iTunesU Content

I’d never really paid attention to iTunesU, until a colleague in the Library here mentioned that it might be a place for an instructor to host content (content that was too large for the LMS and really needed a streaming media server solution). I finally added the app last night and delved into it and felt, underwhelmed. The organization of the content was difficult to navigate. For instance, I was looking for lectures on Human Computer Interaction. So I put that in the search bar, found several courses, downloaded a bunch from Stanford. Search function is great. The problem is that the browsing experience sucks. I like looking at disparate ideas and how the connect – so where does a 21st century literacies course end up? Humanities? Computer Science? Really, it should be both and multidisciplinary. Turns out there’s ones that might be there as well as in Social Sciences, and elsewhere scattered throughout the possible categories.

So really, iTunesU is ill prepared for what I think is how higher education needs to re-organize, and that’s as a multidisciplinary ground floor and further specialization higher up the food chain. It used to be in Ontario that you could get a taste of what University would be like in Grade 13, or more recently OAC. My OAC year at high school was difficult, but not too bad. I’m sure the teachers liked it too because they could actually challenge students, whereas it seemed in earlier years it might’ve been a rubber stamp process. I’ll never forget being asked in Grade 12 Math if I was coming back to do OAC Math. When I said, “no”, I got my 50%. Many high school graduates in Ontario don’t have the fundamental understanding of how to write an essay, never mind several basic literacy issues. I could talk about the literacy levels of my former employer at length, and how most of the first year students should have been in a remedial writing class, which would’ve burdened the entire system so much they had to allow some students to just get by so they could manage the workload of teaching.

Anyways, I feel as we’ve seen with many disciplines that the silo approach doesn’t work – there’s too much overflow. I’m working in education but my history of computer programming, media creation and educational theory come into play each week. I’m sure many educators feel the same – they not only need to be educators, but technical enough to run computers, handle marking spreadsheets in addition to the social work skills to deal with students. This isn’t new, but it’s getting more difficult, and more complex to deal with on a daily basis. So how does iTunesU deal with the complexity? Shove it in a tube labelled one of many things, that essentially hides content or reveals it. I’m left wondering why have categories at all? Why not just make them self-identified tags and leave it at the search, which is ubiquitous in modern life and works well enough.


It’s interesting to see the theme of complexity pop up in unexpected places. A couple nights ago on the Daily Show with Atul Gawande. He was talking about how complexity is a problem for many experts, and how a simple checklist can save lives, but many experts felt that a checklist was too much of an ego bash to  take. And I guess he was plugging his book, the Checklist Manifesto. Guess that Connectivisms ideas about complexity are getting around. I know that this isn’t  a new idea, they are in fact, fairly old. When we go through our primary school education we learn using building blocks (and pretty much the same building blocks that we’ve always learned with). We learn a new concept, repeat it until it becomes second nature, then build on it. What ways can a simple tool like a checklist improve education?

As subjects become more complex, perhaps we could take this approach to remind educators (or ourselves) that even though we are at an advanced stage of understanding a subject – perhaps deeper and aware of more facets than our learners – we should always consider the fundamental underpinnings of those topics. Maybe checklists can assist us in seeing patterns where grouping makes sense; that makes checklists useful as a sensemaking strategy.

Reflections on Chaos and Complexity – Week 6

CCK08 – This week was interesting in that the ideas put forth have been things I’ve been saying for a while. Life is complex. Nothing is simple. Chaos and complexity is illustrated  well by the everyday classroom, and the things that can occur in it. The same material taught the same (and it could be argued that it’s never exactly the same) way has different outcomes depending on the contextual.

Complexity. It’s funny how the two courses I’m currently taking and the myriad of stuff I’m doing outside of schoolwork has a way of intertwining. I’m applying some of the things that the Connectivism course is doing to my Distance Ed course I’m teaching. The stuff that the Brock facilitation course talked about this week was context-heavy: that’s a big piece of the Connectivism course. Serendipity? Maybe. I don’t want to believe that anything is that mystical. Might as well start believing in unicorns and pegasii too. It does, however, speak to the idea that things are interconnected in ways that we don’t always see. Could that be the real-world application of connectivism?