Podcasts & Homework

33On the surface these two things appear to have nothing in common. Right? But stay with me as I explain. I follow Duke Professor, celebrated author and student of human nature Dan Ariely. Dan writes a regular column for the Wall Street Journal in which he answers people’s questions. A recent question was “Any tips for encouraging kids to view their homework as play?”

Being that my second career is teaching at a university, subjects dealing with learning catch my eye, so I read what Dan had to say about this.

Can Homework Be Viewed As Play?

Two words: Not really.

However Dan goes on to explain why this is. While you can get kids to maybe enjoy homework more or to hate doing homework less, it is still work. Play is something else entirely.

So what does this have to do with Podcasts?

Hold on, I’m getting to that. Dan goes on to tell the story of how in a part of the world that has little water; deep wells need to be dug to find water. Pumping water out of these deep wells is a lot of work. A person noticing how children at a playground near the well loved to push a merry-go-round around for hours on end while at play had an idea. What if the children’s merry-go-round were connected to a pump that would draw water out of the well? Are you with me so far?  Well, that’s what they did.

A Not So Bright Idea

The result of this new “PlayPump” was underwhelming. And here’s the key point of the story. Dan says that “when you take a play activity and force children to do it, you change the activity from play to work, and the fun goes away.”

Podcasts = Work

In my honest opinion, Podcasts take work. You have to remember they are there. You have to download them onto your device. You have to schedule a time you’re going to listen to them. You have the ability to fast-forward or repeat them – which I’m sure you would say is their benefit – and that means you have control over them. You have a role to play. You have to work. So if Podcasts are to be a threat to over-the-air radio, listening to them is going to have to get a whole lot easier.

Don’t Discount Curation

Over-the-air radio is easy, just an on/off button, volume control, and your favorite stations ready to listen to at the push of a button. Someone else does all the work. They pick out the songs, they tell you the weather, they give you the time and traffic conditions, they entertain you, and they alert you to anything important happening in your world you should know about. All you have to do is play.

Who wants to do homework anyway?

9 Comments

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9 responses to “Podcasts & Homework

  1. Rick Singel

    Dick, my “civilian” two cents: Podcasts mean nothing to me. I don’t have the time nor the inclination to seek out anything “recorded previously”. There is SO much coming at us, in all forms of media, daily, it is impossible to absorb what is happening today alone. I never got the concept, Dick. And now I realize why–it is “work” to seek them out. My overall emotion? “Who cares!” Loved your take on podcasts.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. James Heckel

    If there is, say, an NPR broadcast or podcast that is related to a course of study and this content can be retrieved via app for later listening and/or for educational purposes, that’s a good thing. Podcasts don’t really “compete” with broadcast radio per se.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. However, most of the discovery of Podcasts does come from curation through social media. The most successful shows come from personalities and brands that already have strong followings.

    Looking at the current Top 20 on iTunes. Ten come from public radio brands, 2 from Bill Simmons’ network, 2 from HowStuffWorks.com, 1 from ESPN Radio, Chris Hardwick, Tony Robbins, Mike Rowe, and Joe Rogan are all well known personalities, and the last one is about Disney from a guy who has a huge social media and web presence. People are discovering these shows through alternative media but still being converted to listeners.

    As more and more cut the radio cord this is how audiences will be built, not through scanning the dial.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pete Salant

    Dick, I no longer listen to radio. Terrestrial radio doesn’t excite me like it once did, Sirius/XM has serious problems relating to audio clarity, level ‘shock,’ and a dearth of programming creativity. So I listen to podcasts when I drive and when I walk the dog. I have since 2011, when radio and I’d had it with each other, and like you, I began a rewarding second career. My podcasts appear automatically on my iPhone, and if I hear about a cool new podcast, I listen and subscribe for free if I like it. No more work involved than tuning the radio. Not sure where the work is to which you refer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The first real podcast I really listened to was SERIAL. Downloaded the whole thing AFTER it had concluded and listened to it on my 14 drive back home that Christmas. Thought it was FABULOUS. However, I have never listened to even a single episode of season two of SERIAL.

      Now, there are segments of programming I’ve heard on NPR that I was unable to finish at that time of broadcast, that I’ve gone back to listen to as “On Demand” radio listening, but I mainly have done that on my computer at my office and that requires a whole series of clicks to get to the subject matter I want to hear.

      Recently I’ve enjoyed the The Radio Stuff podcasts about all things radio by Larry Gifford. But in that case the material is of high interest to me and so I do the work to listen to them via SoundCloud.

      You’ve developed a habit for them. Me? Not so much. As a result, listening to them takes 1) remembering that they are there and 2) work to listen to them.

      I guess I still think of radio as being “in the now” and not something delayed.

      But I think what I’m hearing from you is that you use them as sort of “audio books” and I have checked out audio books from the library for trips as reading on planes or trains or buses etc causes me to deal with motion sickness that listening does not.

      But for me, podcasts are like USAToday. Something read in a hotel room, but not something read when I’m at home.

      Thanks Pete for contributing to the discussion.

      Like

  5. PREACH IT, BROTHER! This is a trope that I’ve been evangelizing for years now. A lot of radio’s weakness, relative to podcasts, is actually its strength.

    John Maeda, formerly of MIT and RISD, expands on this concept in his principles of “simplicity”. For all the magic Apple has wrought with the iPhone, there’s no podcast on earth that is even in the same ballpark of simplicity when it comes to radio.

    https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/laws-simplicity

    Radio is “push button, turn knob, get content.” That’s it. Nothing with bidirectional data, which means everything online, can possibly match the simplicity of a unidirectional data flow.

    With the exception of engineers, humans are inherently wired to value simplicity. That’s why the iPod blew away every other music player: it was everything you could possibly have in a portable music player, but stripped down to the barest minimum of information exchange. Not only could anyone use it, but nobody felt dumb trying to figure it out. Better still, Apple got it as close to “not thinking about it at all” as they could. The best design is utterly transparent and radio comes closer than almost anything else.

    There’s definite strengths and weaknesses that podcasts have over radio, but in general the real fight between the two is about content more than design. There’s a handful of really good podcasts amidst a sea of crap, but it’s easy to filter out the crap and just get the good stuff. Radio doesn’t have that luxury; it’s harder to filter out the crap…and for the most part, a lot of radio’s content is crap.

    That’s bad because it makes it easy to paint all of radio as “deficient” compared to podcasting, when it’s really comparing apples to oranges. There’s good radio out there: public radio, for the most part, is good on both news and music. There’s a few commercial music stations, too (KPIG comes to mind, and WBRU is decent…there’s others), and good local commercial stations, too (the Finger Lakes Radio Groups is pretty good). And there’s some well-done sports stations out there (WBZ-FM/SportsHub is a good example). And if religion or foreign-language content is your thing, there’s some good stuff here and there. But a lot of the rest is garbage and it makes the whole medium look bad.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: What’s In a Name? | DickTaylorBlog

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