Monday, April 19, 2010

Transparent Algebra: Homework

So, I’ve previously talked about going back in the classroom and about my initial thoughts on assessment (thanks for all the very helpful feedback), so in this post I’m going to talk about my plans for homework.

Homework is one of those crazy things that I’m completely for and completely against. (While that may sound a little nuts (or a lot nuts), I cling to this quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald: The sign of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.) On the one hand, I believe that students practicing their skills is helpful to their learning of Algebra. And, given the limited time I meet with my students, there’s the practical matter of fitting it all in. (As I noted in a comment on the assessment post, I’m estimating I’ll see my students for only about sixty periods – five of them shortened – in the fall semester.)

But on the other hand, I think homework is very problematic. I think the research is very mixed in terms of its effectiveness, and in my own experience I saw similar results. For a traditional homework assignment like I gave in my previous incarnation as a math teacher (perhaps 1-31 odd, or even a more thoughtfully picked selection of problems), I would typically see the following results:
A certain proportion of my class would be able to do all the homework with little or no problem. These were students that probably didn’t need the practice.

A second segment of my students wouldn’t even attempt the homework, for reasons ranging from they just didn’t want to, to not enough time, to not enough understanding. Some of these students still did well, others did miserably.

And the final group of my students in the middle would attempt the homework, but become very frustrated either because they couldn’t do it, or because they did it but did it incorrectly, so they effectively reinforced doing it wrong.
So one of the basic problems with homework (at least how I implemented it), was that the students too often weren’t reinforcing skills they already had, they were struggling with skills they had yet to master (at least for those last two groups). What they needed was to be able to work on those problems when I was available to help, or when others were available to help, but not on their own where if they were confused they just ended up frustrated or, worse, cementing incorrect procedures in their brains. (Note: I do think it’s a good thing for students to wrestle with complex problems, but I don’t feel like that was what was happening in my homework assignments.)

So my current thinking is to approach homework differently. I’m going to borrow an idea from a science teacher in my building, Brian Hatak (who, in turn, borrowed it from Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams). My plan is to deliver the traditional lecture portion of an Algebra class as the homework, thus freeing up class time to explore the mathematics and pursue some interesting problems, as well as provide time for guided practice and collaborative work.

Since Algebra is very much skill based, my hope is to provide short (less than 10 minutes), targeted instructional videos that students can watch (and rewatch if necessary) that focus solely on the skills, one skill at a time. Now I want to be clear that these videos typically will come after inquiry and exploration in class. I want my students to, as much as possible, play with the mathematics and formulate their own approaches before seeing the formal procedure. (There will be times when I’m sure I won’t accomplish this inquiry first/video second plan, either due to time constraints or creativity constraints on my part, but I’m hopeful I’ll get better at this over time.) But if I’m going to provide the class time to do all that, then I still need them to have the opportunity to focus on the procedure and master the skill as well, which is where I’m hopeful the video will come in.

So, part of the feedback I’m asking for on this post is simply about that strategy. Is it a good one? Terribly flawed? Are there ways to improve it? But there’s a second reason for this post and it’s what I’m struggling the most with right now. Do I create these videos myself, or try to use resources that have already been created and are freely available online?

My initial thought (as you’ll see in a minute) was to create my own videos. That way I could make sure they were short - many of the resources online are much too long and teach more than one concept in a video, and part of my pitch to my students is going to be “give me 10 minutes.” My videos would also be targeted to the specific concepts that I want/need to convey at the time I want/need to convey them, and would fit in nicely with the rest of my course design. But as I discover more and more resources online, some of which have much higher production values than mine would, I wonder if it makes sense to make my own. (Especially when you figure in the considerable time investment necessary on my part – it takes much less time to build a set of links than to create my own videos, upload, and link.)

So, embedded below is a “proof of concept” video I created for solving two-step equations (view it full screen and HD, particularly if you’re close to my age or older). And here is a link to a video from the Monterey Institute for Technology and Education on essentially the same concept. (I haven’t looked carefully yet, but my guess is that they will have all or almost all of the concepts that I would create videos for as part of this series.) Should I create my own, or tap into theirs?

