Flashback: Late 2014, a couple of colleagues and I are on Skype (yes Skype!) talking about our love of podcasts, and what we’re currently listening to. At that time, the podcast du jour was Serial, an investigative journalism podcast that addressed a possible miscarriage of justice in the US, which started in October of that year and has now been downloaded over 68 million times! A podcast which according to Sherrill, (2020) (1) helped move podcasting from a niche activity to a mainstream media platform. During our conversation, we discuss the lack of ELT podcasts, and one thing led to another and in March 2015 the first episode of TEFL commute dropped.
Flashforward: January 2023, it’s estimated that there are over 5 million podcasts with over 70 million episodes between them (2). Of that, 105 of those episodes are TEFL commute, and in the seven years since we started there is now a burgeoning ELT podcast range for teachers to get stuck into covering many angles.
Aside from their enjoyment value, podcasts are an excellent way of squeezing a little bit of continuing professional development into our busy lives. Something we can listen to, while doing something else. Listening on demand, unlike video on demand does not tie us to a screen.
ELT podcasts contain interviews which allows us to hear from renowned ELT professionals. They also give us new and differing perspectives on educational topics and provide us with things we can try out in the classroom. Space limits me from mentioning all the ELT podcasts out there, but if you’re looking for some to get started then hopefully these five will help you on your way.
As one of the founders of this podcast, we started this with the idea of providing teachers with something to listen to on their journey to work. Most episodes are based around a light-hearted discussion inspired by a word related to education – anything from stationary to games, or grammar. As well as discussions, the podcast tries to demystify areas of language teaching, and provide activities for the classroom.
This is a long-running podcast about language teaching and applied linguistics. If you prefer something less light-hearted then this might be the podcast for you. Currently at 116 episodes, TEFLology mixes episodes that bring you in-depth interviews with leading figures in the industry, and chats on areas of interest for the presenters.
Teacher Talk Radio
Technically not a podcast but a whole internet-based radio station. It describes itself as community radio station for teachers and educators. Shows go out live (from 11am to 10pm) but then each episode can be downloaded like a podcast. There are around 15 different hosts covering all aspects of education though many episodes feature ELT, and hosts such as Jane Ritter, Graham Stanley, and Harry Watters are from an ELT background.
TEFL Training Institute
Another long stay podcast having reached 200 episodes. While 200 might seem like a lot to catch up on, the podcast aims to be bite-sized, so episodes are around 15 minutes with the goal of giving ideas to teachers, trainer and managers. Episodes feature chats with people from throughout the industry, along with discussions on ELT topics.
Something rhymes with purple
Ok, so this one is made for mainstream not ELT consumption. However, most English teachers are fascinated by the English language, and this podcast deals with just that. The two hosts, well-known in the UK, spend each episode looking at words and sayings discussing meaning and origins. The weekly topics are eclectic and more than one thing they have discussed has made its way into my language classes!
If you’ve never listened to a podcast, I hope that at least one of these five will appeal to you but if not, as I mentioned at the outset, I can’t include them all so if you’re still looking for the right one for you then simply search your favourite podcast provider.
Shaun Wilden is an education technologist who teaches and trains both face-to-face and online courses. He is the academic manager for online courses for the International House World Organisation overseeing their suite of asynchronous teacher development courses. He also teaches digital literacy as well as short courses in teaching online at the University of Oxford. His latest book, Mobile Learning, was published by Oxford University Press. In his spare time, he makes the TEFL commute podcast for teachers and plays board games.
(1) Sherrill, Lindsey. (2020). The “ Serial Effect” and the True Crime Podcast Ecosystem. Journalism Practice. 16. 1-22. 10.1080/17512786.2020.1852884.
(3) (italics)TEFL commute: http://www.teflcommute.com
(4) (italics)TEFLology: www.teflology-podcast.com
(5) (italics)Teacher Talk Radio: https://www.ttradio.org
(6) (italics)TEFL Training Institute: https://www.tefltraininginstitute.com/podcast
(7) (italics)Something rhymes with purple: https://somethinelse.com/projects/something-rhymes-with-purple/