Most Popular EdSurge Podcast Episodes of 2021

Every week we publish a new episode of the EdSurge Podcast on the future of learning, a way to hear the voices of students, teachers and leaders as they solve some of the toughest problems facing education.

In 2021, we told the story of a student who was surprised to learn that the professor who appeared in the online course lecture videos had passed away years ago. We heard from a college president who moved into a dorm on his campus during the COVID-19 lockdown to learn more about the mental health challenges students face. And we heard from a K-12 teacher who was among the thousands of American teachers who lost their wagons in educating students in China online once that country instituted new restrictions against such actions.

As the year comes to a close, we’re highlighting the 10 episodes that got the most listens this year.

Three themes appeared. One is that people are interested in how new technologies affect education. For example, one of the most popular episodes addressed whether NFTs could play a role in classrooms and educational systems. We also looked at the possibility of home robots getting into the classroom, and that made the list, too.

The second axis was concerned with improving diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in education. We had a couple of great episodes on anti-racism, and that’s a topic we’ll continue to cover next year.

And last but not least, listeners were drawn to our episodes that revisited the history of long-running educational novels and looked at how we got here. In fact, our most popular episode of the year was about the strange and chaotic history of gifted and talented programming in the United States.

Most of them set out to bring in sounds you may not have heard before. But some of the big names got the most listening, including our interviews with civil rights pioneer and longtime university president Freeman Hrabowski, Columbia University Teachers College president emeritus Arthur Levine and with prominent educational technology critic Audrey Waters.

Here are the top 10 episodes of 2021 as voted by listeners. If you missed any or want to follow us through 2022, please subscribe to Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Robots are having a moment — including this year Amazon’s announcement of a new home robot. What could that mean for education? We spoke with Neil Selwyn, a research professor at Monash University in Australia and author of the provocative book Should Robots Replace Teachers?

Young children are curious about race and difference. So how do teachers prepare children to develop positive social identities, encourage them to express themselves and help them feel comfortable and safe? We spoke with Calvin Moore Jr., CEO of the Council for Professional Recognition, which administers the National Accreditation Program for Child Development, the accreditation most widely used in early childhood education.

Changes are coming to higher education, and these changes will be bigger and more disruptive than many university leaders and experts realize as online learning grows. That’s the view of longtime education leader Arthur Levine, in a new book called “The Great Turmoil: Higher Education’s Past, Present, and Uncertain Future.” This means that it is time to think differently about equity.

There is a lot of hype this year around NFTs, as artists are using a blockchain-based format to sell digital works acquired by collectors for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some students and teachers have experimented with the technology as well, and some say they can make quite a splash.

Our current grading system can be a way for children to prove themselves and win college scholarships, or get accepted into selective colleges. It can also be a barrier, in surprising ways at times. What would a world look like without letter grades and GPAs? In this installment of our ongoing Bootstraps series on educational equity, I requested my college admissions profile to explore the big role grades can play.

Freeman Hrabowski is a college president who has long campaigned for civil rights and racial justice. When he was 12, he walked with Martin Luther King Jr. in Birmingham, Alabama – and got arrested. His program to help students major in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields has been shown to work, and many colleges are trying to replicate it.

To match all the billions of neurons in the human brain in our heads, they are organized so that regions of the brain are carefully mapped to things like vision and hearing. And understanding these maps could be key to better understanding how the mind works — and how learning works, according to Rebecca Schwarzlos, a postdoctoral neuroscientist at Washington University in St. Louis, and author of the new book, “Brainscapes.”

Science learning is always progressing, resulting in new insights into how people acquire and retain knowledge and skills. How can classroom teachers keep up – and even conduct their own research to improve teaching, day after day and week after week? This episode concluded our series on the concept of “Learning Geometry”.

Today people don’t talk much about early teaching machines, some of which were made of wood and copper. And that’s no accident, according to Audrey Waters, a longtime critical observer of educational technology who has come up with a new book, Teaching Machines: A History of Personalized Learning. In this episode, we dust off those old teaching machines from all the way back to the 1920s, to see what these low-tech machines can teach us about education today.

Early in elementary school, children are placed on one of two paths: normal or gifted. Where did this idea come from? The answer goes back more than 100 years, to a famous scientist named Louis Terman. It turns out that his legacy and future for gifted programs are still under discussion. This is also part of the Bootstraps podcast series.

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