iTunes U and Me

July 27, 2012

A few days ago Apple/ iTunes U announced that it had opened its course development process in a way that is intended to encourage anyone to develop a small number of personal courses without any institutional verification. I’ve been working on a contract to rework some K-12 pro-D for delivery on iTunes U, so this has been of special interest to me.

It’s an important change that’s described in several places:

The iTunes announcement refers to private courses – ones that won’t appear in the catalogue. That’s the opposite to the work I’m doing, where it’s hoped that many people will find our content through searches of the iTunes collections (which are different than courses).

It appears that students will access the private courses via direct links — and iTunes courses can only be accessed via an iOS5 device. For those of you who have explored iTunes U via iTunes on your computer, it’s important to understand that when you access content in iTunes on your computer it is from a collection, not a course. There’s definitely room for confusion here!

I recommend that anyone considering developing iTunes U courses (or collections) should spend some time looking through existing courses and collections to get a sense of how the environments work and how they differ from the idea of an LMS (learning management system like Moodle). iTunes courses now offer searching, sharing and other features — but don’t expect discussion forums or student assessment tools. It’s really about content delivery.

I’d love to communicate (via this blog) with anybody who’s planning to try this.

Here are some links I’ve found recently, relating to iTunes U and some of the issues you might encounter if you’re developing content.

iTunes U General information:

Are universities reluctant to use iTunes U?
Summary: Is iTunes U a viable platform for school systems to implement?

Charlie Osborne for iGeneration, May 5, 2012
Five things that could make Apple’s new iTunes U a winner
iTunes U may seem like an afterthought, but it could be the glue that holds Apple’s educational concept together.

Scott Stein January 19, 2012
Driving the Classroom with iTunes U
FEBRUARY 19, 2012

Resources related to having educators to create their own iTunes U courses or collections

Focus on Search Engine Issues (obviously not applicable to the private courses):

The enigma of the iTunes app search algorithm
Andrew Cohen, 11/28/2011

What factors does the search algorithm for the iTunes App Store take into account? Does it place a higher priority on keywords, description, etc? Shane Kittelson, 2011

Alternatives to iTunes U
Massive online learning and the unbundling of undergraduate education

How curation tools can enhance academic practice

Ning’s new mobile version (for smartphones)

Mobile Learning links

October 18, 2011

I have pulled together some information on mobile learning and thought I’d share it here.

MOODLE and Mobile Blog posting about the new iPhone App for Moodle 2.1 – Moodle’s own info about mobile 10-min video

Language –  QR codes to deliver Wikipedia articles to users, in their preferred language. MALL (Mobile Assisted Language Learning)

Mobile Learning in the Developing World

(Video) Cell phone technology for the developing world Case Study in Kenya  Women and mobile learning A range of issues related to mobile learning

Mobile learning in schools…

Horizon 2011 video

A collection of studies:

Developing for mobile responsive web design – WordPress for mobile

SMS  How Text Messaging is Changing the World

Some of my own blog postings referencing Mobile Learning:………

The idea is to show the potential of mobile devices for learning and solicit ideas for future work in that area.
Hope these links get you started.

Podcast on Mobile Learning

June 14, 2011

I had the chance to listen to a recent Educause podcast, “The Future of Mobile Computing,” a webinar audio from April 2011 available via

The guest speakers, Joanne Kossuth and Alan Levine, explained that their interests and visions for the future were not about “teaching a course on a mobile phone.” Instead, they wanted to pursue the idea of integrating into formal education the things that people are already doing, informally, pretty much everywhere — communicating and finding information via their favourite device. And it was duly noted that people are carrying their devices with them all the time.

The discussion was very much about collaboration. It described educational institutions where faculty and IT people shunned the role of ‘guru’ and thought of themselves as partners to users of mobile devices . Since it’s difficult if not impossible to keep up with the range of devices available now, it’s necessary to trust that in general, individuals know how to operate the tool they have selected even if they may need encouragement to dig deeper into its potential. So the focus might be on guiding students to learn how to find more of the “how to” information that is likely to be available for their device. No need to reinvent the technology training wheel, it seems that a more important part of the teaching/support role is to find ways to enhance students’ abilities to move forward work creatively in this environment to accomplish goals related to their area of study.

