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.

CCK08 “Paper” #2 – The Changing Roles of Educators

Do you agree their roles are changing?

Whether or not I think educator’s roles are changing depends on the point of view of the educator. If you are a professor who believes that they “profess” the truth and ideas then it is up to the student to get what you say. If you are an instructor who teaches skills, maybe this change applies to you; maybe you investigate how to facilitate skill acquisition. Another factor in whether or not educators roles are changing is how responsive are educators to student needs?

Yes – clearly students today are not the same as students in previous generations. Several blogs and papers (Media Multitasking Among American Youth, Teens And Social Media, Defining “Creepy Treehouse”) have looked at how this generation functions on the internet. As an educator, I believe it should be your duty to use whatever format is necessary to enhance learning; a Hippocratic Oath for teachers. Similarly, part of the Hippocratic Oath that “acknowledg[es] that it is impossible for any single physician to maintain expertise in all areas. It also highlights the different historical origins of the surgeon and the physician“, an educator cannot maintain expertise in all areas of their field of study. As such, educators should go out of their way to find the knowledge experts in the field and bring them to the classroom, using educational technology and communication technology to do so. Much like how surgeons are specialists, guest speakers take those roles in our classrooms – guest lecturers. The physician’s role is played by the teacher/facilitator.

If so, what are appropriate responses?

Again, this all matters on your teaching philosophy. If the power of didactic lecturing is your preferred mode of knowledge dissemination then you won’t be affected by a paradigm shift as much as someone who thinks that the learner has a role in their own learning. One response that could occur and is not at all dependent on technology is to shift your personal role from teacher to facilitator – help students facilitate their own learning. Facilitated learning often leads to deeper understanding and comprehension of the subject matter. But, as Lisa states in her second paper for CCK08 “[a]ctive learning and facilitation creates a more participatory learning environment, but its basis is still in the learning of the individual via the method controlled by the instructor. It is ‘learner-centered’ but not ‘learner-directed’.” So really, two shifts need to occur for some educators. One change, from teacher-centered to learner-centered; then a second change from learner-centered to learner-directed.

Another shift that could occur is to recognize that students are generally more comfortable with new technologies – make sure that alternative options are available to a student who might not put the same effort into an essay as he or she would into a YouTube video, flash presentation or some alternative form of analysis. A Skype conversation with an industry or technological leader may bring greater learning that still matches pre-determined learning outcomes. This could provide more learning than a simple essay. This customization may not increase educator workload during the marking phase, but it does demand that the educator think in creative and complex ways that may be outside of their norms.

What are impediments to change?

The main impediment to change is the educators themselves. Many educators have a vested, personal interest in the power they command at the front of the classroom. For these educators, lecturing is a display of their power, their knowledge and their position in life. Just looking at the language of that sentence, the implied ownership of knowledge and even the arrogance that didactic educators own something like knowledge that is so nebulous and ever changing is to someone like me, a ridiculous statement.

The other major roadblock to change is the administrative power that cannot see how to capitalize on a new learning theory such as connectivism. People who administer in higher education institutions cannot figure out ways to keep money flowing in – even though current classroom deliveries are lacking in the methods those students want them in. Modern students require more flexible options – some want online delivery, some want different hours of instruction, some want credit for what they already know. The current models in most higher education settings are incapable of that level of flexibility.

Beyond that Bob Bell states in this Moodle discussion that K-12 learning is affected by safety issues. Brookfield talks about safety in the classroom in his book The Skillful Teacher (p. 94) and discusses how one way he deals with it is by letting students know what’s coming. I can’t describe a better way to help students discover new learning than by letting them know what might be out there. Certainly, that requires a maturity about others’ viewpoints and beliefs, which may be absent in the K-12 classroom.


Bell, B. (2008, November 9). Changing Role: Fast Forward To The Past. CCK08 Moodle Forums. Retrieved November 9, 2008, from

Brookfied, S. (2006). The skillful teacher. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Lane, L. (2008, November 6). Paper #2: Insurgence for Emergence. Lisa’s CCK08 WordPress Blog. Retrieved November 9, 2008, from

Wikipedia (2008, November 7). Retrieved November 9, 2008, from