How podcasts can make you a better teacher


Teaching | Thursday, May 29, 2014

How podcasts can make you a better teacher

How podcasts can make you a better teacher
How podcasts can make you a better teacher

Podcasts are growing in popularity. They’re free. And they’re a great learning opportunity in the palm of your hand. (flickr / Colleen AF Venable)

Like you, I find that I’m on the go a lot.

School and extra-curricular activities. Baseball and basketball practices for my kids. Visits to family.

I’m a runner, so I’ll go run four to six miles on a given day on the county roads around my house.

I go to a lot of conferences, so there’s lots of travel time there.

The common denominator for all of the above: lots of idle time. I can’t work with my hands, but my brain is fairly unoccupied while driving or exercising.

For a while, I turned to music to keep me interested, but after getting my first iPod several years ago, I found something better.


They’re like radio shows for your phone, mp3 player or computer. Anyone can create a podcast and anyone can download and listen to them.

They’re free, too. In many cases, if you find some great ones, it’s like having a valuable counselor sitting next to you on your commute. The podcast host talks to you as if you were in the room and, many times, you start to feel a connection to him/her.

In fact, I’ve listened to most of Michael Hyatt’s “This Is Your Life” podcasts about intentional leadership (He says, “My goal is to help you live with more passion, work with greater focus and lead with extraordinary influence.” I could almost type that from memory!) I know I’ve never met him, but for more than two years of hearing hours of his voice at 30 to 45 minutes at a time, I feel like he’s a longtime friend.

As someone who wants to get the most out of every waking hour of his life, I can tell you that listening to podcasts has changed who I am as a person and as a teacher. Before, I was losing all of those hours to letting my mind wander or listening to the same songs over and over on the radio. Now, I can learn and add value to my life and others’ lives with the new ideas I get.

You probably don’t need any more technology than what you already have to listen to podcasts. They’re available in a variety of platforms across many devices. Some options:

  • Apple products (iPhone, iPod, iPad) — There’s a Podcasts app that’s free in the App Store. Use your Apple ID to log in.
  • Google products (Android phones and tablets) — There are several free apps available for download on Google Play. Here’s a list of the best seven, and I might add an eighth — BeyondPod, which I used when I had an Android phone.
  • Windows Phone — The instructions are pretty clear and easy on this Windows Phone support article.

Podcasts can be heard on computers as well. Find a website with podcasts on it or use the iTunes website and listen through your web browser. There are lots of options, as outlined in this Digital Trends article.

Finding podcasts can be as easy as doing a search for “education” or “edtech” in a podcasting app or search engine. I compiled a list of eight great education podcasts worth checking out and “The Essential Educator’s Guide to Podcasts.”

Interested in Google? Check out the Google Teacher Tribe podcast, one that I co-host with Kasey Bell from the Shake Up Learning blog. We have tips and tricks, blog posts to share and a main segment where we dive deep into a Google-related topic. Find us at our website, on iTunes or on Google Play.

More and more people are listening to podcasts. Time reports, according to findings by Edison Research, that Americans 12 and older who have listened to a podcasts has increased from 10 percent in 2006 to 26 percent today. One in six Americans has listened to a podcast.

If you’re part of the five out of six who hasn’t listened to a podcast, now might be the time to try. If you try it and struggle, send me an e-mail (matt at and I’ll be glad to help out (although I don’t promise to have all of the answers!).

At worst, you might find that your on-the-go time feels more productive and a little less blah.

If you’ve listened to podcasts, what are your favorites? If you haven’t, what keeps you from starting OR why do you want to start? Leave your thoughts in a comment below!

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  • Daryl Pearson says:

    My top 5 podcasts are:
    School of Greatness
    The Tom Ferris Show
    Inside Quest
    Creating Disney Magic
    Dose of Leadership

  • Jim says:

    I enjoy listening to podcasts while running or in the car. My top three are Serial, This American Life and Dis-unplugged. The last one is about Disneyworld. I’m a fan.

  • Trever Reeh says:

    My top 5 favorite podcasts:
    Completely Optional Knowledge
    Phonographic Memory
    Stuff You Should Know

    Love podcasts, have a hour commute to and from work, get sick of listening to the radio.

  • test says:

    […] How podcasts can make you a better teacher […]

  • Nice blog. Please see my new math education podcast when time allows

  • Dan Winters says:

    Totally agree. I never fail to learn something thought provoking from Econtalk

  • Kat Staton says:

    From ‘TWit.TV’ I listen to This Week in Google, iFive for the iPhone, iPad Today, Social Hour and once in a while The Tech Guy. I also like Tech Chick Tips

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