Before you watch my proof of concept video, let me briefly describe some of the thought process as I was creating it:
  • A reminder that this comes after exploration/inquiry in class and is intended to solidify the Algebra procedure. Students will also have ample opportunity in class to practice, with help from me and other students (more on that in a future post). By shifting the "lecture" to outside of class, it allows me to maximize the effectiveness of the time I'm face-to-face with students.

  • I was going for an “I do, we do, you do” approach in the video. That leaves off one step that I think is very important, “we do together,” but my hope is that is what will be happening in class.

  • My goal was to make the video no longer than necessary, yet still have it be absolutely clear (which, of course, allows me to be my naturally overly wordy self). I wanted to keep it under 10 minutes, both because that’s the YouTube limit and because I think any longer and I’m likely to lose them (or the concept is too complex to convey in a video like this).

  • I toyed with the idea of doing some post-recording enhancements in Camtasia (arrows, highlights, callouts, key words, etc.), but, at the moment, have decided against that both because it would add tremendously to my production time and because I’m not sure the enhancements wouldn’t end up being distracting instead of helpful. I also toyed with the idea of trying to make it more interactive, but eventually decided to keep it simple. It’s meant to be a resource, not the entire instructional plan.

  • On average, students will have about two videos per week, although that will vary. On nights when they don't have a video they will likely have something else to do, but it will not be a big 'ole long problem set like I used to give. Perhaps some reflection or other writing assignment, or a few targeted problems or inquiry, or simply study/work time for retakes of the assessments.
So, here's the embed. (Again, full screen and HD will look better.) If you watch the video (and I hope you do), please watch the entire video (8:15, I'm hoping many end up shorter than this one) so that you can see all five parts (Learning Goal, Explanation/Examples, Guided Practice, Self-Check, and Closing) and see how they work together (or not).

Let me anticipate three tech-related questions before they arise.
  • What if students don’t have net access at home? I’m in a school where almost all students do have access, and most of them broadband. I did a non-scientific, but presumably still reasonably valid survey of 332 students about a year ago, and 83% had broadband, 1% had dialup, 14% didn’t know the speed (so I’m thinking probably broadband or they would know), and 2% didn’t have Internet access at home. Even so, my plan is to call all of my students in June (once they’ve been scheduled into my class) and touch base with the parents to make sure they have access. If they do not, then we’ll change their schedule (plenty of other Algebra sections for them to be in without adversely affecting the rest of their schedule) and then move another student into my class (who I would then call and ask about access).

  • Isn’t YouTube blocked at your school? While I anticipate most students accessing this from home, I do want them to be able to access it at school during their unscheduled hours or before or after school. I picked YouTube because students are familiar with it and there are no upload or bandwidth limits, but it is problematic because YouTube is blocked at my school (although staff can override that block). Thankfully, my crackerjack IT staff at the district found a way to whitelist a specific channel on YouTube. While there are still some kinks to work out, students will be able to view these videos as long as I link to them within the channel. If they try to go directly to the video URL outside of the channel, they would be blocked (although they could get a staff member to override that if necessary).

  • What’s with the gold background? Our school colors are black and gold.
So, I’d love your thoughts on both the strategy and the implementation. Again, please keep in mind this is just one piece of the instructional puzzle, subsequent posts will focus more on what we do during class time.


  1. cool video Karl.

    I use Jing to screen capture my 5 min or so lecture, that way those who are absent physically or just mentally can replay. Also those who need to see it slower or more than once can.

    I also try to post along with the jing - 1-2 lessons on the same topic from different sources.. so that if my explanation doesn't set with them.. they hear it from others.
    My kids' fav - Brightstorm. They do it very similar to your video.. and then student made tutorials.

    I definitely agree with your thinking, and my kids are 100% on this as well. 5-10 min together talking time in class, then the rest is activity or problem solving.

