Monday, February 13, 2012

Loving iTunes U

The last few weeks have been quite exciting in the ed tech world.  Apple's announcement of the iBook textbook has brought quite a bit of discussion about the future of textbooks.  I was very interested in this development myself, but more so in the possibility of creating my own interactive book with iBooks Author.  My interest in both of these products however eventually led me to looking into the iTunes U app for my iPhone and for the last week I have been spending a lot of time checking out what it has to offer and how it can help me be a better teacher.

To best see how it worked I decided to take a course myself.  I'm a science teacher and I really enjoy teaching the life science standards at my grade level so I decided to take Ecosystems: Living Communities from The Open University.  I love how the course is laid out, with a series of assignments and due dates that I can check off as I complete them (though I'm having a hard time keeping up!).  Taking a class on my iPhone means I have no class to go to and no instructor to deliver the basic content.  I don't miss it at all though because the videos that I watch for many of the assignments are better than listening to a lecture.  And since I have Apple TV, I can watch the videos on my big screen television.  There is more to the course though than watching videos.  Readings are interspersed with the videos and those are done on the iBooks app.   

I've really thought a lot about course design in relation to my classroom while taking this course.  Showing videos and having students read from texts are not new and innovative teaching approaches.  What has affected me so greatly is that I have been able to do it while sitting on my couch or at the tire store while waiting to get the oil changed in my car.  The depth of resources available for learning now is greater than at any other time and I think it's incredibly important to give our students the opportunity to access them, not only in school, but also outside of school. 

My school currently uses Blackboard and it seems to be the perfect tool for consolidating a number of resources for each of my classes.  My goal is to gather and arrange these resources--photos, videos, worksheets, handouts, readings-- so that they support and enrich the learning going on in my classroom.     

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