills that they have, they hold now practices. These are the overarching practices that need to be part of the learning environment. That’s the way I think about it. And so some listeners may think about these as more procedural and like I said, could be policy oriented. but they have things like there’s an overarching one I start with, I shouldn’t say start with but I have apply inclusive practices. That’s huge. But unless you’re applying inclusive practices, your practices don’t align with UDL, proactively identify and plan to lower academic barriers, apply methods and materials that lower academic barriers consistently provide equitable social engagement in general education. So those are some examples from the gears. Yeah. Excellent. You know, I really appreciated having that the mindsets brought out like you’re just pulling these things out. That I think people who are that love UDL who are using the will be able to identify that in themselves, and maybe haven’t done that before. Like one of those is you that you consider yourself constantly learning. And it may not be something that you have in your teaching statement, right, or that you say to your students, but it is something that so many of us really do identify as, yeah, you know, I am open that humility to continuously learn. You know, I think you’re just identifying those things that help us to know if we’re in the right space for applying UDL. Yeah, you know, when I was, I was at CAST at Torrey did my postdoc, and there was a camera that was a UDL Iran, or was a cast symposium coming up? I don’t know. But David Rose was going to, of course, close the whole thing. And he’s wandering around without his shoes on, because that’s what he did. And just kind of padding around and just chatting with people, right. So he comes by my desk, and he’s chatting with me. I said, David, here’s what I want you to talk about in your fireside chat. And he’s like, Oh, tell me what, I want you to share the list of books you’re reading right now. I know you get into the scientific articles, but the books are going to be accessible to everyone. And I’m telling you, people would love to know what is on David Rose’s bedside table. What is it? And he he honestly was like, Are you sure that just doesn’t? I don’t. So I was so happy. It was the it was the Iran was Charlotte, I think is where we were anyway. But he did. He brought it up and I could see everybody was writing it down. Right? They’re like, Oh, what’s the great David Rose thinking? Yeah. And that’s but but he models always to this day, the consummate learner.
Lillian Nave 27:33
Yeah, you can always learn more. There’s always more Yeah. To, to learn. And we are so I think we’re, we’re, I guess we’re not early in the UDL journey, because UDL has been around, but it’s still evolving, like so much. And so and UDL itself is not saying here’s how it was it stuck in stone. We’re not changing. Caste is you know, revamping, where so many of the UDL practitioners are like, Hmm, let me how does this work? What happens when I put this lens on top of it? You know, how can we modify? Oh, here we are in a different context, right? Here we are in Japan. And, you know, here, here’s how it might work differently in this different cultural settings. So we need to tweak and understand and change. So that’s, I think that comes through really clearly on the UDL gears that you’ve put together because we do we have to be continuously learning. Yeah, and it’s fun. Alright, so how then do you suggest somebody a UDL practitioner might interact then with the UDL gears? How do you envision this being a resource for folks?
Loui Lord Nelson 28:48
Yeah, so beyond the physical going to them and hovering over the different cogs, which I named as cogs because if you name them as teeth that gets confusing for translation, and of course of the got into that, and it really is. So anyway, hovering over those, but if somebody’s you’re on a tablet, or whatever reason, you want to just read them on the PDF, and EPUB, then then they’re there. I am going to back up and say really quickly, one of the reasons that I loved the imagery of the gears is because there’s no order. Downside to the PDF and EPUB. Is there. There’s an order inherent. Yeah, right. And so it’s just like the guidelines, we assume any conversation because I was at caste the year that those that the principle of engagement became the far left principle. It moved to the front of the line rather than the end. Yeah, yeah. And it was such a big conversation. And understandably, everything should be equally applied. However, blah, blah, left, right, in the western reading and Roman reading, whatever. So. So I’m going to say that that I didn’t have I didn’t place any importance on this, but I think what I’m really hoping for is that individuals and organizations can use that to just think about their own alignment with universal design for learning. If they’re kind of walking around saying, oh, you know, we are, we’re doing UDL, which I don’t like that phrase, of you don’t do a framework, but anyway, but they can think about that alignment. And they can see, oh, here’s some areas, maybe where we’re not where it’s not as strong. Maybe they can use it as a roadmap, you know, as they’re discovering and saying, Oh, well, here’s, here’s where we want to start. And it could offer those starting points. Because often when you see something that’s so huge, you’re like, Where do I even start? Where do I put the little thing on the game board? Yeah. How do we go? Obviously, expanding their understanding of that whole framework, understanding that there’s more to UDL than, than the guidelines. Just getting that individual reflection on the mindset skills and practices. And I think also, then, maybe if organizations examine their collective mindset, as they, as they assert how their actions support the skills and practices that align with UDL, I would be overjoyed if organizations did that as a support mechanism to the individuals who work within the organization. Because you and I, and everybody listening to this, who is connected with UDL, we know that the learning environment that has massive impact when we all sit within a learning environment. So that’s the organization. Awesome. Would it be if they would look at that and examine their own skills and mindsets and practices and how those impact the individuals within?
