Before Chris Bruce used iTunes U as a teacher, he discovered it as a student. Bruce’s physics class received iPad as part of a pilot program in his school district, and he began exploring apps to use in class. He decided that he wanted to learn how to build a physics app himself, so he enrolled in the Stanford University iTunes U course on app development. He downloaded lectures onto his iPad and listened to recorded lectures in his car during his daily commute. Then one day he thought to himself, “Hey, I can do this. I can create a course on my own.” He had been looking for a way to reach his students beyond the 50-minute class period. And iTunes U seemed like an opportunity to do just that.
Building a course with iTunes U Course Manager turned out to be much simpler than he imagined. “There’s almost nothing to it,” says Bruce. He signed up, created a profile, and within minutes was uploading videos and other materials. Before he knew it, he had created a full-year course in iTunes U that he titled simply Physics. Learn how to create an iTunes U course
As Bruce taught his class using his iTunes U course, he instantly saw the benefits. He found iTunes U a great way to deliver video content, because students who didn’t have Internet access at home could download the videos to their iPad to watch anytime. iTunes U also proved a valuable tool for staying in touch with students about coursework. He could send out a notification for an assignment that would pop up on his students’ iPad, no matter where they were. Notifications would include a link to related materials, so they could tap directly into a website, a video, or a book in iBooks. Bruce found that notifications helped students stay on top of their assignments.
Bruce had 22 students in his physics class. As it turned out, iTunes U gave his lessons a much broader reach than expected. Over 60,000 people from around the world ended up enrolling in Bruce’s Physics course on iTunes U. Bruce loves the idea that he can help a kid halfway around the world who doesn’t have access to a physics teacher. “And it’s completely free,” he says. “That’s what’s exceptional about it.”
To further engage students, Bruce also incorporates apps into his lessons. He has students use the iPad camera and apps to record, analyze, and calculate motions in video games, such as the trajectory of a flying pig in Angry Birds. Students then have to determine whether the video game universe operates under the same laws of physics as our universe. “It’s awesome to see what students come up with when they have to take their knowledge and apply it — do the analysis, synthesize an argument, and explain it,” says Bruce. “You see the difference in test scores. But more important, their level of confidence, and understanding, is much richer and deeper.”
“At first I tried to put everything on there. That wasn’t the best thing to do. It’s easy to overwhelm your students with a lot of PDF files. That’s not the best way to use iTunes U. The best materials are the ones that allow students to be independent: videos, apps, and websites.”
“Make 5-minute instructional how-to videos. Ideally, the video is something they can go rewatch and rewind to learn how to practice a skill. I’ve found that long 45-minute lectures are only helpful if a student missed class.”
“A video isn’t going to hook your students the way a live presentation will. So you have to first get them interested in class. For example, to teach impulse and momentum, I had students practice tossing and catching a raw egg in class. Then a 5-minute video would have them practice a related equation.”
“Just start with an app. Use Notability to take notes or create lab reports, or Educreations to create annotated voice presentations. Reinventing your classroom from the ground up typically takes several years without technology. With technology the process of reinvention is no different.”
“iPad is an amazing tool, but the bottom line is, the kids have to be the ones using it. I spent a lot of time last year doing a lot of the hard work creating on iPad. My goal this year is for the students to do the thinking and creating. I want the kids to create their own understanding.”
“It’s an electronic device, it can access the Internet, it has a camera, it has sound, you can edit video, you can record yourself, it has a touchscreen. And from that point you can start thinking of all the things you can do with iPad. The video game project started from the idea that iPad has a camera on it.”
“I built this app. Kids draw on the screen, and I project their work on Apple TV, and everyone critiques each other’s work. As time went on, the work got better and better.”View in the App Store
“It’s a really well-designed note-taking app. It lets you add handwritten text and drawings, images, and typed text to images and PDFs. We use it for general note-taking and lab reports.”View in the App Store
“This is how I learned to write my own app, just by listening to these course lectures in the car during my commute.”View iTunes U course