iPhone, iTunes University, and Higher Education

No doubt you’ve already seen all the news surrounding the announcement of Apple’s iPhone.
As is to be expected, there are varying opinions over what impact iPhone will have, as well as its relative merits as piece of new technology. I’m thinking particularly about implications in education, especially for iTunes U.

Clearly the immediate impact of iPhone is small. After all, it’s hard to imagine a singificant portion of students or faculty will have an iPhone in the next year. However, iPhone does give us a glimpse into a new era of networked media. Educause’s 2006 Horizon report idenitified developing cell phones as a technology that would break into education in 2008-09. iPhone provides us with some sense of how that might work. Whether or not iPhone itself proves to be the next iPod is not the point. iPhone does give us a sense of how it might be possible to have a workable desktop on a phone. If you can have fully functional web access, then it is not hard to imagine fully-functional web-based appplications. While you might not be editing web-based Photoshop documents on your cell phone, it’s not hard to imagine blogging, for example, from a phone (though the tiny keyboard might be the one thing gets me to write shorter posts). It’s not hard to imagine creating audio files, editing them with a web-based audio editor, and uploading and/or downloading suche files from iTunes U or any other such site.

So now I’ll be harping on a recognizable theme. Let’s go back 5-6 years to 2001. iPod’s didn’t exist. Blogging was around but few people did it. Wikipedia had just begun. So, let’s imagine that  the kind of technology we’re talking about takes five years to become as widly adopted as iPods, blogs, and wikipedia (twice as long as the Horizon report predicts). That would seem to suggest that over the next five years successful colleges will be ones that have moved to a fully mobile, networked curriculum and pedagogy.

I wonder what that would mean? I don’t think it means the end of FTF pedagogy, though I do think it will mean a shift in the role and practice of FTF teaching. I do think it means that colleges and faculty will both need to be more responsive to the broader changing informational environment. That is, we will be less sequestered than we have been. We will need to offer information within the formats, networks, communication practices, and workflow (or playflow?) in which our students operate. Doing so will allow us to build upon their existing literacies and engagement with media.

Really you could almost think about it through the following analogy. The traditional model of the university is based on proprietary information: you can only get the information we have if you come to us, adopt our formats, and meet our requirements. It’s questionable whether or not this walled garden approach to education will work into the future.

3 thoughts on “iPhone, iTunes University, and Higher Education

Add yours

  1. Good point. Projects like MIT’s or the public iTunes U site at Berkeley offer up some of what I’m talking about. That make the education–or at least the educational objects–these institutions offer available. That’s certainly part of breaking down this walled garden.
    I’m also thinking in a slightly different way that future educational technologies will need to intersect with other existing online practices of students.

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