Apple released its latest versions of the iPod this week and the one that has me all excited is the iPod Touch. Not only because it's basically an iPhone without the phone and for us in Canada will be the only way to get our iPhone "fix" for some time to come, but because I believe that the iPod Touch (and the iPhone when it finally arrives here) has the potential to revolutionize e-learning as we know it.
Why will they revolutionize e-learning? Well simply put, they will allow learners to connect from wherever they are and to create and use customized learning environments or PLEs. The iPod Touch has wi-fi capability which will allow learners to access the Internet and the learning resources there, not to mention any learning institution that makes itself available online (which these days is every learning institution). It will also very quickly have recording capability as well (the third-party accessory makers are probably working on that as we speak), so even the iPod Touch will truly become a two-way learning device, and just wait until the iPhone gets here...
With the iPod Touch and iPhone you now have devices that learners can use to get learning materials wherever they are in whatever form works for them - text, video, audio, or a combination of all three. Learners will be able to create a learning environment that is available 24/7 and suits their own personal approach to learning. Learning institutions will be able to reach learners not yet readily available - but will have to be creative in order to do it.
Can you just imagine the powerful learning that could occur if you gave learners a pre-loaded iPod Touch with all of their course materials on it instead of a pile of text books? Cheaper and much more in tune with the digital natives that we have now as learners and will have even more in the future (the true digital natives are coming - they are in K-12 now...).
There are several colleges and universities that have made course materials available through iTunes and its iTunes U page at the iTunes Store - lectures, presentations and course materials are available for download in podcast, vidcast and other formats - one more way for learners to create their own learning environments. Much of the material still requires registration, but much of it is free too (thanks MIT!).
So what does all this mean for us as adult educators? Well, for one thing, we must now seriously consider including these kinds of devices (the iPod Touch and iPhone are only the first of many...) and the learning resources that they can use whenever we begin to develop or modify curriculum and learning resources. We need to think about how to best use these tools to reach learners, what effect they will have on how we deliver learning, and how learners will use them to manage and customize their own learning experiences. I can quite honestly see myself delivering a course using these or similar devices in the not too distant future.
The Earth moved this week, and it was an iPod that moved it. Hmmm...
(Picture - "iPod touch" by peter.ca)