As always in education technology discussions, the conversation turned to the fact that money is tight. But solutions like free apps, trial apps, etc. were considered as well as the idea of putting energy towards having students involved in developing their own mobile applications as part of their program work. That last idea is certainly not for everyone, but it has very interesting potential.

Note that you can also participate in Educause webinars live. The next one, on June 21, is titled” Spotlight on Mobile Computing: Enterprise Mobile Technology Services Best Practices

I’m sure the June 21 webinar will be available as a podcast shortly after the live session, providing a very convenient way to learn about new mobile strategies.

(note – this was also posted on the RRU blog


June 8, 2011

Just pointing to my RRU blog post on bringing your own device:

(image via creative commons)

Online Learning Advice via Tony Bates and other experts

May 2, 2011

I’ll quote the part that represents Tony’s difference of opinion with the overall study summary:

“Although I agree strongly with the importance of design, I’m not sure I agree with playing down the importance of technology. In my view, the technology, and especially web 2.0 technologies, are potential game changers. What makes the difference is the shift in power: web 2.0 technologies give learners as equal if not better access to learning technologies as instructors, and thus more control over their learning. True, if instructors don’t take advantage of this, things may not appear to be changing, but in the end, if instructors and institutions do not adapt and respond appropriately to this technology shift, they will lose control.”

I fully agree that institutions need to incorporate all that’s right about informal learning or they will become less and less relevant to the overall learning picture.

Here’s the link:

And I also believe that the education system needs to ensure that kids/young adults leave the system with good strategies for finding information, evaluating it, thinking critically etc.

Stuff I’ve said before but perhaps it’s time to say it again 🙂

And a recent article by David Parry on what he calls “Mobile Literacy” (I like the concept but almost wish there was another name for it as we’ve had so many ‘literacies’ I suspect people are getting tired of them ) does a good job of addressing the education system’s responsibilities regarding ensuring students are aware of factors involved in information access, hyperconnectedness, and sense of space via mobile devices. Link:

Veletsianos Chapt 9: Trey Martindale & Michael Dowdy, “Personal Learning Environments”

September 13, 2010


Chapter 9 in the Veletsianos (ed.) book is the beginning of Part 3 (Social, Organizational, and Contextual Factors in Emerging Technologies Implementations).

The chapter itself, by Trey Martindale and Michael Dowdy, is titled “Personal Learning Environments” and discusses the history of the concept, its use, how it compares with Learning Management Systems (LMSs) and its future. In this chapter, the PLE is shown to have some varying definitions, and examples range from ELGG to Facebook. And in looking at how the PLE compares to the LMS, these authors provide several scenarios.

At this point I have to point to a blog post that also compares the PLE to the LMS (and has a graphic that I really like)

In a nutshell, almost everyone who compares the LMS to the PLE tends to see the LMS as more formal and structured, with the PLE being more transformative.

Basically I agree with the concept – I’d say that the LMS *can* be a bit better than “one size fits all” though, but it does take work to make that happen. I like one of the comments to the above blog — that the LMS can be part of the PLE. Certainly my work revolves around delivering courses via an LMS, but as much as possible, I encourage everyone involved to use the LMS as a springboard to developing a PLE (or PLN) because I don’t want the experience to end with the final assignment of the “course”.

Finally, for an account of a story that shows the power of making educational opportunities less formal, look to:

Using mobile phones to promote lifelong learning among rural women in Southern India

by K. Balasubramanian et al, August 2010 in the special edition of the Australian Journal “Distance Education” p. 193-209 (your library may have this journal in their online collection and it’s definitely worth accessing)

for a description of nine female goats, one buck and one cellphone and how the combination of mobile phones and goat grazing is allowing women to learn without sacrificing their employment.

Note: The PLE is sometimes distinguished from the PLN (Personal Learning Network – see my blog post on Chapter 6 where Alec Couros describes this with PLE being more focused on the technology and PLN more focused on the networking of people. But I think many of us (Alec Couros included, as far as I can tell from this link: see a lot of overlap and are interested in collaborating for learning in any way possible.

Fifteen minutes after posting this, I find a new take on the controversy here: “The institutional PLE? Impossible or feasible?”

This is from the “Elizabeth Tweets” series of chapter-by-chapter blog posts related to the new book “Emerging Technologies in Distance Education“, edited by George Veletsianos and published by Athabasca University Press (including a freely available e-book version).

