What can I say? I love learning; and there is no better way to improve my social studies content knowledge than through taking a course at an elite university. What's that you say? You can't afford the tuition? Don't worry about it. I have a way for you to get your history fix without spending big bucks. When I first received my iPad, I was extremely excited to try it out. Of course, history nerd that I am, one of the first apps I discovered was iTunes U. For those who are unfamiliar with iTunes U, it's an Apple app that allows the user to download full (and free!) courses from the most prestigious universities in the world. Once you download a course you find interesting, simply tap on the course (listed in your iTunes U library, similar to iBooks) and let the learning begin. Depending on which course you download, you may have access to audio, videos, a suggested reading list (you must purchase the books yourself of course), presentations, PDFs, or other documents. You can even takes notes directly in this app that are saved to the lecture that you are watching at the time.
Some people enjoy music while they work out; I prefer to listen to an iTunes U lecture on my iPhone!!! Want to brush up on your U.S. history? iTunes has a list of courses for you. Teaching a new World History prep next year? iTunes has you covered. These aren't courses from East Nowhere University either; you can select courses from Harvard, Yale, Oxford, Cambridge, Stanford, UC Berkeley and a plethora of other top tier universities.
As promised, below you will find my personal recommendations for iTunes U courses to take over your summer break.
1. American Revolution--Joanne Freeman (Yale University)
A course offered by one of the preeminent scholars of early U.S. history. These lectures are available in video format so be careful if you have a limit on digital data, as videos tend to use a LOT of your data if you are not connected to a wifi network. Professor Freeman is a remarkable teacher. She is the antithesis of the dusty old college professor. Her lectures are engaging and interesting, while providing the viewer with a ton of content. Her personal anecdotes of researching are peppered into her lectures, breaking the monotony and drawing the viewer in. I would highly recommend this class to any teacher who teaches a U.S. I class. The depth in which Professor Freeman covers such a complex topic as the American Revolution is a testament to her years of research.
2. Western Culture: Political, Economic, and Social Thought--Charles Anderson (University of Wisconsin--Madison)
3. Justice--Michael Sandel (Harvard University)
Looking to be entertained while learning? This is the course for you. Given at Harvard's historic Sanders Theatre, the forum matches the course content. Professor Sandel does a wonderful job of engaging his students and viewers. It's obvious that Harvard pulled out all the stops with this course. They knew it would be filmed and they were extremely prepared. But enough about the bells and whistles, social studies teachers want the meat of the lecture, which is to say, the knowledge gained. Sandel most definitely delivers in this respect. The course was built around one premise; What is Justice? Professor Sandel doesn't simply tell his students what Justice is, he challenges them to come to their own conclusions. This is truly course could have been taught 2500 years ago by Socrates himself. Each class revolves around a hypothetical situation (ie. what would you do if you knew you could save 5 people by killing 1?). Through discussion of this challenge, Sandel utilizes his vast knowledge of various philosophical theories. You might be thinking to yourself, How will a philosophy class help me teach my U.S. II class. Well the genius of Sandel is that he can take nearly any hypothetical or real (ie. the lecture on affirmative action from the perspective of famous American philosopher John Rawls) situation and create a lesson out of it. Who else could maintain what is essentially a mixed survey/lecture course in a class of over 1,000 students? The answer is not many, and Sandel is not only one of the leading intellectuals in his field, but a truly gifted educator. Every lecture is a TED Talk with Sandel, which makes sense, because he IS a featured lecturer at TED conferences (see video below).