Friday, June 01, 2007

That's Mathematics

Part of any good teacher's strategy is motivating students by helping them understand the relevance of what they are learning. While legendary math professor and entertainer, Tom Lehrer could count on his musical talent to describe the value of mathematics, most of us have to come up with more varied engagement strategies. Part of the power of Web 2.0 applications is their ability to engage a participatory audience, thus why not capitalize on elements that make sites like YouTube popular amongst digital natives to increase participation in your classroom.

Creating a video podcast for math class can help your students correct misconceptions, learn the language of math, and clarify thinking about mathematical concepts. To see the refinement in thinking that occurred while these 6th grade students created a series of Math Strategies Podcast, their teacher examined the revision history of the scripts they edited on Google Docs. It was amazing how much ‘self learning’ occurred when students reviewed each newly produced version of their podcast episodes and self-corrected their scripts. The quality of the written process outlined in the final revisions of the scripts was many times higher than if the students had been asked to simply write out their math problem solving strategy. Although these students created each episodes using the “record” feature of a Smartboard, you can also use a variety of Screen Capture software such as the free version of Camstudio. A tablet PC or graphic tablet can also be used to capture inkstrokes making thinking visible. Some document cameras have video capture features, and there’s nothing wrong with using traditional video cameras, digital cameras, or even cell phones to create a video podcast of your mathematic strategies.

These video podcasts were created by St. Albans City School middle school teachers to help parents support their children's homework time by explaining the hows and whys of new math strategies. Uploading them to sites like YouTube, BlipTV, or Google Video allows you to hyperlink to your math podcast or even embed one directly into your own blog, wiki, or website. For those looking for a more controlled environment, consider TeacherTube or New Vista as an option for viewing and uploading video podcast. Even if you’re not ready to jump into producing your own math podcast a simple search for “math” on any of these sites will yield a wealth of videos ranging from academic tutorials to entertaining mathematics comedy to engage your students. (Warning: not all materials in these sites is suitable for educational use requiring some advanced planning on developing strategies that align with your school culture and acceptable use policies)