Learning On the Go: Great Podcasts for Your Commute (or Anytime)

I spend between three and four hours a week in my car commuting to my job at Getting Smart. I have been listening to podcasts in my car as a way to keep learning. I actively pursue podcasts that make me think, provide insight or inspiration, make me laugh, and may connect to my work. Some people think podcasts are the future of media. (The recent podcast Serial– if you don’t know, just Google it- was the first real breakthrough podcast “hit,” making it likely there will be more podcasts to come). Other people don’t see the point in podcasts and believe video apps and video media are the way to really capture the attention of the masses. The bottom line: Podcasts work great for me. I need to see to drive, so until we have cars that drive for us (if you believe Ford Co., that’s in less than five years), I have to listen (and not watch) my media during my commute.

First, the tech details

I recently downloaded the Downcast app, which works great- you can create playlists and organize what you download – or stream- so you don’t lose precious space on your device. Before that, I used the simple Podcast App on my iPhone 5. I’ve heard from colleagues that there are some great podcast apps out there to try such as Overcast and the free radio app TuneIn which has access to radio stations and podcasts.

I use a bluetooth enabled speaker system in my car so everything is hands-free. Because my commute is roughly 45 minutes from my house to the office, it’s the perfect amount of time to listen to an entire podcast episode.

Podcast gems

(*And yes, I listened to Serial- and I’m sure I will listen when they come out with their next story.)

Episodes I love

From TED Radio Hour, there’s “Unstoppable Learning” that is brilliant. It features shorter versions of TED Talks by Annie Murphy Paul and Sugata Mitra. Mitra’s School in the Cloud won a million dollar TED prize in 2013. He talks about the importance of Self-Organized Learning Environments (SOLEs) where kids are in charge of their own learning and allow their own curiosities to guide their learning, which sounds a lot like where we know the future of education is headed. As my kids get older, I can’t wait to do SOLE projects with them. In another episode, “Growing Up,”Gever Tulley talks about the most dangerous things you should let your kids do (why they should play with knives…and fire). And, there’s a stunning talk by Andrew Solomon on how the worst moments of our lives really do shape who we become. He was bullied as a child for being gay, and he has a profoundly moving story to share about his experience overcoming his tortuous childhood.

From Mom and Dad are Fighting, there’s a great episode titled The “It Costs How Much” Edition. Fast forward to nine minutes and listen to parents discuss how to talk to your kids about the events in Ferguson.

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From Freakonomics, my absolute favorite episode is called “The Economist’s Guide to Parenting.” I listened to this when I was six months pregnant with my first child. Listen all the way to end. They interview economists about parenting, and try to figure out what matters in parenting (making your kid take piano lessons, whether you should use flashcards, whether or not it negatively affects kids if they go daycare, and the power of…unconditional love).

I listen to Fresh Air pretty regularly, and a couple of episodes that stand-out recently are from interviews Terry Gross did with brilliant comedians. Although they are funny, they are thought-provoking and super SMART. She interviewed John Oliver who talked at length about net neutrality in a way that led me to a much deeper understanding of the issue.

Also, check out her interview with comic Hari Kondabolu, who has Masters Degree from London School of Economics. So he makes talking about potentially hot button topics like race and ethnicity really funny – and you will learn something from him.

Getting Smart is a learning organization. All of us who work here take that seriously. Whether we read, write, listen, or watch- we stay informed and learn more about each other and the world around us. We communicate with others- in person, online, through social media. We advocate for innovations in learning- and we are life-long learners.

As a life-long learner yourself, we want to hear from you. What podcasts should we be listening to at Getting Smart? What are some of your favorite podcast episodes? And, do you think Tom should start a podcast on innovations in learning? (I do!)

For more on podcasts, check out:

Bonnie Lathram

Bonnie Lathram is a student advocate and former teacher.

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