Texas students can now download podcasts, videos and other multimedia lessons directly from iTunes through a new online program aimed at providing free, supplementary coursework that can be accessed anywhere, state officials announced Tuesday.
The Texas Education iTunes U channel allows teachers to upload material from their classes to help students understand new concepts or do more research in a specific subject area. Students and parents can access the material through home or school computers, and those with iPods can download the information to the handheld devices.
The state first met with Apple Inc. about three years ago. The governor's office and the Texas Education Agency began working on the project in November, finding and culling existing teacher training videos and programs for students, said agency spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe.
"A lot of that content may already be out there, but it's either overlooked or hard to access," Gov. Rick Perry told about 50 students at Sharpstown High School in southwest Houston. "This will really consolidate that information."
Teachers across the state can also trade tips and advice about lesson plans by posting and viewing each other's videos. Already, 146,000 teachers have signed up to participate and formed 5,000 subject groups, said Education Commissioner Robert Scott.
The only external costs associated with the program would be additional server space or production equipment, Ratcliffe said. Apple is currently hosting the files and videos that have already been created.
"Once we get a huge volume of content, then we would have to buy a server, but that's pretty far down the road," she said.
Other state agencies and nonprofit groups will also participate and upload content to the site. The state has partnered with PBS, the Smithsonian Institution and the National Archives, Scott said.
Any user can download the public, free materials the same way music and videos are accessed from the popular online store. Forum-based discussions between teachers will be password-protected.
A Perry spokeswoman said all posted material will be vetted through the Texas Education Agency and work in conjunction with state-approved textbooks.
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