The California Department of Education is following in the footsteps of Texas by launching an official presence on iTunes U, a dedicated area within Apple Inc.’s iTunes store that offers free downloads of lectures, lab demos, and access to educational content from state agencies and nonprofit groups.
With districts and schools under tremendous pressure to make every dollar count, California teachers can now download top-rated content from the site at no charge, said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell.
“Whether accessed through a desktop, laptop, or smartphone, [California Department of Education] on iTunes U will be an important tool for the continued professional development of our community of education professionals,” Mr. O’Connell said. “Educators now have more opportunities to access relevant information whenever and wherever it is convenient for them.”
In August, Texas Gov. Rick Perry launched a similar iTunes U channel, saying it would help teachers across his state gain a new vehicle for sharing professional-development materials and course information. Most iTunes U content comes from postsecondary institutions, but Mr. Perry, a Republican, expressed confidence that the content pushed into the K-12-geared Texas education channel would be substantive and sizable.
The California and Texas channels follow the 2008 creation of a K-12 iTunes U destination that pulled resources from several state education agencies, as well as the State Educational Technology Directors Association. The Arizona, Florida, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Utah education agencies have all contributed to that venture, as have museums and other education-oriented organizations.
Available content for the California channel meets the state education department’s criteria, which include high-quality video, audio recordings, presentations, PDF documents, and other education-related information.
California schools will be able to offer educators free professional-development resources that are produced primarily by districts and private education institutions in the state, Mr. O’Connell said.
More than 200 media files are available on iTunes U, some of which have been contributed by California school districts and charter schools.
Additional content will be unveiled in the near future, but for now the state education department is asking districts to contribute material.
“School districts have contributed, and we’re also working with various organizations for additional content,” said Tom Adams, the California department’s director of standards, curriculum frameworks, and instructional resources.
Mr. Adams said the content will continue to grow as long as people continue to contribute information. For instance, information on the academic standards of the Common Core State Standards Initiative is set to be in iTunes U in the near future. The standards are intended to provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them.
The California department has a number of tools up for educators, including information about how to help them successfully implement a standards-based education for California’s adolescents, as well as information on how to encourage students to bond with their schools.
“Going forward, we expect more contributions,” said Jim Long, an education programs consultant for the department. “But right now we’re looking for existing material.”
Staff Writer Ian Quillen of Education Week contributed to this article.
Copyright © 2010, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Ontario, Calif. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
A version of this article appeared in the November 17, 2010 edition of Education Week as California Ed. Department Establishes Presence on iTunes U