    Back to your video... and if you should keep it up or not... I'm currently reading Anya Kamenetz's DIY U - excellent read. (So far my fav is pp80-100 - catch a rough recap in my post if you don't have the book.)Page 84ish she references David Wiley's delight in seeing the scalability of a Javascript calculator - and how that should bring down cost and improve learning. Anya's talking higher ed - she writes, "Students spend $1000 a year on textbooks...and countless faculty hours go to preparing and updating course materials. Can universities realize the power of Wiley's insight...and use it to cut costs and raise the quality of their offerings?"

    Jason Fried (Rework) says work is where we get the least done.

    Maybe we get a ton done... but it's not the right stuff..
    Reminds me of what generally is termed "homework."

    I hope we can not only change up what we have been doing to kids in that vein - but also what we keep doing to ourselves.

  2. This is a fantastic video! I really love all parts of it, particularly the guided practice and the self-check practice parts. That is something I haven't seen in other tutorial videos.

    As for the question of whether or not to create your own videos, after seeing this one, I'd say you definitely SHOULD create your own. I've done a lot of Math-topic searching online for resources (because I don't yet have the knowledge/resources/bright ideas like yours to do a better job for the time invested) and this is the first one I've seen where there are opportunities for interaction, not just passive viewing. It's up to the student to decide whether or not they WILL participate (for example I didn't actually pause the video myself to try the problems) but at least the opportunity is there! I really love that a lot.

    Great job and I completely understand and share your perspective on homework!

  3. There are some fantastic ideas here, way to think outside the box and be there for your students when they need you- when practicing the concept you are teaching.

  4. Karl
    I love what you're attempting to do here. Inversion of the traditional lecture is one of my goals as well. I started by capturing my examples during class and posting them here. It's not as organized as I'd like, but it's a work in progress. I think future mathcasts will include the guided practice as well as self check. Thanks for providing a great example of that.

    I think you should definitely do the videos yourself (provided you have time) because you may emphasize things a little differently and you have complete control on the problem sets students do. You may want to link to these other resources so students have access to others, though.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. I really like this idea and have been pondering it for a long time. I guess the only thing that's been holding me back is that creating videos is time consuming.

    I agree with your comments about homework. This shift could really help keep more students engaged.

  7. I love the idea of switching the homework and lecture around to provide better support using the time you have with students. The video is great too.

    I wonder, do you still do lectures in class as well? How supplementary are the videos?

    Great post!

  8. Brilliant solution, definitely an improvement on the current model!

    I think you're on to something here and I want to hear and see more. What we need is a comprehensive overhaul of the entire educational system. Your ideas make sense and are generally more compassionate. In your system, most students will do better and feel better about the learning process when given more support in the classroom....

    Your algebra video was clear and taught me something I didn't know about solving equations (the part about doing the inverse of the order of operations), even though I guess I have been doing it intuitively that way. But putting it in words and saying it grounds the information which helps students learn the process. I teach math and all the other subjects for the GED test. I look forward to your further ideas and examples. Thanks so much.

  9. Carl, I'm in love with this idea. I've been contemplating going back into the classroom as well and have been contemplating many of the same ideas. I truly believe your approach is on track.

    However, I want to encourage you to expand how you develop your videos. I think there is enough research to indicate that students create more flexible schema when they have multiple representations involved in their understandings.

    I don't have videos developed at this point to reinforce my idea, but I have done a couple of PowerPoints that model this. This link is to a PP for algebra tiles that On slide 42 there is an example of what multiple representations for solving an equation might look like (I'm not totally advocating for algebra tiles but for the concept of multiple representations- models/symbolic/written).

    The reason I push you to think about this approach is so that students can bring something to the table depending on their understanding. I think in terms of this approach it might mean fewer examples and more of a focus on being able to discuss 2-3 examples really well. i definitely agree with keeping the time down to 5-9 minutes MAX. It is hard for students to process that much information well.

