I have spent the last week in Seattle at Educause. During the week I have had several chances to meet and talk to colleagues at other institutions and from the companies I work with. It has been a fun, rewarding, and thought provoking week -- total exhaustion aside, I think it was one of my more productive trips. I'll save my overall Educause thoughts for a different post ... this one is about the emerging opportunities I see on the horizon for content delivery to mobile devices for teaching and learning.
One of the short demos I went to at the Apple Booth was given by one of my good friends at Apple ... he shared some amazing stories of how different Universities are using iTunes U for content, outreach, and campus news. Some really good stuff -- although ETS Talk didn't make the cut. The second half of the presentation focused on the mobile side of the equation ... how the iPod (in its various forms) create an ecosystem of sorts for managing and delivering mobile content ... it got me thinking about it more.
One of the neat things you can do in Seattle with an iPod Touch or iPhone is walk into a Starbucks (you may have heard of those things ... coffee shops I think) and get instantly connected to what seems like a location aware network. Once connected a new opportunity on the device emerges -- a commerce opportunity. In this case the fact that my device knows I am in a certain place, the network lets me in, and I am presented with an opportunity to acquire content is a very cool thing. I am not one to frequent the old Starbucks at home, opting instead for the local shops but this is an interesting model for us to consider in the delivery of podcasted material.
Another very cool feature to mention is when I am in an open WIFI zone my iPhone gives me the opportunity to purchase content from the Apple Music Store. They even let me look at what is hot, the top 10, and other ways to browse music in multiple genres. Again, this is great but for this to be valuable to me in an academic sense I need to authenticate into my Universities' iTunes U space. Think of the potential -- as these devices hit our campuses students can gain access to learning materials in a true anytime, anywhere fashion. Imagine being a faculty member and creating a podcast two hours before class on a relevant (late-breaking) topic and publishing it to your iTunes U space. What if when you do that you could instantly send an SMS, eMail, and an update to your FaceBook entry that new content is available ... students receive the update and can (with their Touch or iPhone) grab that content out of the air. Just in time mobile content delivery is only one option ... there are dozens of scenarios -- tours, travel updates, and so much more -- especially if you can rely on some sort of location aware technologies.
It all seems to rely on the fact that your device knows your identity and can make that connection. Well, guess what? When you buy an iPod or iPhone the first thing you have to do is sync it with iTunes ... when this happens, why not use the local iTunes U space to create a connection? Let the iTunes U space on your campus take part in the activation process ... when you log in with our school identity all sorts of great things can happen -- auto-synced University bookmarks, account information, University wide calendar events, and more. One of those things is a pairing of the device with your iTunes U access. Seems easy enough to me and it paints a really powerful end-to-end picture of the way iTunes U could sit in the middle of so much more than content management.