iTunes U – Are Libraries Missing a Trick?

May 20, 2010

For those new to iTunes U here’s a brief overview:

iTunes U works in much the same way as music downloads on the iTunes store, but instead you can download bitesize educational content such as tutorials, guides, video clips, etc, straight to your computer, i-pod or i-phone thus enabling learners the flexibility to learn whenever and wherever they choose.

A demo of iTunes U is available on the Apple website here.

Apple can provide any college or university with a customized portion of the iTunes Store to distribute course content and other audio and video material. The files themselves are stored on servers run by Apple, but college administrators have control over whether they limit viewing access to certain people (i.e. their own learners) or make them publicly available to everyone.

The learning material, accessed using the free iTunes software, can even be customized with the institution’s colours, logos, and photographs.

So, who’s using it and, more importantly, why should libraries use it?

According to the Apple site, over 600 universities, many in the USA, now have iTunes U accounts and about half of these institutions make their content available via the iTunes Store. Granted, the vast majority of the content is HE focussed and produced by universities, but the FE sector are starting to get on board with the likes of Preston College, Adam Smith College and Aberdeen College leading the way in the UK.

(Image available under the Creative Commons licence on Flickr at

There are a number of reasons why we should explore the idea of creating content that learners can access flexibly via mobile devices. Let’s face it, most learners today own a mobile phone and current estimates of internet access via mobile devices range between 7.2 million and 17.4 million users in the UK alone. Not only do we tend to take such devices with us practically everywhere we go and always have them on (when they’re not charging), they’re also an incredibly personal, as well as social, tool that is likely to be around for some time.

There’s already alot of good work being developed across the region utilising mobile phones as tools to engage learners in the library with text services, video tutorials and QR Codes. If you’d like to find out more see Andrew Walsh’s article “They all have them – why not use them? Introducing mobile learning at the University of Huddersfield Library” in the SCONUL Newsletter 47 or catch up with his blog.

Another reason to get on board with iTunes U is to take advantage of the vast range of open educational resources produced by many of the users, that are classified by subject on the iTunes Store.

The OU in particular has produced a number of quality resources that are free to download from the iTunes Store (I was amazed to find some great video footage of the colosseum in Rome, but enough about my next holiday!). You can also follow the OU on Twitter and receive regular updates about new OU iTunes U content.

There are a few whispers of libraries in the USA that are starting to explore iTunes U as a platform for delivering library information already, but there’s a surprising dearth of take up here in the UK.

So, are libraries missing a trick? If you’d like to find out more about iTunes U and how it can be used for delivering educational content we’ll be providing a workshop on this at our forthcoming summer conference.

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Untangling Web 2

April 27, 2010

First of all, a big thank you to all the librarians at the cofhe lasec event I attended at Westminster Kingsway College in London last Friday, Untangling Web 2, delivered by Phil Bradley.  The library staff at Westminster Kingsway College made us all feel very welcome and it was a great modern library to have the event.  The event was attended by a broad range of library staff from across a number of sectors, all of whom were enthusiastic towards the world of Web 2 and keen to explore Phil’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the subject.

The day began with a comprehensive and entertaining overview of Web 2 from Phil and raised some important issues, such as:

  • Although it’s important to consider your digital identity carefully when using Web 2 and the implications it has for your organisation, don’t let this stop you experimenting.  Fear stifles innovation.
  • Can Web 2 be trusted?  Before dabbling with an Web 2 site do some research by canvassing friends to see who is using it and what they think.  Does it have an entry on Wikipedia?  Is there a video tutorial for it on Youtube?  Search Twitter and blog search engines like Technorati to find out what other people are saying.
  • Don’t focus too much on the tool, but on what you get from the tool.  Many Web 2 sites can have a limited shelf life, but don’t worry too much if they disappear, you can guarantee another will spring up in its place that does a similar job!
  • Many Web 2 sites tend to be permanently in beta.  Web 2 is constantly evolving – go with it.
  • Web 2 doesn’t mean that there is no place for librarians anymore!  In fact, there is now a lot more work for librarians as there is even more information to organise, evaluate and share than ever before.
  • Many librarians are enthusiastic about using Web 2, but unfortunately their organisation sees Web 2 as a threat and it’s blocked on the network.  Phil has written a useful blog post, 25 barriers to using Web 2.0 technology: solutions, that addresses this and provides librarians with arguments to emancipate Web 2.

Okay, there was a lot more than just the above, but as I spent most of the day tweeting about Phil’s pearls of Web 2 wisdom you can get a flavour by searching Twitter under the hashtag #lasec.  Ewa Wraga, the E-Resources Co-ordinator at South Thames College, has also written a blog posting too about the event which can be viewed here.

Right, enough blogging for one day, time to check my Twitter…

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The Library Induction Maze: Some examples and ideas from across the region

March 5, 2010

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10 practical uses of Twitter for librarians

August 13, 2009

Twitter has enjoyed something of an explosion in use in the year 2009 and many librarians are keen to exploit its potential to champion their own libraries.  Twitter is now ranked number one in the Top 100 Tools for Learning and CILIP are even delivering training courses on Twitter for librarians.

Many Public libraries and HE libraries in particular are already using Twitter to great effect, and FE libraries are also beginning to dip their toes in the water, but how exactly is Twitter being used?

Well, because I’m such a nice guy, I’ve had a trawl around the various tweets posted by libraries and have come up with a list of useful ways you could use Twitter – so here they are:

  1. Provide your followers with a top tip of the day.  This could be something that helps learners with their study/information literacy.
  2. If you are putting an event on in the library be sure to tweet about it to let people know, e.g. reading groups, inductions, book sales, etc.
  3. Provide links to new electronic resources in the library.
  4. Promote a book of the day to encourage reading for pleasure.
  5. If you need feedback from your followers about any aspect of the library service try using an app like twtpoll.
  6. Find other librarians using a Twitter directory like wefollow or twellow and see what they are tweeting about to get some ideas.
  7. Make your Twitter social rather than just relaying information outwards.  Retweet other people who make relevant tweets to your users and reply to tweeters when you can.
  8. Promote the webopac by including links.
  9. If you are redesigning the physical spaces in the library show your users what you are doing by adding photos using twitpic.
  10. Invite your users to use Twitter like an enquiry service where they can ask questions regarding services and resources etc.

Clearly, this is by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully it’s given you some food for thought.

Well, what are you waiting for?

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