David Nance created the extremely popular Spanish I course for iTunes U. Over 300,000 students enrolled shows that he’s obviously doing something right! How does he create these effective instructional materials? Learn more about David Nance.
What’s your background in education?
I graduated from Brigham Young University in 2007 with a BA in Spanish Teaching. I earned an MSE in Curriculum and Instruction from Arkansas State University in December 2013. I spent six years as a teacher at the Arkansas Department of Education Distance Learning Center, and I am now teaching at Virtual Arkansas, a new distance-learning provider. Between the two jobs, I have taught students at forty-two different high schools around the state of Arkansas.
What is your instructional approach?
My background as a teacher is in distance learning, so I was well-suited to begin creating materials for iTunes U. I believe that good course design is the key to successful learning. To me, good course design includes clear and concise materials, opportunities to interact with the materials (rather than passively absorbing information), instant and meaningful feedback, the chance to learn from one’s own mistakes, the opportunity to spend as much (or as little) time with any given concept as necessary, and the opportunity to revisit old topics and ideas at any time. All of my materials on iTunes U embody these principles. My ideas and approach are very similar in many ways to those of Sal Khan. Through years of thought and experimentation, I had already come up with my basic philosophy and approach before I was introduced to Khan’s ideas. It was like finding a kindred spirit, and I often recommend his video about Digital Learning Day, as well as his book, The One World Schoolhouse. Khan is able to articulate the advantages of this approach much better than I have ever been able to do.
What have you published in iTunes U so far?
Spanish in 180 Seconds, a podcast series that focuses on Spanish grammar.
5-Minute Spanish, a much more involved podcast series that also focuses on Spanish grammar
Spanish 1, a course that includes many videos from the 5-Minute Spanish series, but also includes interactive, self-checking tutorial assignments and quizzes
Español 1, a textbook made specifically for the iPad, which includes not only Spanish grammar, but also key vocabulary, culture, history, and geography. This book includes interactive elements, listening opportunities, and practice opportunities, and is based on the Arkansas curriculum framework for Spanish 1.
How have you used your iTunes U materials in your own instruction?
I used my videos and interactive tutorials to give my students a truly self-paced Spanish course. With only two years to experiment with this approach, I did not perfect it, but I certainly saw a great deal of success, and I believe that it raised the achievement level of my students. I found the approach to be beneficial for faster and slower learners, as well as for students in the middle. In the coming years, I hope to be able to continue to experiment with this approach.
What special skills do you get to use when designing lessons / courses for iTunes U?
One of the most obvious skills that I use is my content-area knowledge. I am a Spanish teacher, so my materials have all been Spanish materials. In addition to that, though, I have also had the opportunity to work with many different types of recording devices and video and audio editing software, and also various websites and materials to help me develop my content. Networking is also a useful skill that I have had to use; for instance, I put out a call to many friends and acquaintances for pictures that I could include in my textbook, and I used a social networking site to request help with the audio portions of the book. In response, a teacher from Argentina and a teacher from Spain, neither of whom I have ever met, recorded many segments for my textbook.
What might people be interested to know about the “behind the scenes” creation of your work?
A lot goes into even a simple screencast video. A five-minute screencast video typically takes approximately an hour to make, and my more complex videos (with me on camera, and text being moved around the screen), take many hours to complete, even though those videos are only three minutes long. The iBooks Author software was new when I began creating my Español 1 textbook, so I had to learn the software as I wrote the book. I never started over from scratch, but the book underwent some fundamental changes during its creation, which lasted several months.
Have you ever been contacted by someone outside Arkansas who is using your materials? What’s it feel like?
I am contacted by people from outside of Arkansas on a fairly regular basis. The variety of people who are using my materials astounds me. I have heard from people from across the United States, ranging in age from ten years old to a self-described “senior student.” I have also heard from people in the Netherlands, Turkey, India, Malaysia, China, Brazil, Colombia, and elsewhere. In fact, as soon as I finish writing this, I will be responding to an email that I just received from someone in China. I have really enjoyed having the opportunity to help all of these people make progress on their learning goals.
One of the best things about creating materials for iTunes U is that they will be used by people who want to learn. There are few things as gratifying as getting feedback from, and answering questions for, students who are studying because they want to learn, and not because someone told them that they had to study.
What else should we know about you professionally? Include places to follow you (Twitter, Blog, etc.)
Believe it or not, I am not on Twitter. I have given it some thought, but have never gotten around to making the jump. I have been an active participant for several years in different teacher groups on Edmodo, and can also be found on LinkedIn. I have a YouTube channel with traditional Spanish songs and stories that I have animated; the most popular of these, a Día de los Muertos-themed song, has over 400,000 views. I also have a website with Spanish learning games and other resources that I have created, mySpanishgames.com, but those are all Flash-based, and have therefore never been incorporated into my iTunes materials. I can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.