Ever since my family gave me a small ipod as a Christmas gift several years ago, I have become a regular – rather enthusiastic – listener of various podcast programs. It was a good fit with my personal preference and circumstance in right timing. This new experience has been inspiring and entertaining for me.
Until two years ago, I used to work in a different city from my family which was about 200 miles apart. It required me to maintain a dual residence and have many long drives either for the family or for classes offered on main campus in Austin. To use the time in more productive way (or simply to entertain me so I won’t fall asleep) during the long drives, I used to listen to the radio or audiobook tapes in the car. Listening to a music or a story lets me think and imagine while driving (not in a dangerous way) which made my driving less painful. I have become familiar with many new genre in music, from Honky-tonk to hip hops to local country musics. Listening to the NPR programs was equally helpful for me engaging in some brain activity while driving.
With the new ipod, I soon learned that I could easily expand my repertoire of my listening selections beyond music and news. Not only was I able to sync my music selections from itunes on my computer, I could find and download many interesting podcast programs. So many choices…
I thought I would want to find something entertaining yet informative and helpful to my profession. I began subscribing to the programs on marine and environmental science, education, climate change, ethics, general science news, and even economics.
The “Science and the Sea” podcast of my department was the first one to add. The “PRI: Living on Earth”, “A Moment of Science”, “NOAA: Making Waves”, “60-Second Earth”, “NPR: Environment”, and “Radiolab” were picked for ‘sciency’ topics. The “Ethicist”, “NPR: Education”, “Freakonomics” and TED talks were other favorite topics added to my selections. Some were as short as one minute long while others can be longer than a half hour. I mixed a variety of these podcasts and listened while driving, and it worked out fine.
My four-hour-long drive for each way has become less tiring thanks to this new ritual.
I found that there are a number of good values of listening to such podcast programs. Not only they educate me on specific topics with updated knowledge (from marine science to environments, to climate change, to general common sense knowledge in science, or even to economics or ethics) but also they gave me countless inspiration and ideas that are very useful for my research and teaching. I encountered numerous excellent podcast episodes that I ended up using in my classes to enrich understanding of topics I teach. When I come across an interesting episode or information that is inspiring to me with some ideas, I would write a quick short memo even while driving (not to forget in next few minutes). Now I always carry a small notepad and a pen in the car.
I think this worked out well for me partly because of my circumstances of a long-driving and general interest in science but also due to my nature of being an audio person than a video person. Having interests spanning a big spectrum of diverse topics also helped me to find many excellent programs and let me develop many interdisciplinary ideas.