Despite being around for some time now, iTunesU remains one of the unsung heroes of why an 1-to-1 iPad deployment makes sense.
Beginning its life as a way for an exclusive group of universities to offer podcasts of lectures to the world for free, iTunes U has expanded beyond recognition.
Today, you would struggle to find a university without representation on the platform and, what is perhaps even more interesting for schools, is that it is now open to them for creating their own courses to share privately or publicly.
Gifted and Talented
If ever there was a platform suited to the independent, motivated, aspirational student, then this is it. The content on iTunes U is perfect for those students looking to be pushed, or pushing themselves to find material that will stretch them. It may be that you use iTunes U content as extension material, that you use it for a G&T club or society, or that you simply let your students know about it and see what they come up with. However you use it, students will find that there is a plethora of resources form some of the greats minds in the world, just waiting to embellish and enhance their learning.
Just as it may help your students to better themselves, so can iTunes U offer you up incredible opportunities to learn more about your subject area, or indeed about this whole educational technology thing. The resources are all there, waiting for you to tune in to as and when convenient to you. And did I mention yet, that it’s all free?
Interestingly, I have also been using iTunes U to provide CPD for our teachers. I have spent a lot of time doing face-to-face training with them, but I am well aware that learning to use technology is not something that happens instantly, so each of the sessions I ran has supporting materials in an iTunes U course that can be referred to again and again.
And this leads me on to the main event… my students, learning with technology in a way that supports them as individuals. What’s great about iTunes U is that you can attach pretty much any file type you like, as well as having space to write as much text as you like. What’s key here is that it is all about you and your students. You can write, record, film your voice, your face, in your style and maintain a connection with them even when you’re not in the classroom together. That type of continuity is invaluable.
The files you upload can be released all in one go as a ‘self-paced’ course, or you can schedule it so that things are only available as and when you want them to be.
I favour self-paced courses because it puts the student in charge of their own learning in a very real way. If they want to steam ahead (and yes, that can be annoying, but is it really so bad that they’re keen?) then they can. If they want to do extension task they can, and they don’t have to seek out permission, seek out resources or seek out ideas, because it is always there for them, when they’re ready.
Consider how you might be able to place iTunes U in the upper part of the SAMR model discussed here, simply by choosing the right kind of content for your students and moving away from the linear model of teaching that we often adopt.
There is something really very satisfying about completing an iTunes U course and releasing it to your students. A completed course represents to them that you have thought about what you are teaching them and the ways in which you are going to deliver content. It gives you flexibility in that materials are there all the time and can accessed when you choose (whether your there in front of them or not) and it allows you and your student to never be ‘lost’. Notes are ordered, because the course is ordered. Nothing is ever lost, because nothing needs to leave the course. With an iTunes U course, it is more difficult to be disorganised than it is organised; in a busy school, that can’t be said too often.
Connecting with your Students
iTunes U now lets you hold discussions within the platform, adding another string to its bow. the fact that you can engage or allow your students to engage in conversation within this environment will only add another dimension to your course.
Whilst the thought of being a 24/7 teacher may not be immediately (or remotely) appealing, there are definite advantages to having a platform that facilitates contact within a structured and safe environment between students and students and teachers. Homework for example, can often be set in a way that makes it less than meaningful because a task needs to be set when really further discussion or reading would make a written task better. iTunes U discussions means that a homework can be a discussion, with to without the teacher, meaning that learning can happen in a much more fluid and continuous way.
If you want a more visual introduction to iTunes U, then please click here.