10 of the best educational podcasts and audiobooks

Posted on the 20th October

The old adage of you “you learn something new every day” has never been more prevalent than in the 21st century. We are not bound by the modicum of knowledge available through the simple paperback book in centuries preceding. We have data banks housing a fountain of information available instantaneously at the click of a finger. The multitude of different formats that we are able to consume information in has grown exponentially, from audiobooks and podcasts to video, radio, music, television and film. Each of which lends itself to alternate learning styles. 


The bandwidth of human knowledge has increased tenfold since the invention of television as access to a new way of learning became available. It is no surprise that innovation rates are soaring and the blur between science fiction and reality growing ever more opaque.


Both podcasts and audiobooks are a time-efficient form of communication, convenient and easy to consume. The main consumption of both is digitally and as such the physical cost like postage, printing and packaging if they were cd’s or tapes is null. This leads them to be some of the cheapest forms of content you can consume. Most podcasts are free to listen to and the majority earn income through advertising spots whereas the best audiobook platforms come in a subscription model allowing access to thousands of titles on demand.


Podcasts


Podcasts have soared in popularity over recent years. They are easily digestible, engaging and informative. They offer an insight into the thoughts, opinions and feelings of the host and guests as they tackle important and sometimes trivial topics.


Hearing about personal experiences will create an affinity with someone which is why podcast hosts are often revered. We feel like we know who they are, despite never having personally met them. 


Granted, not every podcast in the world is going to be informative and educational based but that doesn’t mean you won’t learn anything from them. Understanding another’s experience and listening to an alternate viewpoint on a topic can enhance your empathy and provide you with deeper background on the situation, for use in future conversations. Developing a rich, well-rounded knowledge base will set you up well for a career and make you more employable. 


Audiobooks


I personally adore audiobooks. My audible subscription provides me with truly remarkable value and I can’t envisage myself ever cancelling it. Fictional stories provide me with a necessary escape from reality and yet I never find the time to sit down and read a book. Audiobooks allow me to still experience the wonder of imagining unique and exciting worlds inside my mind, interpreting storytelling differently to your neighbour.


A recent study from the Journal of Neuroscience found that stories stimulated the same cognitive and emotional areas, regardless of their medium. So don’t let anyone tell you that listening to audiobooks is cheating and isn’t the same as reading.


I understand if you don’t want to take just my word for it though. According to a publication by the Audio Publishers Association, audiobooks can help to build and enhance vital literacy skills like fluency, vocabulary, language acquisition, pronunciation, phonics and comprehension.


They also have the ability to boost our moods and disrupt patterns of negative thinking that can plague daily lives. For those prone to anxiety and depression, listening to someone read helps to replace negative thoughts and focus the mind on the present consuming the content. 


5 of the best educational podcasts


  • Discovery


Updated weekly, the Discovery podcast from the BBC is chock a block full of crazy, mind-expanding facts about science. Presented in a laid back, engaging way it is clear as a listener that the content is well-produced as you would expect from a BBC production.


Some topics previously discussed on the podcast that is great to dive deep into include “Why do we experience deja vu?” and “The noises that make us cringe”. Both of these podcasts are well suited to providing listeners with fun information on some commonly asked questions that it is difficult to find the answer to elsewhere.



  • TED Talks Daily


Shaking up the traditional posting schedule by providing great new content on a daily basis as evidenced by the name. Elise Hu the host will help you transcend thought-provoking ideas on subjects that you may have never previously been interested in. Subjects that range between artificial intelligence and zoology are discussed by the worlds leading thinkers and creators to immerse the listener in the rich undertones that each subject niche has to offer.


The TED Talks Daily podcast is available at a number of digital locations so you’ll never be far from loading up the latest one and giving it a listen. 



  • Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders


A slightly left-field choice but no less important and incredibly educational for all students. The podcast series is a candid exploration of the entrepreneurial journey where passionate informed leaders share their own personal stories behind their success. All the secrets, trials, tribulations and setbacks. 


You may not consider yourself to be entrepreneurial or share in those aspirations but you can’t help but commend the set of recorded lectures from Stanford University given by the likes of Mark Zuckerburg, Marissa Mayer and Guy Kawasaki.



  • Philosophize This!


The best way to treat this podcast series is like an audiobook. Start from the beginning and marvel as host Stephen West traverses through the ideas that shape the world we currently live in. Promoting education and acceptance resonates with an audience so it is no surprise that this is one of the most popular podcasts around for its inclusivity and attention to detail. It will teach you valuable lessons without structured debate and textbooks. 