    The second issue that I encourage you to consider is some type of video viewing guide (I'm involved in a hybrid algebra research project and we call the viewing guides, tracking tools). Provide the students with some type of graphic organizer that they can use to learn how to learn independently. The idea you are proposing is incredibly radical and the students will have NO understanding of the concept of viewing a video and bringing something to the discussion the next day. It's an issue we've been dealing with for a couple of years and I think I can safely say that you need to provide your students some simple guiding questions/prompts that allow them to organize their thinking. I am again going to point you to a link to an example (I'm not professing that it's a great example, it's just my thinking)
    it is associated with the lesson from hippocampus- Again, the important concept here (in my opinion) is to provide a process that students can use to extract information from the videos and that you can use to start the conversation the next day. I would gradually move from a this more scaffolded guide to a simple double entry organizer approach with a very intentional summary/synthesis routine in the classroom (I'm a HUGE believer in metacognition).

    This post is getting pretty long and I'm going to kind of cut it off. I don't want to be preachy, because I really love the ideas you are proposing. I agree totally with your evaluation of homework and students who do homework (in fact I've used almost that exact same description with teachers I work with). I wish I was in your math class next year!! Thanks for sharing.

  10. Karl:

    I really love your ideas (and not just because I've been thinking along rather similar lines in just the past week, for next year's classes). In my classroom, I've got a Smart Board so my thinking before now has been about how to best integrate that into an online video. I see little value in anyone seeing my face on a video, so I think that a traditional camera setup is my least favorite choice -- so something to capture and put together video (like Camtasia) is more along with what I'm thinking.

    I have a few detailed questions:
    * What software are you using to create your slides?
    * What mic are you using?
    * What's a ballpark estimate for how long it took you to prepare, record, and post-process your trial video?

    Thanks for your insight and transparency as you prepare for the coming year!

  11. Hi Karl,

    Great post and I like how you are approaching your classroom instruction in a different manner the second time around. It will yield better thinkers while providing tools to be successful on standardized tests, necessary component in states like Massachusetts.

    *Students will connect to you as their teacher and provider of video content. This should help keep the classroom transitions smooth.
    *Account of who watched the video
    *Reassign specific videos to be watched for students who are falling behind

    *Only one solution algorithm provided.
    *Monterey offered support text. It helped solidify math terminology and put a name to their steps and processes.

  12. @msufan – Thanks. Yes, the videos would be public, for whatever that’s worth.

    @monika hardy – Yeah, I was thinking of linking to additional resources, similar to what we’ve built here, just need to find the time.

    @michelleclarkepc – Thanks. I actually had some debates with myself about whether the video was interactive enough. I finally decided in the end that my basic premise with this is that I’m shifting the lecture to outside of class and most of the practice (and hopefully inquiry and fun stuff) to inside of class. Part of the “spin” for that is – you watch a video of no more than 10 minutes, including working 2 to 3 problems on your own that I then show you the answer for, but then you’re done. If I tried to add some interactivity to it, that defeats both the purpose of keeping this short and the idea that I don’t want them getting frustrated trying to practice too much when I’m not there to help. Having said that, I still might change my mind.

    @David Cox – Thanks. I looked briefly at yours after our assessment discussion and hope to find time to return to them and steal, ummm, build upon your work.

    @Steve J. Moore – Well, in case it’s not obvious, I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I’m going to do in class (blog posts coming soon with my ideas). My intention at the moment is that this mostly takes the place of lectures in class. Class will be a combination of a lot of things, including inquiry, exploration, group work and certainly some direct examples/instruction from me, but my hope is that these videos will serve as the primary “delivery” of information in a lecture format. We’ll see.

    @rlodan01 – Thanks for the feedback. See my comment to michelleclarekpc above in terms of why I decided to try to keep the videos as simple as possible. My plan is to do the multiple representation type stuff in class – when I have them face-to-face, with the video really just reinforcing the more traditional algorithm and the thought process they should go through. (Again, most of the time at least, the video will be after the exploration which would include the multiple representations when appropriate.)

