I had the great pleasure of talking with Bryan Alexander today for this week’s Teaching in Higher Ed podcast episode. “Bryan Alexander is an internationally known futurist, researcher, writer, speaker, consultant, and teacher, working in the field of how technology transforms education.”
As happens more than half of the time that I have interviews scheduled, I was incredibly nervous. It turns out that not only does Bryan Alexander know a lot about a lot of things, he’s also incredibly kind and warm.
After we were finished recording, I told him how much I enjoyed his recent post about his favorite podcasts. He said that he often listens to podcasts while chopping wood, caring for the animals that they raise on their property, or during his often-lengthy commutes.
While we have some podcast listening habits in common, I discovered that there are some shows that are among my favorites that he was unfamiliar with…
Since I last wrote about my favorite podcasts in 2014, there are still some of those same shows that top my listening preferences. It’s time for some updating to my list of podcast greats, inspired by Bryan’s recent post.
This time I've categorized them, those this proved to be a harder task than I anticipated. Many of them fit into multiple categories.
Teaching and Other Higher Ed Podcasts
- Contrafabulists – Audrey Watters and Kin Lane describe their podcast (which has recently been re-named) this way: “Fabulists are fable-spinners and myth-makers. We are storytellers ourselves, but we poke holes in the hype and distortion of new digital technologies and the narratives associated with them. Contrafabulists are, as the name would suggest, against lying.” Each time I listen, I’m challenged to think more critically about the technology tools we use in attempting to facilitate learning, as well as what’s happening in the broader political, educational, and technological realms.
- HybridPod | The Podcast from Hybrid Pedagogy – Host Chris Friend is a delightful guide for this “collection of casual, thoughtful discussions designed to challenge and make us all think carefully about how we work with students.”
- Research in Action Podcast – Ecampus Research Unit | Oregon State University – If you teach any kind of research in higher ed, it’s worth checking out the Research in Action podcast, hosted by Katie Linder. It is also helpful, just to increase one’s knowledge of different types of research methods.
- You've Got This – Katie Linder also hosts the You’ve Got This podcast, which is a short, inspirational look at building our confidence and competence at various aspects of a professor’s life.
- The Teach Better Podcast – Doug McKee and Edward O’Neil are the fabulous hosts of the Teach Better podcast. They interview expert faculty from institutions such as Yale and Cornel. Each episode is a new perspective on becoming a more effective teacher. I’m still not sure how it happened, but they even had me on an episode once.
- Leading Lines: A New Podcast on Educational Technology in Higher Education | Center for Teaching | Vanderbilt University – Derek Bruff, says that the Leading Lines podcast aims to “explore creative, intentional, and effective uses of technology to enhance student learning, uses that point the way to the future of educational technology in college and university settings. Through interviews with educators, researchers, technologists, and others, we hope to amplify ideas and voices that are (or should be!) shaping how we think about digital learning and digital pedagogy.”
- TOPcast: The Teaching Online Podcast | Center for Distributed Learning – The Teaching Online (TOP) podcast is an informal conversation between Thomas Cavanagh and Kelvin Thompson, with the goal of helping us teach more effectively online. I had the chance to meet them both at an OLC Conference and they’re just as engaging in person as they are on the podcast.
Shows that Stretch my Mind
- Radiolab – I’m so grateful for having come across Radio Lab a few years back. It has helped to make me more curious about science and to feel like it is more accessible to me than I ever realized. One of my favorite episodes was about when things don’t go like you had planned: Be Careful What You Plan For – Radiolab. Useful lessons for when things don't go like we planned in our teaching.
- This American Life – The producers at This American Life are some of the best storytellers I’ve ever witnessed in audio form. I really enjoy their humor on episodes where they share human failures, like what happens when we only have enough knowledge to be dangerous, or about some pretty awful (yet humorous) mistakes
- Democracy Now! – A friend recommended Democracy Now years ago to help me expand my perspective of politics and foreign affairs. It didn’t disappoint and I now listen to episodes almost right after they’re released.
- Very Bad Wizards – Speaking of listening right when episodes come out, Very Bad Wizards is a delight to have show up in my podcasting feed. A philosopher and a psychologist talk about life’s important topics, though I should warn you, in an often-irreverent way.
My all time favorite episode is their 75th, where they had experts share about something they have changed their mind about in the past five years. I need to cling to the idea that we’re all capable of changing our minds on important issues, or I’m not sure I can bear our current political climate. I also enjoy whenever Paul Bloom is on the show, like this episode where they talked about the movie “Momento” – or this one where they talked about Paul’s book about empathy (with some movies about empathy mixed in to the conversation). Another memorable episode that stretched my thinking was this conversation with Robert Frank about luck. One last fun thing about Very Bad Wizards is the musical talents of one of their hosts, David Pizarro (Peez). Take a listen to some of his beats on SoundCloud.
- Invisibilia : NPR – From their website: “Invisibilia (Latin for invisible things) is about the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions. Co-hosted by Lulu Miller, Hanna Rosin and Alix Spiegel, Invisibilia interweaves narrative storytelling with scientific research that will ultimately make you see your own life differently.” They haven’t had a new episode in a long while, as of this blog post being written and I look forward to when more are to come. The other episodes are evergreen and are worth going back to hear.
