This past week I’ve been testing out Apple’s new iTunes U App for iPhone and iPad. I’ve been wanting to dive into programming for a while now, but I haven’t been able to find a good way of getting the solid fundamentals I feel like I lack without dropping at least $500 on a course somewhere. I’ve watched several lectures on the iTunes U section of iTunes, but they always lacked the handouts and problem sets , so you could never really keep up with the courses. I’m sure they were great for people actually taking the courses, but to someone on iTunes they weren’t very helpful. The iTunes U app addresses that problem.
Thanks to iTunes U and the Open Courseware Initiative, I’m into my 2nd week of class on Stanford University’s CS106A Programming Methodology course. It has videos of all the lectures. You can download the handouts, the problems sets, and all the required reading material. All for free. I’ve even got the same version of the Stanford Eclipse Compiler with all the same example code from course. This is same course Larry Page and Sergey Brin took. Well, they likely took CS106X, but still I feel good about quality of the lectures and problem sets. Finally I’m ready to confidently lay a solid foundation for my programming skills, but I’m a bit worried about iBooks 2 and textbooks.
Soooo, I’m watching the Apple Keynote, and I’m thinking to myself. OH Shit!, Physics textbooks with animated models to teach motion, Spanish textbooks with audio pronunciation, even World History textbooks with games like Risk built into them. Then I go to check them out.
While I laud Apple for upping the ante on the textbook publishing industry. If you go check out the reviews of say the Physics textbook from publisher McGraw-Hill you find that Quizes at the end of Chapters have wrong answers in them. Reviews for the Geometry and Algebra I are the same. While this might give us a glimpse into why Americans are really bad at math and science. It certainly proves the point that all the 3D models, and graphics, and videos, and integrated-server-side-datasets in the world don’t make any difference in teaching Math if they are mathematically incorrect. I hope this changes, and updates are made available quickly because those reviews are all over the place.