Lillian Nave 31:55
Yeah, it’s, I think it is a great application that we can take, you know, in a broader sense in not just the classroom, but as you said, in wherever we are in that organization. And I do appreciate your work that does take a global focus, and expands this, you know, born in the USA concept of UDL and expands it into multiple cultures, something I’m also very interested in and, and seeing how UDL translates into other countries, and we have, and other cultures doesn’t even have to be another country. But how, yeah, how much we can learn from others and other ways of doing things to really increase our own learning environment. So I really appreciate that. And before I thank you for being on the podcast, I have one more thing to thank you for. And that is, besides the fact that you and I have so many crossovers of Yeah, I just realized too, that we have the exact same initials l n. So yeah, and we both host UDL podcasts. And we have an affinity for a nice little mountain community in North Carolina that we both love. But I also a few months ago, completely broke my ankle and had to have horrendous surgery. Wonderful surgery, I can now walk again, but you were the kindest to send me a fantastic shirt, and a candle and a bell, all multiple means of representation. So I could, you know, call my children to please give me some water because I’m stuck in a bed for 11 hours and. And, yeah, so across the miles, I want to thank you because you had suffered the same injury. It’s just a UDL thing. Like, don’t y’all be careful out there when you’re running or hiking? Because you don’t want to break an ankle.
Loui Lord Nelson 34:00
Exactly right. Exactly. Right. Well, you’re welcome. Yeah, when I saw that, I was like, Oh, she needs these things. I do my own stunts
Lillian Nave 34:12
for the person with crutches and a broken leg. So I wore that all throughout my recovery and in my when I go to my physical therapy appointments, so and I am almost walking without a limp now. So yeah, I appreciate I really appreciate your wishing me back to health with some very UDL gesture. So thank you very much. Very welcome. And thank you so much for being on the podcast we have successfully cut the distance between UDL in 15 minutes. And the think UDL podcast, which has been going about 60 minutes at 32 minutes for today’s conversation. So just perfect. Thank you so much, Louis for joining me today on the think UDL podcast. You
Loui Lord Nelson 35:00
You’re welcome and thank you for hosting me and inviting me such an honor. Thank you.
Lillian Nave 35:04
You can follow the think UDL podcast on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to find out when new episodes will be released. And also see transcripts and additional materials at the think udl.org website. Thank you again to our sponsor textile. Texthelp is focused on helping all people learn, understand and communicate through the use of digital education and accessibility tools. Texthelp and its people are working towards a world where difference disability and language are no longer barriers to learning and succeeding, with over 50 million users worldwide. The Texthelp suite of products includes Read and Write equates to an orbit note. They work alongside existing platforms such as Microsoft Office and G Suite and enable them to be integrated quickly into any classroom or workspace with ease. Texthelp has changed the lives of millions worldwide and strives to impact the literacy and understanding of 1 billion people by 2030. Visit text.help/learnmore to unlock unlimited learner potential. The music on the podcast was performed by the Oddyssey quartet comprised of Rex Shepherd, David Pate, Bill Folwell and Jose coach as an I am your host, Lillian Nave. Thank you for joining us on The think UDL podcast