Podcasts: 57 Channels and Nothin’ On?

Guest post by Nicholas Indeglio

Back in the 90s, the influx of cable television channels gave viewers a menu of options. However, while the quantity of channels was plentiful, it didn’t speak to the quality and did not target consumers. As Bruce Springsteen sang, “There was 57 channels and nothin’ on.”

Today, services like Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, and Sling have flipped the cable TV market on its head by offering original content, the trend of binge-watching, and the ability for the consumer to cut ties with traditional cable. Consumers now have a high level of choice in what to watch and how to watch it.

This television evolution mirrors the growth of another market known as podcasting. A podcast is a digitally recorded audio file that is uploaded and distributed through myriad internet companies. Everyone from weekend enthusiasts to influential celebrities can create and proliferate their own content through internet radio shows. Best of all, most podcast content—through iTunes, Stitcher, and other distributors—is free.

In the Downingtown Area School District, we have two middle schools. I am the principal of Downingtown Middle School, while my neighbor Jon Ross is the principal of Lionville Middle School. In an effort to conserve gas and save money for our hour-long commute, Jon and I would frequently drive together. During those commutes, we would talk in-depth about everything education related. After a few months, Jon commented, “Man, these conversations are golden. I wish there was a way to publish them.” I pondered that for a while and soon realized, “Well, why can’t we?”

John and I did some research on podcasts, contemplated the minimal costs, and decided to give it a shot. Once we came up with a podcast hosting service, developed some basic GarageBand skills, registered on iTunes, and figured out a name, The Rock Star Principals took to the virtual airwaves.

To our surprise, our show resonated quickly in the educational community, and I believe it is because we aimed our broadcasts directly at school principals. The principalship can be a lonely place where principals feel isolated. Our podcast broke the spell of loneliness and created a way to connect with other educational leaders around the world. Many of our listeners write, text, call, or tweet that they listen to our show on their drives to and from work.

In addition to The Rock Star Principals—which can be found in the iTunes Store under K–12 Education in Podcasts; on Stitcher Radio; and through our website at rockstarprincipals.net—a variety of other valuable leadership podcasts exist that provide a network for principals and educational leaders everywhere. Some of these include:

  • How Stuff Works – Chuck Bryant and Josh Clark examine a different topic each week relating to “how stuff works.” Topics include internships, unsolved mysteries, governments, building buildings, hip hop, animals, and more.
  • MindShift Podcast – KQED describes their podcast as covering “topics like how fed-up administrators are developing surprising tactics to deal with classroom disruptions; how listening to podcasts are helping kids develop reading skills; the consequences of overparenting; and why interdisciplinary learning can engage students on all ends of the traditional achievement spectrum.”
  • NAESP Radio – The National Association of Elementary School Principals podcast focuses on issues that affect the lives of elementary principals across the country.
  • Principal Matters – William Parker, a high school principal in Oklahoma, takes his popular blog on school leadership to the airwaves discussing all things ed leadership and the principalship.
  • Transformative Principal With Jethro Jones – A 2017 NASSP Digital Principal of the Year, Jones focuses on many issues affecting principals and school leaders through interviews with practitioners, experts, and more.
  • Revisionist History – Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast looks at a piece of news or history and reevaluates it using Gladwell’s unique lens of the social sciences.
  • TED Talks Daily – With new episodes every Monday through Friday, this podcast explores topics covering absolutely everything, from TED Talks all over the world.
  • TEDTalks Education – Famous educators, researchers, leaders, and more from both TED and TEDx Talks around the globe share their stories and work.
  • This American Life – Journalists on this show, hosted by Ira Glass, share stories from all over the United States, covering city culture, agriculture, crime, education, and more.
  • The Tim Ferriss Show – Best-selling author of Tools of Titans and the upcoming Tribe of Mentors, Ferriss has interviewed experts in all areas of life and applies their principles and advice to his own life.

Fortunately for “The Boss,” the days of 57 channels and nothin’ on are long gone. No matter your area of interest or your medium of choice, there’s plenty of relevant content out there to better yourself personally and professionally.

What other podcasts would you add to this list? What topics would you like to listen to about school leadership?

Nicholas Indeglio, EdD, is the principal of Downingtown Middle School in Downingtown, PA. He was a 2017 Digital Principal of the Year. Follow him on Twitter @DrIndeglio.

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