Several people have been asking about buying a tablet, for different reasons. There are many excellent tablets out there, of varying prices and capabilities. However, if you are at all interested in using the tablet for educational purposes, I would go for the iPad. While other tablets such as the Google Nexus or Samsung Galaxy may offer several of the same or similar apps that the iPad provides, there is no equivalent to the iTunes U app.
iTunes U is an app that offers free access to unlimited courses designed by educators. Some of the most prominent universities in the world are making content available on iTunes U, including Cambridge, Harvard, Yale and Oxford. The courses available cover the gamut of subjects, levels and perspectives. Schools are joining in around the world too, with outstanding courses available and more added every day.
These courses are not telling teachers what to use or how to teach – they know their classes, they know how to teach them. What they are doing, is providing a range of resources tailored to the curriculum all in one place, perhaps used individually as revision, as homework, or to support a struggling student. Alternatively, teachers can use them in class, picking the resources or tasks they think are most appropriate – if nothing else, the availability of worksheets, quizzes and other tasks can reduce the burden of photocopying and/or marking.
The resources supported by the iTunes U platform include videos, podcasts, office documents, pdf’s, web links and so on. What makes this different from the sometimes excellent collections of resources on various websites it that each resource is tied to an instruction of not more than 200 characters. This is more than enough to say what the resource is and ask prompting questions to promote meaningful learning rather than passive consumption, while short and sweet enough to retain interest. You can also take notes that save into the course while watching a video or listening to a podcast. You can encourage students to link to a departmental twitter account to prompt succinct debate or connect them to socrative to quiz them with a report sent to your email account.
The possibilities of this platform are extraordinary. I’m making quite a few myself, but I have also watched English literature lectures from Oxford (I know, letting the side down), read textbooks from the OU, completed statistics exercises from Duke and learnt about the American Civil War from Texas Austin. At your fingertips is the collected (and importantly, directed) knowledge and learning from the brightest minds in the world. Teachers are essential to help navigate, discover and extend learning for each and every student. What iTunes U provides is a map for the teacher to use, rather than having to draft her own. Bon Voyage!