Sunday, November 01, 2009

Teaching Math with the 'Tubes

One of the more popular posts on this blog was one I wrote about using YouTube as an instructional tool. Though YouTube does have its fair share of videos with some educational value, teachers have to be careful when recommending the site to students (hopefully the reasons are obvious). For this reason, many of us have started recommending sites like TeacherTube and SchoolTube to our students. Both of these sites house thousands of videos that were created by teachers and their students.

One problem with the videos on these two sites is that they may not be “just right”—they may not teach the skills or concepts your students are learning the way you would teach them. I've encountered this problem, so this year I've decided that I needed to do more than just direct my students to the sites--I needed to add some instructional videos myself. A couple weeks ago, I started making my own videos using SMART Recorder: the SMART tool that lets teachers record their SMARTBoard lessons, complete with voice narration, and save them as a Windows Media file. After recording the videos, I upload them to SchoolTube and then embed them on my classroom wiki. I’ve created just four videos to this point, but so far I feel they have been a big success. Here's why:
  • There is more time in class for homework/enrichment/problem-solving - Though we have 55 minute math periods (a dream for most math teachers), I often find myself teaching up until the final minutes of class. Now that my students are viewing videos of the lessons, I can review the concepts/skills on the video and answer any questions the kids might have in a fraction of the time it would have taken me to teach the lesson. This leaves more time for kids to work on homework in class. More importantly, the instruction time saved will eventually free up time for enrichment activities like problem-solving and lessons on math concepts that don’t fall into the traditional curriculum (fractals, Fibonacci sequence, etc.).
  • I have lessons for kids who are absent – I’ve already heard from parents that the videos have been helpful for students who are absent. They have been watching the videos at home and, as a result, haven’t fallen as far behind as they normally would have.
  • Students can review the videos to prepare for tests and quizzes – The videos are there for eternity (or until Wikispaces closes up shop), so the kids can always go back and use them as review for tests and quizzes.
Now that you know how using the videos can benefit you, let’s get into how you make them. As I said, I make mine using SMART Recorder. This allows you to set up a lesson on SMART Notebook and teach it like you would in class (without the student interaction of course). Though it takes a little preparation, you don't have to memorize every action and word because you can pause your recording and then pick up where you left off. I keep my videos short--the longest one was just over 7 minutes--and lately I've tried to add a little enthusiasm to them. It's easy to speak in a monotone voice when you're focused on the quality of the lesson in the video.

As with every web-based instructional tool, there are issues with access--not every kid has the Internet at home. To deal with this, I create the videos ahead of time and give enough notice so that students without access to technology can make arrangements to watch them. In my school, we have a computer lab that is open to students after school four days a week and an after school "homework place" that also has computers for students to use. I know that my students who do not have internet access can go to these places and watch videos if they need to. If they get desperate, they can also go to the local library.

Hopefully this post has sparked your interest and you're entertaining the idea of creating instructional videos for your students. The technology is there, why not use it?

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1 comment:

lashtonmath said...

I too am a high school math teacher who finally got my hands on an ELMO which I thought was really cool. Unfortunately (and I don't think) I can't record my lessons that I put up with the ELMO and your information on the SMART recorders are a really good idea not only for absent students but also for new students who may need help catching up to content.

Our school also went back to 55 minute classes as opposed to block schedule on certain days and I find that it's not enough time for some lessons. Using the SMART recorder would be something to help supplement lessons and help with homework assignments.

My work now is in convincing our school board to invest in one that our department can use exclusively.