Apple’s “Textbooks” Potential: PD Creation Tools for Schools/Districts

This is another post where I explore the potential of Apple’s announcement about textbooks, textbook creation tools, and iTunes U for K-12 education.

I have already shared my reaction to textbooks in general and where I see potential in Apple’s tools as another choice for students creating products.

I think another potential use of these new tools is as a platform for schools and districts to create and deliver on-demand professional development.

I work on a couple school change initiatives focused on innovative approaches to student learning. One thing they all share is that teachers need lots of training and support since these approaches are often new to them. Trying to coordinate and deliver that training and support to any number of teachers (teachers who themselves are at all different developmental and readiness levels) can be a logistical nightmare. Further, all the current initatives I’m working on involve customized learning (learning systems that recongnize and respond to the fact that people learn in different ways and in different time frames), so it’s not a surprise that we’ve been exploring the idea of “just in time,” on-demand training and support systems as a component of an approach to PD that includes feedback and coaching, as well as traditional trainngs, workshops, and conferences.

I think the collection of tools announced recently may provide an infrastructure that would allow the easy creation and distribution of such a system.

My district could open an iTunes U Management Account, share webinars and videos that we would create, then use the iTunes U app to create “courses” (not just using our content, but that elsewhere in iTunes U) that each teacher could work through at his or her own pace. We could create interactive books to provide further support and reference materials (including interactive components). Teachers could then apply what they’re learning, with the support of peers and others who could visit their classrooms, team teach, observe, give feedback, and offer other kinds of support as teachers work on their practice.

This isn’t too different than the approach Carpe Diem schools use with students (online direct instruction with videos and coursework, followed by application activities with teachers), but generalized to the professional learning of teachers. Our iTextbooks and iTunes U courses could provide the background knowledge which teachers would then apply to their own classrooms under the support of a teaching coach.

Conferences, workshops, and training sessons would, of course, still have their place, but perhaps more of the time at those would focus on sharing ideas and resources, collaboratively processing and reflecting on experiences, and networking. But overall, districts and organizations could provide more training to more teachers, and, more importantly, on the teacher’s own time schedule.

It’s Your Turn:

How have you experienced (or are implementing) on-demand professional development and support?