Business and Management Podcasts
- Marketplace – for years now, Marketplace has been helping me connect what’s happening in the world to how it relates to my students’ lives. It's stated purpose is to be focused on economics, but they go much deeper than that, in my experience. Anyone who wants to learn more about business would benefit from listening to this podcast.
- Coaching for Leaders – Leaders Aren't Born, They're Made – I’ll admit that I’m married to the host, but this still is a fabulous podcast that helps us all become more effective at leading. If you want to receive a prescription of past episodes, based on your needs at a given time, try the section on productivity which includes episodes with David Allen of Getting Things Done, Deep Work with Cal Newport, and a discussion Dave and I have about personal knowledge management (PKM).
- Under The Influence with Terry O'Reilly | CBC Radio – Isabeau Iqbal shared Under the Influence with me a few months ago and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed each episode since then. The host, Terry O’Reilly engages us about how marketing has been influencing us through the ages, often without us realizing it.
- Planet Money : NPR – Hardly an episode of Planet Money goes by without me bookmarking it to use in some future class. It talks all about the ways that money is impacting the world. One of my favorite episodes to use in class is this one on How Fake Money Saved Brazil. I like to pause part-way through the episode and have the students predict how they think the experts recommended that Brazil’s leaders fix the problem.
- On the Media Podcast – It isn’t as meta as it sounds – a show about media… But, it is helpful to look at the week’s events through the lens of the media and how it addressed various issues.
- Political Gabfest – This is one of the podcasts that I save up to listen to with my husband, Dave, on our weekend commutes, together. The hosts talk about three different political issues that came up in the past week and then have an eclectic recommendations segment at the end of each show.
- Stephen Explains the News – The premise of this show is that Stephen knows stuff about what's happening in the news – and much of the time, Kayla doesn't. Stephen is a friend and a colleague, but even if he wasn't, I would be listening regularly to Stephen Explains the News. While it is sometimes a review of what's happening that I have some background on, I find Kayla's questions a good reminder of the topics that our students may also be confused about. Besides, they both have a wonderful sense of humor and their banter is entertaining.
- Reply All – Gimlet Media – This podcast looks at technology and how it intersects with different parts of our lives. One of my favorite segments is what they call: “Yes, yes, no,” where they challenge each other to interpret something that has happened on the internet that may otherwise go unnoticed by the untrained eye.
- Note to Self | WNYC – I just started listening to this podcast and have really been enjoying it. From the show’s website, “Is your phone watching you? Can wexting make you smarter? Are your kids real? These and other essential quandaries for anyone trying to preserve their humanity in the digital age. Join host Manoush Zomorodi for your weekly reminder to question everything.” I especially like their focus on privacy and how we can all better protect ourselves on the web.
- Mac Power Users – Relay FM – If you use a Mac and you want to leverage it to be more productive, this is a great show for you. Back in 2015, I was on an episode, talking about how I use screencasting to provide richer feedback to my students.
In Community with Others
- Another Round (anotherround) on BuzzFeed – When Peter Newbury was on Teaching in Higher Ed, he stressed the importance of us being connected with people who are like us and people who are different from us. Listening to Another Round, I get reminded not to touch black women’s hair in the funniest way possible. Side note: I didn’t need the reminder, but it was sure funny to hear.
- Code Switch : NPR – another diversity-oriented pursuit comes from listening to Code Switch. From their website: “Ever find yourself in a conversation about race and identity where you just get…stuck? Code Switch can help. We're all journalists of color, and this isn't just the work we do. It's the lives we lead. Sometimes, we'll make you laugh. Other times, you'll get uncomfortable. But we'll always be unflinchingly honest and empathetic. Come mix it up with us.”
- Revisionist History Podcast – this podcast by Malcolm Gladwell could have fit in any number of the categories I’ve created for this list of podcasts. I decided to leave it among those that help us live better in community with one another, since so many of the ways he presents the complex issues he shares about are toward creating more empathy among people with differing perspectives.
- On Being with Krista Tippett — The Big Questions of Meaning | On Being – When I listed to On Being, I feel like I’m being healed in small ways. Based on others’ reactions to the show, I’m not alone in believing we’re all being healed, collectively, when we listen together in community. This episode with John Listen entitled Love in Action is just one of many inspirational episodes.
Podcasts that are Just Getting Started
These next couple of podcasts don’t have many episodes, but they represent the best of what podcasting has to offer.
- LIFE101 – Real Stories about College Life – Mike Wesch is someone who has inspired me greatly in my teaching. He prescribes regular exposure to learning experiences, for us to remain empathetic to our students. He took this idea to heart with his podcast, LIFE101, by having his students give him assignments to tackle. I spoke with him more about the teacher becoming student on episode 118 of Teaching in Higher Ed.
- The Deeper Learning Podcast – Orange County Department of Education – the first episode is about a little-known court case that paved the way for Brown vs Board of Education. My friend and former colleague, Jeff Hittenberger, is the host. He tells me more episodes are on their way and I have to fight to keep from hitting refresh on my podcast catcher to see if a new one is there yet.
I had no idea that this post was going to turn out so long, or that I listened to so many podcasts. Would you believe that this only represents about 60% of them?
As I started to chip away at this post, I realized I was going to have to be much more discerning in which ones I included, than when I first got started with what was supposed to be a relatively easy post.
What podcasts do you listen to that you recommend? Feel free to reply in the comments to this post, or Tweet with your recommendations under the hashtag #trypod.