In August and October this year, Trinity was fortunate enough to get two visits to the college by specialists from Apple Australia. In August, an Apple Development Executive in Education presented on the Apple program iBooks Author to a group of rapt teachers in the Gourlay Basement, bringing a set of Macbook Air laptops so that we could all participate actively, and learn to make an iBook. Later in October we were fortunate to be visited by a Digital Education Content Specialist, who introduced us to iTunes U, and the possibilities of using the recently updated Apple platform to host courses, and distribute video and other course material to students.
The opportunity to learn from the experts, and have professional presenters taking us through the finer points of these products, was much appreciated. Many of us are already convinced about the potential benefits of creating custom-designed learning materials for our students, which have engaging and interactive features.
iBooks Author makes custom designing engaging materials a fairly simple proposition. Our presenter showed us the ease with which pre-prepared materials including text, images, videos, quizzes and even 3D interactive objects can be transformed into a book that our students can open and read on their iPads.
Many staff at Trinity have already been making and distributing iBooks to our students, notably in Biology, Chemistry, Literature and EAP. The iBook format enables students to extensively highlight relevant sections for study, and to also take detailed notes which can then be transformed into flash cards for revision. We hope after this visit that many more TCFS teachers will take up the opportunity to design and create iBooks for students. Further in-house training will continue to be made available. Some of the February Main 2012 students have themselves also been making iBooks using iBooks Author for their final group assignments in Media and Communications.
iTunes U has really transformed over the past few months. What was initially a sort of catalogue of free videos and podcasts from universities and colleges, is now a slick and sophisticated platform for distributing written, video and audio course materials. On the iPad, the iTunes U app has a very user-friendly interface. Course materials can be posted all together, or one “post” at a time, notifying subscribed students that there are new materials available to be viewed and read.
It is now possible for individuals, and institutions, to create private courses for iTunes U, for free. Students can subscribe to the course through their Apple IDs, after instructors provide students with the link. If the course is considered to be of high quality and general interest, the course may be accepted by Apple to appear as a publicly accessible course in iTunes U.
Some of the really exciting features of the new iTunes U experience, is that as the video materials are playing, it is easy to pause the video to take notes. This creates a time stamp and a small thumbnail. When you look at your list of notes, it is possible to touch on the time stamp and be taken to that exact point in the video for review. We have received a code and link to begin experimenting within an institutional framework to see how iTunes U might be used to distribute unique courses, or sets of resources for students to download and study.
There are many potential uses for iTunes U, and for iBooks Author, and as we move further into the digital age, we are interested in exploring the potential of all resources available to us to positively engage our unique students in their studies, and to create for them the best learning experiences that we can. The great free tools described here cannot be overlooked for their potential benefits.
Thanks to Apple Australia for making these amazing professional development opportunities available for our teachers.