    As far as the viewing guide, I’m not sure I’m ready to go quite that far. For the same reason of trying to keep it simple and short for students, and because I’m worried I already bit off more than I can chew for next year. I do plan to spend time at the beginning of the year stepping them through how to use the videos, and I certainly will also meet with individual students if they are having trouble. I’ll be providing them formatting/graphic organizer type information for what they put in their notebooks (recall the self-check part at the end of the video - they will be working those out in their notebooks, and perhaps additional notes prior to that in the video, still thinking about that). If my videos have a fairly consistent format (which is my plan), then they should hopefully have the strategies pretty much up front that will serve them well all year. Having said all that, I’ll certainly check out your links and see what I can “borrow.”

    @Benjamin – Thanks for the Pros and Cons, those help a lot to clarify the strengths and weaknesses. The “supported text” of the Monterey is the part that made me question doing this myself. I could go for that as well in my videos, but as I said in the post, that would increase my production time considerably and I’m just not sure I can pull it off. My hope is that my “supporting text” in some sense will be all the work we do in class. Still pondering.

  13. @RichTCS – Yeah, I decided that seeing me added little value and more production complexity (not to mention the remixes they would come up with!). Let me try to briefly (difficult for me) answer your questions.

    1. I ended up using the Smart Notebook software to create the slides (with the additional Smart Math software to create more complicated expressions). It has some disadvantages, but I decided to go with it for two main reasons. First, it appears as though I’ll be in a classroom with a Smart Board and so would be using it in class, therefore I wanted the students to get a consistent experience. Second, I’m anticipating some videos where it will be really helpful to be able to record my writing (this one was all composed at a computer) – think graphing and some other stuff – so that’s best accomplished on the Smart Board itself in the Smart Notebook software. (And, because my design sensibility/skills are not good and are not likely to improve much, some of the disadvantages of the Smart Notebook software perhaps don’t apply to me as much as they would to somebody with “skillz”.) I used Camtasia to do the recording because it provides me with more options, but you could also use something like Jing or the Smart Recorder software (which I’m told is a stripped down version of Camtasia – I’m hopeful that perhaps they’ll improve that in future releases of Smart Notebook).

    2. I used a Logitech USB headset for the microphone. It works well, but I need to play a little bit to see if I can remove the clicking noise when I advance slides.

    3. As far as how long it took, this first one took an incredible amount of time, but that was mainly because I was trying and discarding different things, learning the Smart Notebook software, Camtasia, settings for YouTube, playing with what I wanted to include, etc. I’m guessing probably about 15 hours for this one (which is a little sad when you look at the result). I anticipate now that I’ve gone through that process that future videos will take much less time. (Well, it’s been a little bit, so the first couple will probably take longer until I get back into it).

    I’m hopeful that I can create a video on a particular concept, from start to posted on YouTube, in perhaps 90 minutes. I imagine others could do it faster, but I’m a little bit of a perfectionist. And, because it’s been so long since I’ve taught Algebra, it’s probably taking me longer to do this as I not only try to figure out what the key points are, but also try to anticipate where students struggle. For a teacher that’s currently teaching Algebra, that would go much faster than it will for me.

  14. This has been a concept I've been struggling with/playing with during the last 2 years. (While I'm still out of the classroom in my "day" job doing technology integration, I took up teaching Algebra at our local community college which has a faster pace than high school...for students that failed it in high school, ironically.)

    I love the video concept. I've created a few of my own, though time has prevented me from making the numbers I would like. Our state is involved in a K-12 iTunes U project, so I decided to go that route. This has eliminated some of the issues of no internet at home as students can download the files to their laptops (or mp3 players, smartphones, etc) to have them available offline. I wish I had more time to devote to making many more, but just have to accept it as a work in progress and know it will take years to make all the ones I would like to have.

    I agree with you on the video length, though sometimes I found even 7 minutes to be too long. I know that some of the teachers that are using my videos like the 3-4 minutes ones best, and they supplement with a document (some electronic, some handout) to reach more learning styles.

