My Book-less Semester: Week 1

English: A Picture of a eBook Español: Foto de...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A week or so ago, I posted about how I purchased all my textbooks for my second semester of graduate school in eBook form. The main reason behind this decision? Money. The eBooks saved me around $50-70 this semester, which might not sound like a lot to the average working adult, but for me, that’s two weeks of groceries or a tank and a half of gas. The other reason is that my program, Instructional Technology, is about 70% online courses. My eBook purchases have now just combined 100% of my course materials onto my laptop.

The first week of school was pretty slow. Syllabus week proved to be just that: reading and posting that I’ve read the course syllabus, have my materials, yadda yadda. My first readings aren’t due until this week, but I did try to get a jump start on them this weekend.

My goodness, was it difficult! As I suspected in my last post, it took just about everything in me to get through the reading without checking my Facebook newsfeed, or scrolling through my endless Tumblr dashboard (curse you, Tumblr, for endless scrolling!), or to keep out of TweetDeck.

My first reading wasn’t bad. I got through it and then thought, “Oh, I’ll just reward myself for that with a little social media.” Two hours later, when I had wanted to accomplish all my reading over the weekend, I was still busy on Pinterest, my newest obsession (read about my newfound relationship with Pinterest here), pinning wedding reception photos, which is extra pathetic because I don’t even have a significant other (my cousin is getting married in June though, so that’s how I justify this behavior).

Once I got a hold of myself, I closed my applications and got back to work on my second reading, which was a particularly dry introduction to Web 2.0 technologies. I know, it was like fate was intervening here. Part of the assignment for the reading was to visit the sites mentioned in the text, and granted, they were education related, but all it took was the opening of a new browser session and I was off task again.

Needless to say, I did not finish my readings on Saturday. Sunday was a complete loss, what with the Super Bowl being on and my incessant need to partake in tweeting about commercials, the 49er’s awful first half, and of course, the highlight of the night, when the power went out at the Super Dome. There was no way any reading was getting done.

On the plus side, my eyes didn’t bother me from looking at the screen! Hopefully tonight after work I will have better luck settling myself down to get the readings for my other two classes out of the way. I’m thinking that with practice and discipline, perhaps I can work up to the ability to do all the reading without getting distracted.

Also, mega thanks to WordPress’s The Daily Post for linking to my blog post about going paperless and reminding me to post my update about it!

Join in the conversation! Is anyone else going paperless this semester?

Technology in Education – iTunes U

I just finished listening to the first in the three-part series of webcasts on how to implement and use iTunes U. It was a pretty exciting introduction to the application. Aside from two Apple heads talking about the software, they invited a high school and a university teacher to jump in and talk about their experiences with using iPads in the classroom.

For instance, Matt Baier, a Social Studies teacher from California at Cathedral Catholic High School, teaches all of his classes with the iPad, as his school has a 1:1 ratio for iPads to students. So every student gets an iPad!

Things that he noticed were much easier included collecting and disseminating assignments. All it takes is a simple post of the materials necessary to the iTunes U homepage and then all his students have what tMatt Baier (Cathedral Catholic HS) talks about using iPad in the classroom.hey need. Similarly, using various storage apps on the iPad allowed his students to turn in their assignments with a simple click.

He talked about a night when he realized that he would have to call in sick unexpectedly, and he was able to create a lesson and supply all the materials at 3 a.m. by putting them on iTunes U. He shot off a quick email to the sub outlining what the kids were doing, but there was no need for using an emergency lesson plan because he was able to let the kids know what they had to do before they even got to school that day.

One thing that struck me was the ability to create your own textbooks on iTunes U. I think this is awesome. As someone who likes to tailor their materials to suit my individual classes, being able to create my own textbook for my students is a huge bonus for me. No more skipping chapters or jumping around a huge anthology – I can decide what and when I want to do things in the book.

Another plus that was highlighted by Matt was that there is less of the “I didn’t know that was due” and “I didn’t understand the assignment” because the iPad sends push notifications to students when new posts are released and reminds them of due dates. “Centralization” was a buzzword – students had everything they needed right there on one device.

He also mentioned that students were able to communicate in a backchannel type discussion during the presidential debates. Even though the debates took place outside school hours, the students could communicate in real time using the iPads and the discussion features on iTunes U.

Another bonus? Parents with their own iOS devices can check out what their kids are doing in class. Matt mentioned that since it was an election year, some parents were checking out his materials and the projects students had created just because they were interested in the subject.

He also talked about the ability to publish student work to the district iTunes U page for everyone to see. Schools that are subscribed to iTunes U can have parents associate their Apple IDs with the district page and have access to everything the district makes available, such as the student newspaper, projects, policies, handbooks, etc.

Overall, I thought it was a pretty cool thing for schools to do. However, it depends heavily on the amount of money that can be spent to get the technology (iPads, iTunes U, etc.) and the training for teachers to be able to use it well.

My own personal concerns center around students remaining on task during instructional time and when they are allowed to work on projects using the iPad (podcasts, iMovies, etc.). I hope that there is some way that this can be monitored during class. Additionally, it’s important to remember that at first the technology may impede students’ learning. Not only will it be important to train teachers on using the technology, but also teach students how to use it as well.

Other than that, the benefits really do outweigh the potential setbacks. For instance, shy students will have a less stressful way to participate in class. Additionally, students who are absent are still connected to the classroom and are less likely to fall behind. It seems like the iPad and iTunes U have the ability to take learning outside the classroom and turn daily experiences into learning experiences with the connectivity the technology could provide.