iTunes University

promise of podcasting

On Thursday I’ll be presenting with my colleagues, Chuck and Paul, about our experience with iTunes University last semester. It’s part of the opening college meeting for this semester. We have 15 minutes, so it will be brief (thankfully). I’m taking the last leg of the presentation, and I’ll be talking about how what we’ve done might translate for others and also about the direction for iTunes and networked media.

So here are the major points I want to get across.

  1. The faculty should get the sense that iTunes U is easy to use (which it is) and that producing audio, video, screencasts and/or enhanced podcasts is something they and their students can accomplish in technical terms. True, professional grade media is still difficult and expensive to produce, but YouTube and everyday podcasts demonstrate that college faculty and students should be able to produce usable media. In the end it’s not any more difficult than learning Web CT.
  2. The real challenge lies in determining what the content of such media might be and how it will function in the classroom. The answer to the challenge will differ from discipline to discipline, and it will change as technologies continue to develop. However in general terms one can consider material conditions of the network and the media. Network-wise you have the obvious one-to-many (coursecast) and many-to-one (students turn in media project); then you have many-to-many. You’ve got some idea of how this might work from course blogs or web ct discussions and so on. Then you have to consider how audio and/or video media offer you something different from text. Again this will be something discipline specific but I can offer a few general examples of many-to-many communication that would work in a number of disciplines:
    –online presentations: have students do enhanced podcasts rather than give powerpoint in class. The obvious advantage is that you don’t take up in-class time with presentations. Students are also left with a product that they can include in a portfolio.
    –record group discussions: have students meet in small groups and discuss a series of questions about a reading. This could serve in lieu of small group work in class or provide some starting points for further class discussion.
    –personal podcast: this might work especially well for interns or student teachers. They could offer reflections of their practice and/or possibly video recordings of classroom practice (iTunes U is secure). Either might offer a more intimate understanding of what is going on during such experiences than a more formalized report. These might then be shared among students interning or student teaching during a given semester; it’s nice to know you aren’t alone sometimes.
    –making student work public: a video of students at work or a student podcast would likely capture an audience that would not choose to read student texts offered online, an audience like members of the campus community or prospective students.
  3. Finally though we need to talk about why we need to do this. Clearly as faculty we each need to determine how a technology like iTunes U might function in our teaching. We need to consider how or if iTunes U will help us reach our curricular objectives. That said, we must also recognize that our students will enter a workplace where an increasing number of companies have already made this same determination and have decided that social media will be an important part of the way they do business. In a recent study of the 500 fastest growing private companies, two-thirds noted that social media were very or somewhat important to their business. We already know from the 120 million MySpace users and 12 million American bloggers and 70 million videos watched daily on YouTube that social media constitute a sizable cultural space. In short, as individual faculty or programs we might choose not to integrate networked media into our curriculum–and we may very well have viable intellectual reasons for doing so–but those choices are not without consequence, particularly when they are made in the context of a society that professional and culturally is expanding rapidly into these areas.

In the end, I hope that my audience can leave with the sense that networked media like iTunes U presents significant challenges, but the challenges are not technological, they are disciplinary and pedagogical. In the other words, the challenges exist precisely in the spaces where they have been best trained. Furthermore I hope that they recognize that while they may choose individually to not rise to this challenge, in doing so they only put that burden on the rest of us b/c this is not a challenge that we can choose to ignore as an institution.

Anyway, that’s the gist of it. We’ll see how it goes.


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