A few months ago Apple announced the launching of iTunes U as a separate feature. I am excited about this announcement for a variety of reasons. Podcasting is becoming a common theme for those who discuss Web 2.0 applications. However, some in education feel that podcasting is a fad, too complicated, or any of several excuses for not embracing this powerful tool. The launching of iTunes U provides a powerful endorsement of podcasting in education.
While universities have been taking advantage of iTunes and podcasting for the past few years, the introduction of iTunes U puts podcasting in education into a larger light. The number of K-12 podcasts in growing rapidly each day. When I first started exploring podcasting two years ago the Education category on iTunes had the sub-categories of K12 and Higher Education. Since then the sub-categories has expanded to include Ed Tech, Training and Language Courses. The number of educational podcasts is so great that if I do not place time limits on my searches I end up spending most of my evening searching and listening to various educational podcasts. The introduction of a specific University feed on iTunes can direct lifelong learners or educators.
I embrace the fact that I am a nerd. At any given moment my TIVO will have between 10-20 hours or recordings from the History Channel. I recall in college using Yahoo to locate the syllabus or project assignments for courses at universities I did not attend, simply because of an interest in the topic. The only deterring factor to this practice, setting aside that I kept this practice a secret from my roommates, was the time involved in the process of searching for assessments. iTunes U will allow people with similar addictions the opportunity to attend courses as if they were at the school.
Continued Content Development
As an educator I am excited about the chance to continue my education. I have found that time is against me, preventing me for keeping active all of the podcast subscriptions on my iTunes. That said, the ability to subscribe to a college level course is a great tool. Last year I taught a course in economics. While I enjoy this topic, I have not studies this discipline since my junior year in college. The ability to enroll in college level economic courses is a great advantage for me. I cannot only use such courses to recall the explanations of topics that my and other professors use, but I can experience the changes in these explanations since my graduation.
I began using podcasting in my English courses in reaction to the NPR series “This I Believe“. After my wife tipped me off to the series, I thought it would be a good essay topic for my students. This lesson is my favorite of the year and my students tend to enjoy the process. In planning this lesson, I realized that the odds were against one of our essay hitting the radio waves, so we began podcasting the essays. While I do not know that I will be able to get such ideas from courses on iTunes U, I am optimistic.
The high of my excitement for iTunes U is the possibilities for change. In a podcast in early June, George Mason Professor Russ Roberts interviewed Dan Pink, author of A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. Towards the end of the podcast, beyond the 45 minute mark, Pink and Roberts begin to discuss the idea of great professors who cannot communicate their discipline. Pink notes that the common statement that, “Professor X knows his subject, but does not know how to teach,” is an incorrect statement. Pink argues that if a Professor truly knows his or her content, then they could relate this information to the students. I admit that until I heard this podcast I subscribed to the theory that a professor could be smart, but not a good teacher. Given time to digest Pink’s position, I must agree. If someone truly understands the information they teach, they can relate this information to the audience. In fact, I believe that understand how to connect with your audience holds more weight than being brilliant in your field.
Why mention this? I recall when Duke assessed their iPod initiative one of the concerns by professors was student attendance. One professor noted that he began implementing pop quizzes because students were passing exam by simply listening to his podcasts and quit attend class. The response to this professor, paraphrasing because I cannot find the bookmarked article, was to transform the way you conduct class. If your students can pass the course without attending class, then why should they. My hope is that more college professors will realize how podcasting can liberate them from lecturing as much as shift the learning in courses. Then again with the growth in K12 podcasting, if college professors do not embrace podcasting, students are going to eclipse them and by using the right brain thinking rule the university.
Enjoy your day,