One nifty little trick that sets Stephen’s podcast out from the rest is his transcripts. Each episode is listed with an entire document going over every word and syllable muttered so if you aren’t content with just listening you can read along or if you were confused and need clarification it is there at your fingertips!



  • Rationally Speaking


We all use rationale in our lives to make our decisions. Sometimes the best decisions are made on a whim but that does not mean they haven’t been influenced by cognitive biases and heuristics. Julia Galef, the host of the Rationally Speaking podcast and her guests tackle important topics in the modern era such as utilitarianism, biases and why we should all learn how to be rational in our daily lives. 


Using healthy conversational tactics, Julia will conduct multiple interviews on the same topic to understand different perspectives and creep closer to the truth. It is a fascinating and insightful dive into thoughts and opinions, educating us all on how we should approach these differing views in our own lives.



5 of the best educational audiobooks


  • The Science of Self-Learning


One of the biggest skills employers look for is initiative. Taking control of your own work and learning new skills to enhance it. This audiobook puts emphasis on working smarter in order to save countless hours but it is not solely focused on saving time at school or in the office. The ability to deconstruct scenarios and topics is explored and how to use all that information to build from the ground up a plan to suit you. 


Best selling author, psychology researcher and holding a fascination into human condition there is a reason why Peter Hollins is someone that should be listened to. Even if you don’t follow everything he says and apply it to your own life you will undoubtedly pick up a number of skills naturally from the book.



  • Mathematical Mindsets


Maths can provoke nervous energy and anxiety in anyone but that shouldn’t stop us from learning. This audiobook from Jo Boaler provides students and parents with practical strategies and activities to promote maths and prove that even those of us convinced that maths is a deadly sin that we can enjoy and succeed in it. 

 

The book explains how the brain processes mathematics learning Reveals how to turn mistakes and struggles into valuable learning experiences Provides examples of rich mathematical activities to replace rote learning. It also explains ways to give students a positive math mindset and gives examples of how assessment and grading policies should be changed to support real understanding. So many students across the country hate math, so they end up leaving school without an understanding of basic mathematical concepts which hinders math-related pathways and STEM career opportunities. 


  • Harry Potter


Okay. So I understand that this may not be the most educational set of books in a traditional form. It isn’t going to provide students with magical new concepts and theories about the real world. But what it will do is help them expand their vocabulary. Become more confident in their own abilities and build empathy through understanding the experiences of individuals in the book. Some of the themes that rise up like a serpent in the book are incredibly hard-hitting and can help to educate students on real-world events. 


If you haven’t ever considered reading the Harry Potter books because you don’t feel like you have the time, fear not. They are the perfect travel accompaniment for a commute.



  • His Dark Materials Trilogy


Just like the Harry Potter books, the Dark Materials trilogy is not grounded in reality. (at least not ours exclusively) Whilst the trilogy is fantasy, it alludes to multiple concepts from physics, philosophy and theology. The main reason I recommend this trilogy is because of the multiverse that it traverses. Being able to immerse in all of these different worlds does wonders for the imagination, especially for younger students. Without imagination, creativity and new ideas that shape our world, we will stagnate. 


One of the biggest themes of the book is characters reassessing their own standing within the story and that the bravery of each character is admitting their wrongdoings and acting on those changes which is an excellent moral for us all to learn from. 



  • Harvard Busines Review’s 10 Must Reads


HBR’s 10 must-reads collection of audiobooks is a must for anyone looking to expand their horizons in the world of work. Whilst a number of university-led productions are grounded exclusively in theoretical concepts and theories. HBR shifts the focus to more practical examples, allowing for the instances in the books to be more relatable to everyday life. Some excellent ones to begin your HBR journey include “Managing yourself”, “Emotional Intelligence” and “Managing people”. 


The education is not provided on a silver platter, it requires critical thinking and analysing what is being said and the context of each situation. I recommend listening to these in the company of others as they are wonderful debate starters which is one of the most effective ways to learn.



Next time you are about to play the same couple of songs on repeat during your journey to work/school or if you have some downtime I would implore you to give one of the above a go. The reason they are so popular is that they have got unique formulas or ideas that can inspire and educate. 


If none of the audiobooks listed above tickle your palette, you can take a look at the 49 best-selling education audiobooks of all time.


Or if podcasts are more your thing but you would prefer to browse a few more options then you can find a comprehensive breakdown of the 40 best educational podcasts in 2021.


Looking for a tutor to discuss educational topics with? Check out our selection of qualified UK teachers here.


Perhaps, you have been inspired to discuss education and enhance learning through tutoring? If so, then head over to our become a tutor page and send over your application today.


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James Gurnett

20th October

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