Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Best Podcasts on the web...and why

 I love podcasts. They're free. They're educational. They're entertaining. 

Podcasts themselves aren't exactly an earth shattering idea. Essentially they are simply on-demand radio broadcasts. What makes them so cool, however is the organization and portability that Apple has brought to them through the introduction of the iPod and iTunes. Although you don't need an iPod or iTunes to enjoy podcasts, these two innovations brought about an explosion of podcasts. 

The expansion of podcasts is rapidly increasing because of two new innovations by the creative minds at Apple. The first is the introduction of iTunesU- a special channel devoted specifically to podcasts created by colleges and universities. The idea began as a partnership between Apple and Stanford University. The idea was such a smashing success that Apple decided to open an official iTunesU channel. There are now thousands of universities represented on iTunesU. Hopefully the students of these universities aren't skipping class and listening to their lectures on their iPods!

After iTunesU, Apple decided to expand its educational offerings, opening iTunesU K-12 for "lower" educational institutions. This iTunes channel is brand new and has very little content at the moment. However if the past performance of iTunesU is any indication of future results, this section of iTunesU will soon be teeming with tons of terrific podcasts! 

While iTunesU K-12 is a great addition to podcasting, it's not the second innovation that has made podcasts so popular and useful. If a picture is worth a thousand words, than a enhanced podcast must be worth a thousand hours of traditional podcasts! With the addition of the video iPod, Apple also enabled individuals and organizations to create enhance podcasts which incorporate audio, video, and pictures. 

Watching an enhanced podcast is like watching on-demand educational TV in the palm of your hand! It's a great innovation and has vastly increased the popularity and usefulness of podcasts.

Listening to and watching podcasts can be a great way to learn new things and entertain yourself on long bus rides or while doing your taxes, however not every podcast is worth listening to or watching. The self-publishing aspect of the internet is a double edged sword: everyone has a voice, however not everyone has something to say. There are some great podcasts and there are some bad ones. 

To help you wade through the myriad of options out there, I present you you my top five podcasts: 


Dave Ramsey is a national radio host and best selling author who has the ability to make talking about financial topics interesting and fun. Dave is the Dr. Phil of finance. He tells it like it is and has a no-nonsense approach to life's challenges. The podcast version of the Dave Ramsey Show is 40 minutes long and is commercial free. 

Why I like it: 
  • Entertaining host.
  • Excellent information.
  • Unsurpassed technical quality (audio quality, frequency of new episodes, RSS feed).

Frank Miracola is the author of the Free is Good podcast which focuses on innovative, helpful, and free tools that teachers can use in the classroom. As a teacher myself, I have used several of the free software and web utilities that Frank has demonstrated on this podcast. Free Is Good is a great example of an enhanced podcast. Frank uses video, screenshots, and still pictures to demonstrate the use and utility of the resources he highlights. 

Why I like it:
  • Practical information that is easily used. 
  • Episodes are short and concise (usually less than 10min). 
  • Videos show exactly how to use the resources. 
  • Quality is very good. 


Ira Flatow is the host of the NPR program heard every Friday around the country which highlights science topics from astronomy to biology. Interesting guests and an engaging host make this a podcast worth listening too. 

Why I like it:
  • Wide range of scientific topics-- you never know what you're going to get!
  • Podcast episodes are divided by topic and are very clearly titled. This enables you to select the episodes that are of interest to you.

Dr. Ravi Zacharias is a Christian philosopher, apologist and master orator whose confidence and clarity rivals that of C.S. Lewis. Ravi offers two podcasts- "Just thinking," a 15-minute daily podcast, and "Let My People Think," a 30-minute weekly podcast. Both provide challenging content that makes you think about life's greatest issues. 

Although these are both great podcasts, I should point out that neither is listed through iTunes. In order to subscribe, you will need to manually add the RSS feed provided here to iTunes.

Why I like it: 
  • Short podcasts that take a long time to ponder. 
  • Passionate delivery.
  • Timely and relevant messages.
5. North Point Ministries: Andy Stanley

Andy Stanley is the pastor of North Point Community Church located outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Andy is a up and coming author and speaker in the Christian community. I particularly enjoy Andy's perspective on leadership. His book Next Generation Leader was a great inspiration to me when I read it this past summer. 

Why I like it: 
  • Lots of dry, witty humor.
  • Practical lessons for daily living. 
  • Examples of leadership.
That's what's on my iPod. As I discover new, interesting podcast I'll be sure to post them here! 

1 comment:

  1. I'd add:
    CBC Radio: Spark - This Canadian radio show seems to cover geeky tech, biotech, and tech and culture really well.

    EdTechTalk - There's something for every educator with shows covering leadership, classroom practice, and, of course, educational technology.

    Education Podcast with John Merrow - He's been covering American education for years. Recently, he and his colleagues have conducted excellent interviews with leaders in both New Orleans and D.C.

    Mars Hill Bible Church - Rob Bell teaches a little more than half the weekend sermons. All the teaching at this church is thought provoking and Christ-centered.

    Neue - Church leadership interviews from the Relevant Magazine crew.

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