It’s a golden age of education podcasts. Teachers, professors, education innovators, and tech skeptics have switched on their microphones to share their insights and analysis—and you’ll find plenty of lively characters and fresh voices via your earbuds. After all, let’s face it, teachers can be great talkers (we mean that in a good way), and they’re also seasoned storytellers.
Take Michael Wesch, for instance. Inspired by the long-running radio show This American Life, he tags along with his students to better understand their lives and struggles on his Life101 podcast. (That includes crashing a frat party—you’ll want to check out that episode).
Other education podcasts take a more Socratic approach, drawing out their guests through dialogue. When asking around, several folks we talked to praised Teaching in Higher Ed as a podcast with particularly engaging discussions.
Below are our favorites (including our own podcast, which relaunched this week), organized by topic. Please share your own picks in the comments section below.
Jennifer Gonzalez, a former middle school teacher, hosts this podcast as part of her popular blog on teaching strategies, education reform, and ed tech. Recent episodes include “How to Approach Your Teaching Like a Master Chef,” and “Creating a Welcoming Classroom for Special Ed Students.”
Doug McKee, a senior lecturer ad Cornell University, and Edward O’Neill, a freelance instructional, designer have been sitting down to talk teaching since 2015. They update the show “fortnightly,” and past episodes have covered why professors should ditch PowerPoint, how a group of high school students used a John Madden video game to teach math. “It's really teaching and learning, and technology comes up when it's relevant,” explains O’Neill in an e-mail interview.
Bonni Stachowiak, an associate professor of business and management at Vanguard University and a business consultant, hosts this weekly conversation podcast. Though the main focus is teaching (as the name makes clear), she also devotes some episodes to tips on improving personal productivity (there’s plenty of talk about a technique she likes called GTD, or Getting Things Done). Popular episodes include an interview with a researcher who studies teaching evaluations and one outlining her top five gadgets for teaching.
Two officials from the University of Central Florida -- Tom Cavanagh, associate vice president of distributed learning, and Kelvin Thompson, director of online design and development strategy, have been co-hosting this chat-format show since 2015. On a recent episode they went meta to focus on how podcasting can be used to create professional development opportunities.
The Beauty—And Difficulty—of Learning
Saron Yitbarek, founder of this community group for coding students, hosts this weekly podcast that “talks to people on their coding journey, with hopes of helping you on yours.” Recent episodes explore the ethics of coding and diversity in tech.
Michael Wesch turns his research skills as an anthropologist to his students in this powerful story-based podcast. Wesch is a professor at Kansas State University and has won national awards for his teaching (he’s a former U.S. Professor of the Year) and creativity (he scored a 2007 Rave award from Wired magazine for his viral videos). His new podcast has only one episode so far, but it’s a tour de force, documenting love, self-doubt, hope, and loneliness and general messiness of being a college student. And ultimately, it’s about his quest to become a better teacher. Wesch says he’s working on a new batch of episodes that are scheduled to appear in August. In the meantime, his site lists some resources for those who want to tell their own stories in audio.
Audrey Watters has established herself as an important critical voice against a rush to tech for tech’s sake in education. Each week she and her partner, Kin Lane, an advocate for API software standards, dissect the latest tech news, with an eye to education and open software.
Interviews with Edtech Innovators and Thought Leaders
Co-hosted by EdSurge’s Mary Jo Madda and Jeff Young, this homegrown podcast has brought the likes of Reading Rainbow’s LeVar Burton, Los Angeles Unified School District’s John Deasy, and author Paul Tough—to name a few—into the EdSurge recording booth to discuss the in’s and out’s of edtech. Starting January 2017, the podcast will alternate weekly between K-12 and higher education interviewees.
Jeff is biased on this one, since he helped start it when he was at The Chronicle of Higher Education. It continues with host Goldie Blumenstyk, who literally wrote the book on American Higher Education in Crisis. Her most recent “get” was Jim Shelton, who is heading up the education portfolio at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
Christopher J. Nesi, a K-12 educator, has made podcasting his main gig. He hosts this weekly podcast, and he also created the Education Podcast Network with several other shows. Recent House of Edtech episodes include interviews with experts on augmented reality in education and ideas on how to make a classroom podcast.
Tina Seelig, a professor of the practice in Stanford's department of management science and engineering, hosts this weekly podcast that promises to “give a taste” of topics covered in the university’s classes on entrepreneurship. One episode particularly worth a listen features Richard Miller, founding president of Olin College talking about its unusual model of higher education. “One thing we learned,” he says, is that “young people are more capable of learning things on their own than we ever expected.”
Ideas Podcasts (Occasional Education Coverage)
Tyler Cowen is an economics professor at George Mason University, a popular blogger, a video-courseware provider, and lately, a podcaster. He draws A-list guests (including Peter Thiel and Nate Silver) for long, smart discussions on big ideas.
Whether you love or hate bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell, it’s worth checking out his podcast, which devoted a surprising amount of time to education. The first season ran ten episodes, three of which were a mini-series on college access. He pulls no punches when trashing Bowdoin College for, as he sees it, devoting so much money to gourmet dining-hall fare and so little to financial aid. And he grills Stanford University’s outgoing president for sitting on such a large endowment and going after ever-larger donations.
Journalist Nora Young hosts a weekly radio show on Canada’s public broadcasting network with sometimes playful, always thoughtful features about how technology is shaping our world.
A product of Gimlet Media (the producers of famed entrepreneurship-themed podcast “Startup”), Surprisingly Awesome is, well, pretty awesome. Hosted by two guys named Adam, it catalogues unique stories to show the novelty in everyday events and occurrences, from wedding planning to picking a mattress.
If you’re a fan of TED talks, you’ll want to check out this podcast. With themes like “why we lie,” “the hero’s journey,” and “growing up,” each episode weaves together four to five TED talks around a central concept, from experts in all sort of industries. Guy Raz hosts the show, offering insightful commentary and asking earnest questions of the TED speakers, many of which he brings onto the podcast to elaborate further on their talks.