    I feel the same way you do about homework, especially in mathematics where skill building and concept building often have to develop at the same time. One solution I have found to be successful is a better use of a quiz. Instead of giving them at the beginning of class, I give them at the end of class and grade them on the spot to check for some of the basic skills needed for the lesson. Then students' homework is determined by their quiz; if they miss problem #1, they need to do problems 1-8 on page ###, and so on. It has been a great way for me to build remediation into the course, and not punish students that do not need the extra practice with hours of homework. Unexpectedly, it also provides me with great feedback on when I need to revisit a topic. :-)

  15. I have been running my Algebra II course this way all year. I give the introduction to the students via video (which also contains practice problems that I guide them through) as homework. I also assign some basic problems from the book so that the kids can further their understanding of the concept. The positives here far outweigh the negatives. The only negative that I've heard is that the students don't get to ask questions while watching the video. They do, however, get to pause and/or go back to review an explanation. The downside of not getting to ask questions, as conveyed to me by them, actually has an upside to it: they come to class the next day knowing exactly what their questions are. Another positive is that the students who pick up the ideas more quickly love not being held back by those who take longer to absorb the material.

    I begin the class after the students watch the video by giving a sample problem to make sure that they got everything from the video that they were supposed to. I then start a discussion about the rationale of what was covered in the video (including any relevant proofs). We then work on tons of great problems. I have plenty of time to work one-on-one when necessary. The kids really like having all of this time in class to work on problems together.

  16. Karl,
    I am completely fascinated with your thoughtful reflections. I can hear the excitement in your voice. Your video is very clear and I too love that the students can review or replay to gain a better understanding. I wonder if you could transition into having the students create a video to demonstrate understanding? Maybe that's a bit ambitious, but might be a fun summative assignment.

  17. Hi Karl,

    This is an idea that I, too, have toyed around with. Assuming that all students have equal access to the materials, I do not see a downside at all, other than overcoming other people's perceptions of what education and school should look like.

    A note about production: As an ongoing algebraic review, we have instituted an 'Algebra on Demand' unit, predicated on Dan Meyer's skills-based assessment idea. To facilitate this, we've created a series of short videos - 2 to 4 minutes (remember, this is review and not their first contact with the material) - that we host on our school portal. To make the videos, we use our TabletPCs, OneNote and Cam Studio. It is just like delivering your lesson on a whiteboard and takes just as much time. If you don't have a TabletPC, you can probably use one of the WACOM Bamboo tablets.

  18. Love the idea, Karl. I think I would've actually developed a talent in math if I'd been taught this way. I'm enjoying the "class discussion" before hand - an experimental environment rather than an "if you don't get this right, you're a fool" one.

  19. Karl, I got to thinking about your idea. I wonder if we could crowd-source the videos and build a collective online Algebra 1 video textbook?

  20. I think it is a great idea. I'm jealous that you can implement something like this. As a teacher that has a population with more than 70% free lunch, this isn't feasible for me. You might want to consider building a calendar into your website and create a link to each video. That makes it easy for students who miss a day to make up work and gives them an easy place to go for review materials. Just a thought!

  21. I admire your transparency, Karl. The video was very clear and succinct. I can't wait to see the constructivist ideas that you'll bring into your classroom now that you've eliminated the need to lecture. In theory, you have opened up more time for student-centered learning.

    I'll be retired next year, but I plan to keep reading your blog!

  22. I'm not a math teacher, but I think this sounds great! I recently discovered that msufan mentioned, and my own kids have been loving it. If the khanacademy videos suit your purpose it could save you a lot of time! They could at least be an additional resource for your students. (Sometimes it's good to hear a different teacher explain the same concept.)

  23. @lifewithl – Yes, I’m considering having students create some explanation mathcasts at some point. I think I need my own as well, though.

    @Clint H – Thanks for the link to your videos and the blog post. Yes, I think we probably could, but I wonder how hard it would be to agree on everything from the content to the length to the style to the explanations.

    @C. Makovsky – Thanks for the support – and the continued reading.

