Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Using iTunes U Version 2: Add Discussions to Existing Courses



Now that Apple has released and update for iTunes U, it is time to cover some of the new changes.  First up in a new video series on iTunes U version 2 is the ability to add discussions to posts.  It is really simple to do.

First thing to note is that iTunes U Courses can now be edited on the iPad as well as the traditional website interface at https://itunesu.itunes.apple.com/coursemanager/.  A feature has been added however to the iTunes U, iPad App, that enables the same edits directly from your iPad.  So from here on out you can be in charge of your classes on the go.  I cannot tell you how excited this makes the teacher in me.  This is a very important feature and I will now tell you why.

One of the big improvements is that ability to add discussions to posts.  Most LMS systems already do this, and it has become common place in the digital classroom.  iTunes U never really had much more functionality other than as part of the course content distribution method. With this additional feature however students will be able to interact with the content, not just receive it.  The ability to utilize your portable iPad device to view these interactions is amazing.  Without that feature you would have been tied to a laptop each time a student has decided to engage in course content.  Now however, you are able to view these discussions on the fly, respond back and view each students responses as they happen.

The video above describes how to change your existing iTunes U courses to take advantage of this new discussion feature.  If you would rather not watch the video, the instructions are also below.


  1. Open Up iTunes U on your iPad (Be sure that it is the latest version.  You can check by visiting the App store)
  2. Sign into your iTunes account.
  3. Click on My Courses
  4. Select the course you would like to make changes to.
  5. At the bottom of the screen you will see info, posts, notes, materials and the new button, admin.  Click Admin.
  6. The admin tab looks just like iTunes U in the website form.  In the left hand column there is a Course Settings tab.  Click It.
  7. Scroll to the bottom of the Course Settings Tab until you see a button slider called Discussions.  Press that button so that it is green.  
  8. Now when you go back to your courses, you will notice that there is a place to hold discussions on each post that you make in your online course.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Bringing the Real World into your Digital Classroom Tools Part 3

In a long list of items that should find their way into your classroom, you just might want to add robots.  Now I know what you are thinking.  Robots are just complicated toys that create a distraction from those real educational goals you have.  There is much more to robotics that meets the eye, and while it will be an engaging activity there is lots of good learning that can take place with a small robotics program in your classroom.

3D Spaces:

First of all robotics are real objects.  And real objects operate in our 3D environment.  This is very different than most of the teaching that occurs in the modern 2D classroom.  When you use an computer, everything is flat.  Your students utilize the electronic tools such as iPads to flatten the world around them and then email it for a grade.  One thing that robots excel at teaching is how objects move in 3D.  Being able to think in 3D is a crucial skill for our next generation of engineers, designers, and artists.  The future is not flat, robots teach that at an early age.

Skill Sets:

Robots can be simple and complicated, but for the most part they require problem solving.  You have to teach robots, and teaching is not easy.  You need to learn about systems, subsystems, decision making and reasoning.  Students that engage in robotics programs learn how different disciplines of math work together.  Younger students can learn about measurement, while older students can combine Algebra and Geometry to accomplish a task.  

Ethics:

Robots are coming.  Smarter, faster and stronger ones each day.  What will this mean for humanity?  Why are robots being built, and what function do they provide?  When they are no longer indistinguishable from people, do we treat them as creations?  Sky is the limit for these conversations.  These are all questions that have no real answer, but allow your students to engage in creative problem solving.  They get to explore content without the fear of being wrong.  They can work through their ideas and write about an exciting future.

Technology:

With so much new technology coming, students in elementary will be performing jobs that have not been invented yet.  Their only hope to navigate this maze is to work with technology as often as possible.  And not just a computer, they need to work with all types of technology so they can realize that they are adaptable to anything that is thrown their way.  If a company offers them a job utilizing a piece of technology that they are not experienced with yet, they should have the confidence to know that with a little bit of perseverance they will be able to learn what they need.  Students should feel confident that large problems can be broken down into steps that technology can help them solve.

Here are some resources for cool robotics programs for your classroom:

Lego Mindstorms:


Vex Robots:



Do it Yourself:




Robotics Standards and Outcomes:


Resources and Classroom Information: