Why (And How) Teachers Should Start Using iTunes U

itunes u

Courtesy: maconstate.edu

With so many schools adopting the use of iPads I find it strange that we aren’t hearing more about the incredible opportunities available in iTunes U.  Well I suppose it isn’t that strange given that schools in the early stages of transitioning to an iPad platform are extremely busy and learning one more thing can seem overwhelming.

Trust me, I understand that, but I believe if you were to learn one more thing it should be about the power of iTunes U. The possibilities of this incredible tool are endless. I’d like to provide you with just a few examples of the many uses of iTunes U in the hopes that more schools will join this incredible network of learning resources.

The first and likely most exciting benefit of iTunes U is the multitude of incredible classroom resources at your disposal. If you aren’t aware of iTunes U, it’s a depository of entire courses of educational content for K-12 institutions, universities and colleges, and other institutions Apple terms Beyond Campus, which includes a wide array of institutions from museums to the Washington National Opera.

When I think of the potential of iTunes U, the first thing that comes to my mind are the incredible communities that developed around SMART board users. The benefits of SMART board users sharing their lessons for the benefit of other SMART board users are numerous. It appears to me that iTunes U is based on a similar concept, with the primary difference being that the power and capabilities of an iPad are so much greater than a SMART board.

An important consideration to think about is that the individuals creating these courses are cutting edge classroom teachers. These are individuals that are actually in the classroom using the iPad and web 2.0 resources to engage, motivate and captivate our students. Those of us in the trenches of education understand that there is a benefit in obtaining resources from others in the trenches who are actually using the tools for the same reasons we are.

A quick search of the iTunes U catalog reveals many incredible courses full of engaging educational materials and resources. I believe it is through avenues like iTunes U that schools will learn to help our students see learning in new and exciting ways while at the same time opening our classrooms and homes to a wide array of exciting new educational opportunities.

I would love to take a minute to highlight a few courses that I am extremely proud. We have some teachers in our school district learning to use iTunes U and what they have produced in these early stages is very encouraging. Check out the attached links to some of our Boyne City Public Schools iTunes U courses.

Solar System

Students begin this unit by researching the Solar System with an emphasis on Earth, Sun, and Moon. Then, students are presented with primary and secondary sources regarding the Solar System. Students demonstrate what they have learned by collaborating with each other to create an ePub about the Solar System.

Ecosystems

Students will journey through books, videos, songs and illustrations to gain a better understanding of Ecosystems Around the World.

Underground Railroad

Students begin this unit by learning about the Underground Railroad. Next, they explore videos, apps, and books that expand their knowledge about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. Finally, students write an opinion piece about slavery.

Presidents

Your job is to learn more about presidents George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama. Next you will investigate what the Electoral College is and why it is important when campaigning to be president. Finally share, in your Keynote, all of your new knowledge of how to become Chief Executive Officer of the United States.

Why You Should Try iTunes U

I’ve had the privilege of seeing iTunes U courses at work in classrooms and with my own children as they look over my shoulder while I review courses for our teachers. Witnessing first hand the captivating power of these courses has cemented my belief in the power of this current technological revolution to change education. I know when others experience the potential of iTunes U they too will be believers.

The second exciting use of iTunes U I hope more schools discover are the many exciting opportunities for teacher professional growth. If a school is looking to train staff on just about any topic, or you would like to experience some personal growth, I would encourage the first step to be researching the topic in iTunes U.

Again, some of the nations most technologically advanced individuals have been the first to adopt utilizing the iTunes U platform for sharing their resources and as a result, some of the nations best are those that will be doing the training for your staff. I would encourage you to check out the attached courses from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools or the Cedars School of Excellence as excellent examples of some of the quality staff learning resources you will find on iTunes U.  A keyword search of the iTunes U catalog reveals a great number of quality resources on most any professional learning topic. School administrators and teachers alike will agree that the learning resources available on iTunes U are truly exceptional.

Creating iTunes U Courses

This course is intended for teachers and administrators to learn how to manage a class or set of classes through iTunes U. The course covers the basics of setting up a course in iTunes U and adding content to it.

IT Weekly

Here’s the idea. There are a lot of great ideas out there, and we would love to share them all with you. You have started this website as a way to get the information out to as many as possible in a fun, exciting format. Each week we’ll do our best to focus on one concept or one idea. The beauty is for people throughout the district to connect and share these ideas that are presented here.

We have read a great deal about the benefits of flipped learning for our students and are beginning to hear more and more about the same benefits for staff learning. I have already observed many of the benefits associated with the concept of flipped learning occurring with our students and staff as a result of iTunes U. In fact, one of my favorite student stories this school year was from the student that reported to his classroom teacher that he watched her video six times over the weekend. I can’t think of any other time where a student would have the opportunity to listen to a lesson six times. I can’t think of any reason for an educator not to be excited about this return on investment.

One of the things I like most about providing iPads to all students is that for the first time in my educational career I feel we have made a significant impact on evening the playing field for all students. Now, all students have the same access to educational resources and materials. iTunes U goes a long way in assisting schools in creating this balanced playing field because all of the course materials and resources can be downloaded to the iPad at school while the students are connected to wifi. This includes books, PDF’s, Videos, Music, basically any resource provided in the course can be downloaded to the iPad and accessed any time or any place whether or not the student has internet access at home.

Wherever you are in your voyage of implementing iPads into the classroom, I would strongly encourage you to give iTunes U a look. You can search for resources by course type or keyword. Just one more place to get you lost for a little while as you look for new and exciting activities to use not only with your students, but for your own personal learning as well.

Fred Z. Sitkins
Elementary School Principal
Boyne City, MI
www.ipadpd.com

5 Comments

  1. Hilal Al Hnanaei

    December 31, 2012 at 5:00 am

    Very interesting article. I have never heard of iTune U before, maybe because I am not an iPad user. It’s really nice to have a such opportunistic. I will consider the ideas that are stated in this post.

  2. Science Learning Centres

    December 31, 2012 at 9:08 am

    We have also just discovered the power of Itunes U and are testing this out for our science professional development courses. You are absolutely right about the huge range of content and resources available… and growing rapidly.

    We have recently posted two ibooks to our Itunes U site. One is a range of Christmas science experiments and the other is how to use stop motion video in the science classroom. Just search for National Science Learning Centre on iTunes U.

  3. darinlhammond

    January 7, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    Fred,

    This is a very informative article for me as I have wanted to get into I Univ. but haven’t made the time to do so. The resource sounds extremely valuable and I am thinking of ideas for my English classrooms.

  4. Josh Mika

    January 8, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    Don’t forget to check out the free lessons from the Apple Distinguished Educators! This group of talented educators has been putting together myriad lessons for students and teachers for over two years. Check out the Online Digital Research lesson here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/a-guide-to-digital-research/id523231339

  5. Julie DeNeen

    January 22, 2013 at 10:23 am

    Great post review on iTunesU. It never ceases to amaze me how many educators still don’t know about these incredible learning tools at their disposal. We need more education for teachers about technology! Excellent!