Monday, October 1, 2012

iTunes U: Learning Management and Inspiration

I recently updated my iPad and was immediately intrigued by the iTunes U app that was installed during the process. The app is a doorway into a world of learning, inspiriting and research that speaks directly to my obsession with knowing a little bit about everything. And for those on a more organized learning curve, like college students, the app is an extension of the classroom that can be utilized on-demand.
iTunes U gives instant access to free, educational media including lectures, white papers, how-to's and curriculums. Learn best practices and trending theories from business leaders and educators; chill out with 3-minute meditations designed to increase mindful awareness (right on!); or listen to Ian Frazier expound on The Art of Literary Humor. Students can search for the most recent lectures and papers by college professors and the more tech savvy k-12 schools are providing content for parents, teachers and students that significantly expand the educational experience. I think it's a pretty cool way to get in the know about stuff you didn't even know you cared about.
I have to admit, however, I already struggle with limiting the time I spend online drilling down on topics that catch my interest, or are necessary to move my writing along. But with iTunes U, the difference for me is that it offers organized extemporaneous information loading. I know that reads like an overwritten contradiction, but this is where that comes from: When I first opened the app and figured out what it offered, I was relieving myself from writing that wasn't going well. I needed some inspiration and motivation to chew on that would get me back to work sooner rather than later. I needed some fundamental reminders that would shoosh the editor and quell the critic.
So, the first course on my iTunes U bookshelf ends up being "Creative Writing: A Master Class." The suggested duration of the course is 8 weeks, but I get what I need in about 8 minutes when I plug into a video of award-winning playwright/screenwriter Suzan-Lori Parks and her first rule of thumb is "entertain all your far out ideas." Those words (golden to a writer in the midst of an urban fantasy trilogy) and the anecdote she offers with them have me nodding and smiling and eager to get back to writing.

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