KQED, science academy team up for e-learning project

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In producing the Earthquake e-book and iTunes U course, KQED and CAS set out to create an interactive learning experience for students and lifelong learners.

With Earthquake, an e-book and companion iTunes U course, KQED and the California Academy of Sciences shook up a new approach to multimedia collaboration.

KQED Quest Executive Producer Sue Ellen McCann and Helena Carmena-Young, a teacher professional development specialist for the California Academy of Sciences, began discussing the educational collaboration while waiting at an airport after a conference.

Both KQED and CAS had been working on educational projects about earthquakes: KQED’s Explainer series, an education-focused pilot project on which Carmena-Young served as an advisor; and the CAS museum exhibit, “Earthquake: Life on a Dynamic Planet.”

There was plenty of content about earthquakes, McCann said, but no curriculum to make it easily adaptable for classroom instruction.

Around the same time, KQED Interactive Producer Jenny Oh spent a weekend experimenting with iBooks Author, a tool for creating iPad e-books, and she used content from Explainer. When Oh shared the results with colleagues, “We all thought it was fabulous,” said McCann. “An e-book really takes advantage of all of this content that we have created. It takes advantage of our ability to make it interactive.”

But as snazzy and tech-savvy as the e-book was, it didn’t resolve the need for a curriculum. For that Carmena-Young proposed another Apple platform: iTunes U, specializing in online educational instruction.

At that point, McCann and Carmena-Young decided to team up.

“It’s a way for us to make it exciting and interactive and really engage lifelong learners and high school students,” McCann said.

Though the iTunes U course is aimed at students in middle and high school, the e-book is for anyone interested in the topic of earthquakes, McCann said. The downside is that the book can be accessed only with an iPad; course materials are available on the KQED website.

The pilot Earthquake came together after about six months of conversation, but the next one in the pipeline, Delta, took four months to produce. It focuses on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, as well as other river deltas around the nation; KQED paired up with the East Bay Regional Park District and the Encyclopedia of Life to produce it. Delta is set for a November release.

  • Ro

    Nicely written.