Monday, 23 November 2015

Review of ELT podcasts part 2


In my previous review of podcasts I wrote "2014 was a great year for EFL podcasts with several sprouting up like veritable fungi". Well not only had I missed some, but also more soon sprouted up like...more fungi?



1. Lives of teachers

When I first wrote about podcasts Darren Elliott commented that I'd left his podcast out. I had! I was shocked to discover a TEFL podcast that had existed since 2010 and which started with an interview of Paul Nation as it's first episode! Elliott has interviewed EFL luminaries like Mike Swan, Scott Thornbury and Jennifer Jenkins. The interviews are great and Darren is an excellent host. My only criticism of this podcast (apart from its irregularity) is the fact that the sound quality is poor at times. It has improved recently but early episodes, particularly at the start, were very quiet. 



this show started in July and hosts Marek Kiczkowiak and Robert McCaul have already managed to pump out 16 episodes. They've covered a wide variety of topics such as 'Chinese v Western education systems' and 'product v process approaches to teaching writing'. It's quite 'loose' in style and of the 'two dudes talking' school of podcasting (Marek tells me he doesn't worry much about editing). At times the sound quality isn't great (the 'live from the language show' episode sounded like it was recorded in a submarine) but I'd still say it's well worth a listen. I'm a little biased however since they invented me on to one of their recent episodes and let me ramble on for about half and hour. It'll be interesting to see what happens with this podcast. 



The 'commute', hosted by Shaun Wilden and Lindsay Clandfield's (and James Taylor at times*) is a rare beast. A TEFL podcast that isn't about teaching. Instead they deal with peripheral issues such as 'photocopiers' and 'translation'. My favourite episode so far was their examination of the movie 'dead poets' society' from a teaching perspective. I really enjoyed that one. 

I would say that this podcast has far and away the best production values of these podcasts. It has clear sections, good art, good editing and (usually) great sound quality. They generally avoid teaching but do say in their blurb that it "might crop up" A recent interview with Scott Thornbury which touched on 'example sentences' got me wondering if this podcast would be even better if it did actually deal with teaching issues. 


4. SAGE language and linguistics (language testing bytes)


Glenn Fulcher started language 'bytes podcast' in 2010 and has so far produced around 20 episodes, so it's a pretty infrequent. The episodes are also very short with 26 minutes being the longest and 8 the shortest. What it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. Glenn is a leading expert in language testing and has guests like Alan Davies and Stephen box discussing issues like 'aviation English testing' and 'rather bias in speaking assessment'. The podcast has been combined with one of Sage's other podcasts so the language testing is interspersed with 'child language teaching' which seems like a rather odd combination to me. 

 
5. EdTechConcerns

Another podcast I really enjoyed was EdTechConcerns. It was also hosted by Shaun Wilden and Lindsay Clandfield (with Philip Kerr) and ran for 7 episodes. It focused on the use of tech in education and the potential problems associated with that. It was packed with interesting interviews and was a high quality production. I'm not sure that you can listen to it now as it doesn't seem to be available. Was it a perhaps a trial run for the TEFL commute? 
   
So there's been a huge expansion in ELT podcasts but a few seemed to have died off. The minimal pair which I talked about last time and KKCL podcast both now seem defunct. I still think there is room for more so here are a few ideas:


1. A TEFL podcast that focuses on actually getting jobs in various countries. So each episode would be about a certain country/sector including an interview with someone there.

2. Similar to the above but getting a local teacher from different countries to talk about the particular language issues that students they teach have.

3. An Applied linguistics podcast. There's a lot of good stuff in TEFLology and and language testing bytes but it would perhaps be good to have a podcast about more academic issues with more in-depth discussion -but not too complex as to turn off listeners.

4. Academic reading circle. A podcast that discusses important/interesting ELT articles. One per episode. Even better if they could interview the authors.
5.A TEFL podcast with a female host.*

 Here's looking forward to a 2016 of great podcasting! 

*As Shaun Wilden notes in the comments, the TEFL commute does in fact have a female host  Ceri Jones. So apologies Ceri!   

10 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review, Russell, maybe we can get you to come on the dessert island? Or may be we can get you to choose an article per episode to get your academic reading circle pod started :-)
    Just a couple of things, we do have a female presenter in Ceri Jones. Admittedly she has only hosted a couple so far but the plan for season three is to rotate more. As for edtechconcerns, it wasn't the forerunner to commute though we realised when making concerns that we loved making podcasts so commute was born.
    You are right it is difficult to find now, we made it with our IATEFL hats on (me LT and Lindsay GI SIG) and they sponsored it so after a year we had to take it down. It will come back again when LT SIG launch their new website, we'll make all the episodes available on it.

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    1. Hi Shaun,

      Thanks for the comment. Yes I should have mentioned Ceri as she was on the Dead pets episode. I don't know why that had slipped my mind. I shall add a note.

      As for making an appearance, any time :) I'm a big fan of podcasts. I actually have my own but it's not about TEFL.

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  2. Academic reading circle, you say. That caught my attention.

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    1. hahahahaha...something to think about.

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  3. Thanks for this Russell, I agree with you about Lives of Teachers, it was in many ways ahead of its time I think in the ELT world. Thanks also for the Commute and Edtech mentions too. I'm going to listen to the others here (well, I know the TEFL show but not the SAGE one) next.
    By the way, I really enjoy the Slate Lexicon Valley podcast and The Allusionist as two language focused podcasts. Not so much ELT or linguistics, but often a good listen.

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    1. Lexicon valley is probably the finest language podcast out there. Very high production values and fantastic hosts. I'm not super excited about the Ben Zimmer episodes (though I do like him) Etymology isn't a very interesting subject for me.

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  4. Thanks for this list Russ. I listen to the TEFL Commute, TEFLology and The TEFL Show, but the others were new to me. As Lindsay says, The Allusionist is really good for language, as is The History of English.
    I really like the idea of an Academic Reading Circle - it tallies with a blog(post?) idea I've had for ages but haven't had time to do anything about. Will watch with interest to see if anybody takes you up on this idea
    Sandy

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    1. Hi Sandy,

      Thanks for commenting. I wasn't suggesting i intended to start any of these :) I think Tyson is interested though, perhaps you and he could work something out? ;) I'll have to have a listen to the Allusionist.

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  5. Have you seen Bill VanPatten's http://www.teawithbvp.com/ Latest episode live from ACTFL with Krashen.

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