Top school puts lessons on iTunes

Leading independent school is making dozens of its courses available free online, so lessons can be downloaded by pupils or teachers at other schools

The Stephen Perse Foundation in Cambridge, is making an initial 87 of its iTunes U course units freely available this September, with more to come.

The units cover a wide range of academic disciplines from literature, languages, the arts, sciences, mathematics and humanities and have been created by teachers in the school for use with their own classes for teaching and revision. 

Initially, these have been created with examination courses in mind such as the International Baccalaureate Diploma, A-level and IGCSE and GCSE. However, some are already finding that they have great potential for younger ages as well. There are also courses, from the school’s own curriculum, aimed at younger students (11-14). 

iTunes U, the academic version of Apple’s iTunes download service, is a free application available on Apple mobile devices like iPhones, iPods and iPads and can be accessed from 51 countries across the world. 

It is perhaps best known for podcasts from many of the world’s leading universities such as Yale, Harvard, the Open University, Oxford but it is also now being taken up by schools. iTunes U collates digital materials such as web links, video, audio files, iBooks, apps, spreadsheets, PDFs etc. The teacher can amend the courses at anytime which will then be updated automatically on everyone’s devices.

Tricia Kelleher, Principal at the Stephen Perse Foundation said: “We are now seeing technology in schools enter a new era. Where schools like ours have been using tablet devices 1-to-1 for over two years, the novelty value has gone. This is great because the focus shouldn’t be on the technology anyway, it should always be on learning. 

“It actually makes the role of the teacher more important than ever. Every teacher has a digital world of learning at their fingertips and it is right, it could even be said to be a responsibility, that this is shared with the students.

‘We have to ask some fundamental questions about what we expect from traditional resources such as textbooks. It doesn’t mean that the textbook is dead but it needs to find a new place in this digital age.” 

The next phase in the Stephen Perse Foundation’s digital development is likely to involve the integration of iBooks (some written by the teachers) into the iTunes U materials. In addition, the school is developing a programme such that every student will leave with a digital portfolio of their own to take into university education and the world of work.

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