December 2008

Psst…wanna hear something great?

by Gary Woodill on December 15, 2008


As a “feral learner“, I am always searching for interesting sources of ideas and information. One frequently overlooked source is public radio. As I work in my office, I often listen to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Canada’s public broadcaster, for in depth discussions of news, science, history, and live concerts. You can listen to all the programs live on the Internet (Radio 1, Radio 2, or Radio 3) and they are also often available as podcasts, CDs, transcripts, or streaming audio. There is a blog attached to most programs, for listener feedback.

In this brief post, I will highlight learning resources from the CBC that may be of interest to you.

Ideas - a long running program with some of the brightest and most interesting people on the planet – for example, novelist Margaret Atwood delivered 5 Massey lectures in 2008 (available as podcasts) entitled “Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth” – many of the Ideas programs since 1995 are available on CD.

As it Happens – This program has been running for 40 years, and is based on a simple concept. Inside of a “call-in” show, it is a “call-out” show. Tough interviewers call people all over the world as news happens, and often get through to the people actually making the news. Also available as a podcast.

Learning English – Sample program: What do you think it would be like to own the house where a famous person once lived? A Winnipegger who lives in Neil Young’s old house got a big surprise one day when Bob Dylan showed up. For listening and writing exercises to go with this podcast, visit 

Quirks and Quarks – This is a great radio program on science that is also available as a podcast. Sample program: Dr. Michael J Tarr has found that men’s and women’s faces are tinted red and green, respectively. (Being partly color-blind, I didn’t know!)

The Next Chapter – a program on literature. Sample program: November 22nd – Mars and Venus edition – Rebecca Eckler on chick-lit for teens, Todd Babiak on lad-lit’s demise, Susan Pinker on the Sexual Paradox, Tom Howell on poetry.

Concerts on Demand - over 900 live music concerts recorded across Canada. Every genre imaginable is here. Today’s concert is by the Downchild Blues Band, the inspiration for Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi’s Blues Brothers. Free as streaming audio. For more streaming music listen to Canada Live.

There’s lots more, but that should give you a good idea of the rich treasure that is the CBC. Canada’s gift to the world.