I have long thought of education as a media rich content delivery system with a high degree of human interaction. In that light, how can the iTunes media content distribution system afford our students and teachers a deeper, richer teaching and learning experience?
We have certainly seen the impact of iTunes in the music industry. How can educators leverage this same content distribution model to positively impact teaching and learning in school? The possibilities are enormous and fantastic.
Student-created Media Content for Teaching and Learning
With the powerful digital media creation tools afforded students today, rich content development by students for students is certainly happening in many schools. (Check out MabryOnline.org if you are not aware of the broadcast quality, exemplary work those middle school students and their teachers have done.) But student- and teacher-created digital media learning objects is just a small part of a larger perspective.
iTunes University Courses
For those who may not be aware, iTunes U has taken off with a flourish and features courses from many of America's best universities: Duke, UC Berkeley, Stanford, Yale, MIT to name a few. I have it on good authority that this list will grow explosively in 2008. Middle and high school students need to be exploring these courses, listening to these professors, getting to know more about their future educational encounters. Educators, can we say rich and outrageous "differentiated instruction?!"
K-12 iTunes Learning Resources
But iTunes U has now started going much further. Look at the lower right hand side of the main iTunes U window! Apple appears to be adding media rich learning content from some very noteworthy sources: American Public Media, American Theater Wing, The Research Channel, Smithsonian Global Sound, and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum to only name a few. I suspect (have on good authority?) that this effort is only going to expand significantly in the coming months.
I'll speak to one recently added resource. PBS has just added to iTunes U resources from 4 affiliates: K-12 teachers' classroom resources organized by content like Earth and Space Science, and Engineering; global history in regions including Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East; series that include Ken Burns' The War and The Jewish Americans; and QUEST: Science and Nature. Professional development resources from PBS are also here.
In my mind, forward thinking K-12 educators will want to leverage the iPod (especially the iPod Touch and even the iPhone) for learning. As more and more professional content creators add their resources to iTunes U, doing so will only become easier. Teachers can easily add a link on a classroom blog or website, a link that takes students directly to a specific podcast for download to their iPods.
How to Add a Link to an iTunes U Resource to Your Blog
As you can see in this post, I have included several links to iTunes U. Clicking on the link launches iTunes (Mac and Windows must have iTunes installed.) and takes the user to the linked resource. This is easy to do! Let me give you the simplest way to add a link to your blog post.
- Go to iTunes U.
- Find the link to the content you want your students to download or watch on the computer.
- Place your cursor directly over the link. (The cursor becomes a little hand when positioned over a link.)
- Right click on the link.
- Select "Copy iTunes Store URL" from the contextual popup menu.
- Immediately go to your blog post and paste. (If you copy anything else to your clipboard before pasting the iTunes link to your blog, you will lose the link and need to go back to iTunes U to copy the link again.)
If you want to write the html code yourself, the actual html code will look something like this:
<a href="itms://deimos3.apple.com/indigo/main/main.xml" target="_blank">iTunes U</a>
where everything in the first set of quotation marks is the link you copied from the copy step above. And in the space in the html code above that reads "iTunes U" you simply add the text you want to appear in your blog for the link, perhaps: "Click here to go to Tonight's Homework Podcast" without the quotation marks.
More that Just iTunes U
I suspect that in the near future teachers will be able to design interactive content for the iPod Touch and iPhone. The only people that will be more excited about this learning tool than I am are the students! The iPod becomes an anytime, any place, interactive learning kiosk for kids. Imagine homework assignments that are literally interactive online and on-iPod learning experiences. I've actually been talking about this for years.
Students are required to take ownership of their own learning in their own space outside of the school building. The teacher is everywhere, in living color, with them. Class time is reserved for more individualized student learning and project-based instruction.
More that Just Content Delivery
And don't think of the iPod as only delivering content. The iPod Touch and the iPhone sport the slick touch interactive interface. You can use these as assessment devices--a feature I suggest Apple is going to leverage in significant ways in the relatively near future, making portable, quality, interactive, learning assessment ubiquitous.
From my perspective, IT and system level curriculum specialists need to begin designing formative assessment tools that teachers can use with students. Imagine: an online tool in which the teacher types in the questions and assessment distractors (multiple choice options, True/False, fill in the blank, even pictures and movie files could be used).
I'm thinking class sets of the iPod Touch where the students go to the online assessment site, touch their screens for each question and provide immediate feedback for the teacher through the classroom WiFi network. Such a process ultimately takes the teacher out of the tedious and time consuming clerical business of grading papers and puts them in the data assessment business--making instantaneous, meaningful judgements about student learning and designing time-sensitive interventions to maximize achievement. We frequently speak of teachers needing to work differently, not more? This is a classic example!
Don't be quick to say this will never happen. That's what the record industry said, and they certainly have far more political and financial clout than educators in this country!
Don't be quick to say "If we buy every student a $250 iPod Touch they will sell it for crack cocaine!" [I actually heard, with my own ears, a parent say that about student laptops! I think I unintentionally gasped aloud in complete shock.] This is the very same mindset that didn't want pencils and paper in classes because students might pass notes in class. Bad things happen in this world. If we let that keep us from doing good things we wouldn't drive our cars either. This is also the same mindset that causes those who try to refuse to grow to become bitter and more irrelevant to their students.
The positive possibilities here are endless. Our students' interest in the iPod is high. We can leverage this unprecedented interest, this participatory experience, this emotional connection... for learning. What an exciting time to be an educator!