Back to School Edition

Monday morning at precisely 6:33 AM my post alarm doze was interrupted by the systematic and extremely irritating flash of a distant strobe light. There was no sound save the ever-present thrumming of the air conditioner, and an occasional muffled bird call. It was as if God, feeling nostalgic for the 70’s, had decided to turn this particular corner of the world into a disco for the deaf. (Ironic since much of my hearing loss can be traced to the times I spent boogying down.)

The source of the strobe was not Devine in nature, nor was Donna Summer mutely sympathizing with bad girls. The light came from a school bus that happened to be loitering outside my home.

School is now in session here in Central Florida, and as I made my way to work (TMO Towers South) through dozens of the lumbering yellow monsters packed with hundreds of sleepy-eyed (but texting) students I was reminded of one of the reasons I love being an adult.

At its best, school was just OK for me. At its worst, it was a government sanctioned, parent approved Hell, and graduation was a celebration of survival skills as much as any academic achievements I might have inadvertently obtained during my internment.

Still, just because I’m an adult does not mean that I’ve stopped learning. In fact, I love learning, and what I love most about learning as an adult is that I don’t have do it in some specific place. Learning can happen anywhere. I can pick up facts about Pi while purchasing pizza, and scan Shakespeare while sitting in a sauna. I never have to set foot in a classroom, or on campus.

Apple’s iTunes University, for instance, offers a seemingly infinite list of classes and lectures on a vast variety of subjects, for free.

iTunes University

Yeah, I know it’s not an app, it’s a service, but it’s a nice service that I believe deserves a mention, especially since there are no school buses involved.

Take your pick of classes from top notch colleges and universities around the country. Get environmental studies from Yale, Physics from MIT, or poliical science from Stanford. There are classes and lectures in audio and video, and even entire courses are all available. All you need to do is download them and listen or watch. There’s even a section for K thru 12.

iTunes University

If you need to brush up on a subject it’s easy to do so in iTunes University. It’s accessible from iPad or iPhone through your iTunes app. You really should check it out.

While you’re there within iTunes University give a look at Open University (OU), an institute of higher learning based in the United Kingdom. OU offers complete curriculums online, available to anyone, anywhere. You can study biology, sociology, and other sciences, taking in the bite sized topics at your leisure. Use it to augment what you’re learning in school today, or brush up on subjects you feel a bit rusty on. You’ll also discover subjects and ideas that might get you excited about some aspect of the world we live in.

Open University

Check out Open University, available at the iTunes Store.

Another avenue of acquiring new concepts is through the time honored tradition of story telling via comic books.

As much as some parents may hate them, comics can stimulate the imagination far better than movies, and they can be more accessible than regular books. Comic books have gotten a bad rap over the years, but public perception of comics has changed, and the acceptance of them as a valid medium for conveying art and ideas has increased since many of the characters portrayed in comics find their way into other medium, most notably, the movies.

OK, whatever.

If you want to get a kid interested in science why not throw a comic his way that talks about science, but not in some preachy or boring manner, but in ways that should get the imagination kicked into high gear.

There is just such a comic, and it’s free until 9/7/2010 and it’s available for your iPad.

The Adventures of Mr. Tompkins: Calling Einstein is based on the Mr. Tompkin series of books by the late George Gamow, and along with the comic you’ll find movies and text featuring the Mr. Tompkins character. It’s all good fun and you’ll be surprised to find out just how much you, I mean your kid will learn.

The Adventures of Dr. Tompkins

The whole presentation is well done.The comic reader is as good as any currently available for the iPad, the movie play flawlessly and the manuscripts have pages that flip to the next page.

Unfortunately there’s no way to bookmark or copy any of the text, or get definitions. Even so, Calling Einstein is a fun read.

Grab it before the price jump.

That’s a wrap for this week. More free stuff below with direct links.

Free on iTunes