The First Rant
Many readers have probably got a pool going on when I would post my first rant. Well, if you have April 1st for your date you win! However, if you selected politics or neo-confederate morons to be the topic, you lose and have to enter the pool again. I am ranting about the incredibly terrible system that is in place for Pearson’s MyHistoryLab and its use on mobile devices. The idea of mobile learning or m-learning as we sophisticated educators call it is to be easily accessible. It is one of the central concepts that make m-learning so attractive.
Yet, today when trying to flip my class around so students can use primary and secondary sources in exploring the Age of Jefferson it was anything but easy to do. First of all, flipping a classroom around is not an easy proposition. Second of all, this is a community college. Third, I’m flipping a survey class. Walking on water is just a tad bit harder to do than this. It is extremely difficult to do when the technology that is supposed to work fails to do what it is alleged to do. My iPad users could not engage with the sources in the MyHistoryLab without jumping through hoops while those that brought their laptops had no issues.
What this shows is the usual disdain Pearson has for m-learning. The Lab is set up for Web users. I whipped out my Android tablet and immediately ran into the same problems the iPad users had. The problem is with Pearson. This is not the first issues I’ve ran into with Pearson. They have several mobile applications and none of them do much at all with the MyHistoryLab. Fortunately, my lived up to my teaching motto: Adapt, improvise, overcome! They Googled and had the primary sources on their iPads immediately and much faster than going through the multi-layered mess that the Lab is.
I am now setting up the following week’s Age of Jackson lessons. Instead of using the Lab, I’m ignoring it and working with other content providers. You really want to know what I think we need to do? Drop Pearson completely. I don’t need them. I like the MyHistoryLab, but to be honest I don’t need it. I can do just as an effective job of teaching without it. In fact, our history department could sit down and have a solid set of course lessons for an entire course in two days or less from start to finish. Give them advance notice and it could be done in less than a day. We could save our college a good chunk of cash too.
I am currently developing a m-learning app with iTunes U for my courses. The first stage is underway. This consists of setting up a generic app useable by any instructor in most disciplines. The goal is to create a system where students can access the app, see the current materials and deadlines they need to be working, and then access them immediately from that screen. Two clicks and they’re from starting the app to reading, listening, or watching the content. Same for quizzes or anything else. We can even install dropboxes, forums, and Office 365 apps on the iPads for their use as well. A companion website would probably be necessary unless we also develop the app to run on Web as well.
Currently, I am using Tunesviewer on my Android to see if I can access the completed product via the iTunes U app. I have two main areas of concern. One is the actual textbook which is an e-text. I need Pearson to load it to an iBook. The second is in quizzes. I like the way the MyHistoryLab quizzes work. However, that doesn’t mean I cannot build and insert them into the iTunes app. That may take a bit of work, but then it might be pretty simple. The best part is that the iTunes materials look pretty easy to use. I know they work because I’ve seen this in action at Arkansas State University. The entire campus is mobile. Students must buy an iPad to attend school there. Everything is contained in the iTunes U course applications. Instructors must use them as well. They are not given a choice.
This also may end up being my doctoral study. I have to wait and see what the chair says, but either way I am developing an app. I plan to use the iPads in two courses as I continue to shift more and more to a flipped classroom approach. Despite the issues with technology, the students worked with the materials and developed some answers to the questions. They preferred this format over the lecture format as well. This requires some work so I can’t do it each time, but I can for a lot of them.
So there’s the first rant. If anyone is using iTunes U materials I would love to hear them talk about their experiences with them. Same for other m-learning applications. I think that is where our pedagogy is going to shift to, so comparing notes would be helpful.
Photo Credits: Apple iPad and Apple iTunes U website.