Tuesday, August 19, 2008

iTunes U

I've written about a couple of Apple products lately, and I think it's a slippery slope: you download iTunes (it's useful, right?), then you buy an iPod (everyone has one!), then you fall for an iPhone. Apple: you had me at iTunes. It's only a matter of time before I go all the way and start using a mac. So, pardon me for my enthusiasm, but I thought I'd share a bit of my experiences with Apple's iTunes U.

iTunes U was launched late last year by Apple in cooperation with a number of leading universities and other educational providers and is completely free and available to anyone. You can watch videos and listen to audio recordings from MIT, University College London and other great schools (in addition to content from Museums like MoMA).

I started by downloading a video series from the UK's Open University "Art and its Histories." There were some great segments, though overall the program lacked continuity. After perusing some other video offerings from other Universities, I came to the conclusion that the video aspect of iTunes U is a bit like a better organized version of YouTube. The content is great, and obviously more reliable because it is offered by the universities themselves. Unfortunately, there's a lot of work to be done before it lives up to its name--it's no "U" until it's a little better put together. That being said, I should mention that the audio podcasts are great, although I believe video has a lot more potential if it's properly organized. I'm optimistic that the organization will improve as time goes by--it's amazing how much content is available already.

One neat thing I noticed was that a lot of schools are having students record their presentations as podcasts, which is a great way to teach students about the value of their research. My only concern would be the quality of their work, but I found most of it to be quite good. I must confess that when it comes to the concept of offering a free, reliable, quality source for educational content, I'm blown away. Apple has a really good idea here. It's really nice to see information being shared in this way--it's the web at its best.

One of my first thoughts after watching Apple's tutorial on iTunes U was that this would be an excellent resource for homeschooling. I was educated at home until my third year of high school, which I think conditioned me to look for new ways to learn on my own. I've always been somewhat of a natural self-starter when it comes to learning. I basically just love learning new things, and this program will be perfect for others who really just enjoy learning. At the very least, it's nice to have some quality educational programming to use with your iPod or iPhone, rather letting your brain turn to mush while watching the music video du jour. And since I'm guilty of constantly cramming my head with pop culture slush, it makes me feel better to know I have the chance to expiate my sins with an informative lecture or two.

You can read more about Apple's iTunes U project on their website.


M.Kate said...

this is interesting..but I dont have an iTune, maybe soon :D

skatej said...

I love ItunesU! Check out Chris Ayer's music from Stanford.

Margaret said...

Thanks for the tip, Kate!

Julie said...

You are a star! Can't wait to check this out. Thank you.