M-Learning and “Catching up”

September 3, 2010

I thank Tony Bates once again for pointing me to what’s up-to-date in my field.

This time it’s the Australian-based Distance Education journal special edition on distance education and mobile learning. It’s not open source, but fortunately my university has access to it as part of the online collection. I’ve only just started reading this issue, but I know I’ll want to explore it fully.

As Bates suggests, the editorial article, Distance education and mobile learning: Catching up, taking stock,  by J. Traxler, is an overview that compares theory-based traditional distance education to the highly informal “individual unstructured learning driven by curiosity or necessity”.

When thinking about the current hum of technological change and it’s impact on education, I often wonder if theory will be able to catch up.

Traxler describes other articles in the journal — some describing specific projects, issues in developing parts of the world, etc.  Any theoretical basis to “cover” what mobile is all about will have to span a range of cultures and address the varying reasons why education exists. It’s truly huge!

Anyway, this post is a break from my series of postings (chapter by chapter) as I read through the Veletsianos book, but, as can so often happen, a parallel train of thought has overtaken me. I may find myself blogging about both the Australian Journal and the Athabasca book over the next few weeks.

Could Nixty become the YouTube of online lessons?

July 16, 2010

I spent a bit of time over the last day or two playing with the Nixty platform.

From their website is the statement that they want to “create a service with the outrageous goal of empowering education for everyone” and it looks like they may just be on the right track. It appears to be an e-learning platform that’s super simple to use and it’s free as long as you don’t charge your learners. It allows the creation of Wiki courses and includes e-portfolios and a very basic quiz tool. It can embed all kinds of media and although the editing/development tools are not all fully functional yet – the potential is pretty amazing.

But most exciting of all (at least to me) it’s got a really strong social media/open concept incorporated into its basic design. It could just be the structure required to create a coherent worldwide community of open learning.

I contacted the team and was told that mobile should be available by early 2011, so that seems to complete the picture of a place where anybody can engage in some just-in-time, just-enough, just-for-me learning experiences.

Ruth Reynard article: Facilitation to Constructive Partnerships

May 3, 2010

For the next month or so, I’m taking the role of ‘blog steward’ to a group of learners at Royal Roads University (RRU) in a course called ISWO (Instructional Skills Workshop Online) so my postings here for the next while may tend to relate to issues that come up in that environment.

RRU is relatively young and has always had a learning model emphasizing team-based online learning. So it’s no surprise that enhancing the skills for developing a supportive and connected online learning community is an important learning outcome for ISWO.

I’m very aware of how the online community has blossomed over the past few years with web 2.0 and I thought I’d share a recent article that explores this.

Ruth Reynard’s view at

includes the following statement.

“The challenge this time is that facilitation is not enough–the challenge for the future of instruction is that we stand side-by-side with our students and all contribute equally and actively to a learning community. The learning community is also redefined as not confined to one class but open to anyone who connects.”

So — Open it is! And here I am, partnering with the designated instructors and learners in ISWO and inviting them (and others) to ponder over the ways that such partnerships might enhance learning.

CBC’s Spark (and others) on cellphones for learning

April 26, 2010

Our CBC (Canadian Broadcast Company) has a great series of interview/podcasts focusing on technology. Hosted by Nora Young, the series is called Spark. A couple of recent interviews have been with teachers (Homer Spring and Marie Bjerede) who use cellphones in the classroom and have experienced some good results. I encourage folks to contribute to the feedback on the CBC site if you have thoughts on this topic.

I’ve posted about mobile learning previously (e.g. ) in the context of literacy in developing nations. Because mobile devices are accessible in ways that computers have not been, rural areas in Africa and elsewhere are finding that technology is finally accessible to them and the benefits to literacy seem very obvious.  It’s interesting to compare the North American views, where cellphones are often banned from the classroom. In fact, when teachers decide to include mobile devices as part of the learning repertoire, the results can make headline news (see the links below).

At the same time, when I read about cellphone/internet addiction I believe that misuse is a real possibility – again pointing to the need for strategies to support thoughtful use of these types of tools.

I’m hoping that a good conversation will emerge from this. How can a learning environment be designed to maximize what’s good about mobile learning and reduce the potential problems?