The Best of Geek on iTunes U

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Screenshot by Lonnie MorganScreenshot by Lonnie Morgan

Screenshot by Lonnie Morgan

With the release of the iPad dominating the Internet right now, a lot of attention has been focused on how the introduction of a multitouch tablet will affect the educational environment. GeekDad’s very own Jenny Williams wrote a great post about how she thinks the new device will take off in the hands of kids. Seton Hill University will be giving iPads to each full time student this fall. And data powerhouses like Wolfram|Alpha have already rolled out what I think are killer educational apps.

But earlier this week, I realized that Apple has been holding an Ace in the education game for a few years now. For me, it is one of the least used features of the iTunes client. But iTunes U in combination with an iPad may just be the match up that puts Apple at the top of the curriculum wishlist.

Introduced in 2007, iTunes U is a collection of audio and video lectures, presentations, and demos delivered by some of the world’s top university professors. Yale, Stanford, MIT, Oxford, and dozens of other colleges and universities each have course material for download. You can watch a lecture about the fundamentals of physics one day and catch a discussion on the intricate details of RNA replication the next. And all of the course material is FREE!

This GeekDad took a stroll through the course material on iTunes U, looking for some of the geekiest lectures available. I realize my inner geek may be different than yours, but I think the courses I found will have mass appeal to the nerd in everyone. Enjoy!

The Large Hadron Collider, The Open University

When it was powered up (although it was not a full power test), black holes did not form, the world did not end, and I’m still here to write up this post. The Open University has a four part audio series about the massive science experiment near Geneva, Switzerland. Part one is a great intro, but part two makes for great listening.

Electricity & Magnetism, Lecture 7 – Capacitance and Field Energy, MIT

Professor Lewin has the old school geek look. Crazy hair, rumpled clothes, and facts spilling out of his ears. The video is grainy as it dates from 2002, but this is a great lecture on storing energy. Of course, the shocking demo comes at the end.

Space: Year On Earth, The Cassiopeia Project

Less than 500 years ago, the classical view of the universe was geocentric. If only the scholars of the day had this video. Detailed, yet expertly explained, this video describes the motion of our home planet around Sol and defines exactly what a year is. This is the perfect video for the parents of little geeks when answering the “what’s a year?” question.

Homogeneous Linear Equation w/ Constant Coefficient Theory, Math 222, Harrisburg Area Community College

I believe that I had THE WORST professor for my differential equations course in college. And I also believe that there is a special place in heaven for kind and understanding TAs. If I had had this online review back then, that quarter at Ohio State may have not been so bad. Calculus, proofs, trig. Arrrggh! Warning: Do not start watching this lecture in the middle or your head will explode.

Designing Interactive Systems I, Lecture 5 – History I, From Abacus til Macintosh, RWTH Aachen University

While my days of hands on programming are getting less and less, one of my biggest pet peeves is lousy user interface design. This course focuses on the entire human / computer interface. And this lecture in particular is an impressive overview of the history of HCI. @11:30, the professor explains how secretaries for IT departments used to be human compilers. I can just imagine what the kids in this class were thinking during the lecture. Great stuff!

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