I recently changed one of my categories here, "Learning Spaces," to "Learning & Working Spaces" because I'm seeing greater overlap in those two places. We know learning has always been occurring outside of traditional spaces, such as classrooms, but it is more formalized now than ever before.
Spring 2020 certainly moved a lot of learning online from pandemic necessity. But other learning spaces have emerged in recent decades.
Co-working spaces are formal places for people needing office space but not wanting an office full-time. WeWork is one of the better-known commercial spaces. Colleges are opening virtual campuses, micro-campuses, but informal work and learning is happening in Panera Bread stores, Starbucks, and many local cafes and coffee shops.
I saw recently that Staples stores have been giving some of its retail space over to podcast recording booths. They partnered with Spreaker for recording spaces in six Staples stores in the Boston area. These booths are part of a new Staples Connect model, in which the retail stores offer coworking and community event spaces. The soundproof Staples Connect Podcast Studios are being developed in partnership with iHeartRadio. They provide professional equipment (RODECaster Pro control board, RODE microphones and SHURE headphones) and space for up to four people.
I don't know if most people would consider podcasts as a learning space but a lot of informal and some formal learning is happening through podcasts.
When I started podcasting at NJIT back in 2006, our initial audience was prospective students and we were clearly doing marketing. But that potential audience quickly grew when we saw that downloads were coming from a more general audience that was interested in research from the university.
In 2007, NJIT became part of the original sixteen colleges to launch Apple's iTunes U. That's when we started thinking about podcasts as a learning space. (The term "coursecasting" was briefly being used by some schools.)
Apple has changed how it offers podcasts but iTunes U still exists and as they state "iTunes U provides everything an instructor needs to bring the classroom together on iPad—build lessons with apps and your own materials, collect and grade assignments, start class discussions or talk with students to answer questions and provide feedback."
My virtual friend, Kristen Meinzer, recently published So You Want to Start a Podcast, a very comprehensive how-to guide to getting started. There's a lot more to starting a podcast than buying a good microphone and installing some software. Though those things are necessary, having great equipment is hardly at the top of the list of reasons why podcasts succeed.
Kristen knows podcasting having been a commentator, producer, and former director of nonfiction programming for Slate’s sister company, Panoply. She has also hosted several successful podcasts, reaching millions of listeners and continue to create shows.
Is she an educator? Not in the formal sense of a teacher or professor, but you can certainly learn from the programs - and be entertained, which is a combination that some educators have not mastered.
I would include podcasting as a learning and working space that should be considered by individuals, businesses and schools.
Back in 2006, I was asked to do a session for a webinar series for Higher Ed Experts titled “Podcasting Made Easy.” My session was titled “To be or not to be an iTunes U(niversity)?
At that time, I was working at NJIT and we had recently become one of the "sweet 16" universities that launched Apple's iTunes U. In the bio I used then I was the Manager of Instructional Technology at NJIT. For the previous two years, I had led the podcasting efforts at NJIT including the school’s launch that summer of our public and private use of Apple’s iTunes U.
Looking back at that webinar, I found in my files that Higher Ed Experts owner, Karine Joly, has included me in her blog series "3 Questions to a Higher Ed Blogger" where I talked about this Serendipity35 blog. Here are those 3 Q&A's. How do they hold up more than 13 years later?
1) You’ve been blogging at Serendipity 35 since last February . Why did you decide to blog at that time? Can you tell us a bit more about your experience with blogging?
The Serendipity35 site originally was created as a way for Tim Kellers and me to try out open-source blogging software for our division at NJIT. This particular blog uses Serendipity software and our division at the university is #35, hence the title.
The first few entries were really just tests and I never intended to keep it going except as a demo site. I have a poetry site called Poets Online and I was already blogging for that using Blogger. I had also started a site within our department website at NJIT on Emerging Instructional Technology [EIT] where I intended to keep information on products and services we were testing. Unfortunately, I was never able to keep up with that website on a regular basis. However, blogging is easier (and I find more enjoyable) so that Serendipity35 has replaced that website as my way of keeping the NJIT community aware of new products, services, trends and the pedagogy of using them.
In addition, it has taken on a life of its own and gets many more views than the EIT site ever did and from a much wider audience than just NJIT. Getting comments from readers is an important part of the blogging experience too.
2) You blog a lot about new media (blogs, social networking websites, podcasting, etc.). What impact do you think these new technologies are going to have on higher ed?
