Guest blogger Fraser Speirs is a teacher and a technologist. He designed and deployed the world’s first whole-school 1:1 iPad deployment. For more of Fraser’s ideas, check out his blog and his podcast.

When iTunes U shipped in 2012, many teachers found great benefit in its ability to simplify and streamline the process of delivering notes, documents, files, videos and other information to pupils in the class.

Other teachers and schools have gone wholesale into the idea of using iTunes U as a flexible and fast replacement for the textbook. These classes use iTunes U posts to build up the content of the course over the school year and have the iTunes U course be the focus of content revision later in the year.

In the earlier years of school, an effective use of iTunes U is to treat the course as a repository of materials such as images, videos and URLs that can be referred to and – better – downloaded and used as starting points for creative works in the classroom.

One aspect of the “work lifecycle” that iTunes U has thus far not even attempted to address is the problem of pupils submitting work to the teacher for marking and feedback. This is where Showbie can step in.

I think of Showbie as the “missing half” of iTunes U. Where iTunes U is great for the ‘outbound’ half of teaching – the mass communication between teacher and class – Showbie completes the circle for that more personalised communication between student and teacher – and feedback back to the student again.

Certainly, there are other techniques you can use. Uploading to a cloud service like Dropbox can work – if you set up the required folder structures and permissions. AirDrop is a powerful technology for transferring data between devices – if you and the student are in the same place at the same time.

Showbie is the cloud service that sets up all the permissions for you and lets your students submit work from any location, using any app.

There’s another aspect to Showbie that iTunes U doesn’t address: individualised feedback to the student. Whereas a teacher can address the whole class with an iTunes U announcement post, it’s not currently possible to message an individual student through iTunes U. With Showbie, teachers can annotate documents and send back voice messages, pictures and text to individual students with complete privacy from other members of the class.

When using Showbie with iTunes U, it’s not an either-or scenario. It’s both-and. Showbie and iTunes U go hand-in-hand to create a complete workflow for teachers to share with the class and for students to share back with the teacher.

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