I’m glad you ask what impact they are “going to have” because, unfortunately, I don’t think they have enough of an impact right now.
I see more penetration of Web 2.0 applications in K-12 teaching than in higher ed. It may be easier to implement some of these things at that level because you have districts, schools, grade levels and departments that can require their use through mandated curriculums. That’s rare in universities. “Required” and “faculty” are not words that go together easily at colleges. You’ll hear the much used (and abused) phrase “intellectual freedom” in response to attempts to require faculty to do many things. I’m not talking about having every faculty member have a blog, but it’s tough to get every faculty member to post syllabi online for each of their courses.
I think that students may be the drivers for the use of these applications as they have been in their desires and expectations to see course materials online, podcasting, 24/7 access, wireless campuses, etc.
I can’t see many educators being opposed in theory to the read-write version of the Web that is being called Web 2.0 and wanting to have students remain merely consumers (readers) of the web. All the tools like MySpace, blogs, video sites and other things that I write about have wide acceptance with students at all grade levels already. They won’t abandon them when they enter college, and they’ll be surprised and disappointed if they are not being used in their college classrooms and used or at least understood by their teachers.
Many faculty members were opposed to using email ten years ago, but those few who still are have to be seen as dinosaurs, and if they look up, they will see that an asteroid is headed towards them.
3) How is your blogging received by your administration and the rest of your campus community?
My director, Bill Reynolds, is always very enthusiastic and supportive of the department jumping into new technologies. For example, I wanted to pursue podcasting with faculty last fall so we jumped in and created our own podcasting site for NJIT and produced “coursecasts” for the fall and spring semesters. When we realized it was going to take off and that we needed greater support and infrastructure and heard about Apple’s iTunes U, we applied. We have been accepted and are building our site to launch this summer.
Our division’s Associate Vice President, Gale Spak, was the person who originally asked Tim and me to put together a day-long seminar on podcasting, wikis and blogs because she thought it had great potential for our academic community and for corporate clients, like those in NJIT’s own Enterprise Development Center. We did offer that day of workshops this past spring, but Tim and I actually ended up presenting the section on wikis using our own open-source wiki project.
I’ve heard nothing but positive comments from those on campus who have looked at the blog, though I’ll be first to admit that a large portion of the NJIT community still doesn’t know it exists. A number of faculty members who read it have asked to have blogs for their courses. We’re also looking at open source course management systems like Moodle which is offering blogging tools within a course itself. We have a web redesign project for the university that started this summer and they are using a private blog to keep the many team members up to date on developments and to get feedback asynchronously.
I see our blog as narrowcasting rather than broadcasting. The audience for what we write about is not the general public and that’s fine with us. I can tell by the site metrics that we have far more readers than those who actually comment on the site. In fact, just to illustrate the newness of this with educators, I have to say that I have been really surprised at the number of them who have emailed me comments about a piece rather than posting them on the blog itself. It’s not a question of being anonymous (you can do that on the blog) but more that they don’t quite get what a blog is all about.
Though blogs have been around for years, in education I think we are at a tipping point this year and that we’ll see much wider acceptance and use in 2007 and beyond.
How do my answers hold up in 2020? Pretty well, in my humble opinion. I certainly feel the same way about where we were in 2006 and some of my concerns and predictions are still valid.
I came to reexamine this old interview because I was looking at the Higher Ed Experts site which has been offering webinars and content for all these years. Their Higher Ed Social Media Conference has become an annual online higher ed conference.
Karine is still doing her interviews with her expert speakers. One response that caught my attention was a question posed to Emily Phillips, Social Media Coordinator at the College of William and Mary.
Where do you think higher ed social media is heading in 2020?
Whenever I’m asked the “what’s next” question it inevitably conjures up in my mind the 1994 clip of Katie Couric & Bryant Gumbel trying to figure out the @ symbol and asking, “what is the internet, anyway?” At the risk of earning the amused derision of future readers, I’ll say that I see a lot of potential for “creator” spaces like YouTube, podcasts and even Twitch, which lend themselves well to Higher Education content. I’m also keeping an eye on VSCO and Tik Tok, which are obviously popular with a huge chunk of our audience, but I’m not yet sure enough that our current and future students are interested in seeing or engaging with our content in those spaces to warrant diverting our resources in either of those directions.
I remember using that Today Show clip (below) when I started at NJIT in 2000 as a way of showing how much had changed in just those 6 years since it was recorded. I agree with Emily's sense of risk in predicting the future of anything in technology and especially its use in higher education. One way to limit risk is to avoid talking about specific tools. Rereading my answers, that MySpace reference really dates the response. She may be safe mentioning YouTube, Tik Tok, and Twitch in 2020, but I suspect that if she looks back on her answers in 13 years she will chuckle at those references.
Whether you loved or hated Apple's iTunes, it was a big step iTunes as a media player, media library, Internet radio broadcaster, and eventually as a mobile device management application. Now it is being unbundled and essentially phased out, according to press release from the latest Apple Worldwide Developer Conference.
Apple Inc. announced it as a new service and tool on January 9, 2001. It was used to play, download, and organize digital multimedia files, including music and video, on personal computers running the macOS and Windows operating systems. It forced you to purchase through the iTunes Store.
My own professional interest in it focused on iTunes U which allowed universities to offer content, including courseware (mostly lectures at first) and other "podcast" materials and even print content, in a open way. I have been writing here about iTunes since 2006.
The latest move by Apple is probably much more tied to changes in the music industry and the way consumers listen to and purchase music. Apple has been pushing users to its Apple Music subscription service, like Spotify and others. That is a better deal for them since it means a guaranteed monthly fee instead of waiting and hoping that a customer will buy songs. I have not subscribed and I have not purchased music from their store in several years, and I suspect I am not alone in that trend.
Apple is phasing out iTunes in favor of three apps called Music, TV and Podcasts. This is very much how those services are already divided on iPhones and iPads.
From what I have read, iTunes will still exist as a standalone iOS app and on Windows PCs and your previous purchases and libraries will be maintained in each new app on Mac computers.
I have not found any information on the future of iTunes U. My university, NJIT, was one of the "sweet 16" schools to be there for the launch of iTunes U in May 2007. But with iTunes version 12.7 (August 2017), iTunes U collections became a part of the Podcasts app.
NJIT stopped using their iTunes U instance several years ago. They were not alone in higher education. That is a trend that does not please me as it took away one source of open courseware. But some schools have moved that content to other MOOC platforms which offer richer environments for full course offerings.
Apple says that it will not be remotely deleting years of downloaded and purchased songs and movies, but will probably find a way to bridge, manage and access downloaded content in other ways. A clear cut-off date for iTunes has not been set.
"Since well before MOOCs emerged, the University of California at Berkeley has been giving away recordings of its lectures on YouTube and iTunesU. In fact, Berkeley has become one of the most-generous distributors of free lectures on the web, adding some 4,500 hours of video per year.
But that web channel, webcast.berkeley.edu, will soon stop adding fresh content. Last month officials announced that, because of budget cuts, the university will no longer offer new lecture recordings to the public, although the videos will still be available to students on the campus."
One of Apple's announcements earlier this year that did not get a lot of attention was that K12 Institutions can now sign up to deliver content in iTunes U. Most of the attention in January went to the news that textbooks were coming to iBooks and that author software to create your own books would be supported, along with a dedicated iTunes U app, which "bundles" courses in a manageable, multimedia package.
The K12 news could be more of a motivator for change than the textbooks in the K12 space. I can see some teachers creating textbooks, but creating podcasts and support materials for iTunes U will be much easier. In fact, many educators may already have some of those materials created and ready to upload.
Of course, K12 is very different than higher ed - especially when it comes to issues like permissions for using students and student work and the probable "review process" that will be required by a school district.
To get started with iTunes U, K12 school districts, universities, and colleges in 26 countries can start at eduapp.apple.com
Since my last iTunes U post, things have been pretty quiet in there. Colleges continue to add content, but nothing very dramatic has changed. Still, I suspect many of you have not sampled the podcasts in iTunes U. There is certainly a worldwide interest though. I couldn't find any statistics on iTunes U downloads, but just based on the 100,000+ hits on my posts about it here on Serendipity35, I would have to say that the numbers are huge.
I am surprised, but pleased, to see that 5 of 13 sites in the K-12 area are from New Jersey.
In the main universities and colleges section, community colleges are still woefully underrepresented, especially considering the attention and money that is aimed at them this past year by the Obama administration and their rising enrollments sparked by high unemployment.
Want to get a sampler of what is available? Open up the iTunes U Top Downloads page. There's a whole college education waiting to be downloaded for free.