  24. Karl,
    Have to admit I didn't watch the entire video but you may want to consider the use of the Pulse Smartpen By Livescribe. It creates an audio and video recording of your work in a notebook that is then easily uploaded and shared with your students. easy and another possibility when you don't have much time.
    I asked my own kids math teachers to do something similar using the Smart Recorder but they refused. Unfortunately my kids told me they understood the math concepts at school but didn't get it at home. I had no way to help them.
    Your thinking helps kids learn by empowering them. They can watch the video as often as necessary to understand the instruction.
    Keep us informed next year.

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  26. Learning is always fun if taken in the right spirit. I think online tutors are best persons to guide students doing their studies. They provide 1-to-1 tutoring to the students. There are several websites available to help students learning math. I personally like My daughter uses it; she is in 8th grade and has improved a lot after she has started taking online math tutoring from this site.

  27. Karl: the post production does take a lot of time, but our studetns really like the callouts and such. We asked and they really like them.

  28. Karl: the post production does take a lot of time, but our studetns really like the callouts and such. We asked and they really like them.

  29. Genius stuff in this blog post. The value of the teacher is his/her understanding of the content, and working with the students while they attempt to solve problems is when understanding is needed most. In an information age, access to "how to" do something is easy to get. Assistance while doing it is what we all pay for, and that should be the job of the teacher.

    One more thing. Because the goal of an education must be to improve thinking and problem-solving skills (hmm, some may disagree here), having a master problem-solver to work with as a mentor is invaluable. People like you are modeling the kind of habits of mind we need our young people to master. Good stuff.

  30. Great idea. Here's a twist. Get with the drama club or something and have kids do the lessons. Video them at the board. I like lectures - MIT has some great ones - but I like a real person doing them (that s just me)- yours is great, but it is a bit power-pointy.

  31. Peter Stafford - I think getting kids involved is a great idea, and something we've toyed with in some of our science classes.

    But, for what I'm trying to do with these in my class, I was shooting for really straightforward presentation. I didn't even do any post-production because I didn't want to overwhelm them with too much information. The idea is for them just to focus on the one skill, and then the more interesting stuff happens in class. Theoretically.

  32. Karl,

    I'm interested in trying this at the university level for principles of econ. I don't really see it as feasible to engage with questions first then have the students watch a video, because so much of economics at that level is learning definitions (like biology).

    Did you stick with engage-first, video-second when you implemented this? Do you have a follow-up post?

  33. Jeff - I did stick with that plan. It's worked okay, but not as well as I would've liked. A lot of that has to do with a few students not watching consistently (always an issue), my teaching being rusty (14 or so years since I've taught Algebra), and - as always - not having enough time to do it right.

    In terms of economics, is there any way to perhaps have two types of videos - one with the definitions but a second type that is maybe more exploratory? Something that gets them thinking about a situation? I'm not terribly knowledgeable in this area, but I was thinking along the lines of scenarios laid out in things like Freakonomics or Predictably Irrational, or something else that tells a story to get them hooked and thinking.

  34. Karl: Thanks for the followup and feedback. I currently have a very hard time getting students to memorize vocabulary words despite the fact that they have a weekly quiz on definitions. When teaching principles again, I will most likely do away with these quizzes and instead give weekly chapter tests. This is only feasible, time-wise, if I tape my lectures and devote class time to tutoring, so I'll probably try that.

    Like others, I recognize the power of a well-done presentation, but bemoan the fact that principles of economics, like chemistry, is best taught textually. The charts and graphs are nice, yes, but when it comes down to it, students need exposure to the definitions and core concepts, which they don't seem to be getting on their own.

    Books like the ones you mention are part of the reason I chose to become an economist. I "get it" on a level that most principles students will not, in that I am able to take chalkboard equations and generalize to everyday situations. I see it as a challenge to get the marginal students interested in the way that I am.

    A telling bit of evidence: my courses are highly rated among advanced graduate students, but I expect low ratings from my principles class. Am I a bad teacher on Wednesdays, and excellent otherwise? I doubt it. I just need to figure out how to present the material. At the very least, my method is the only thing I have under my control, so that's where I'll start.

    Thanks for allowing me to think out loud. I look forward to reading more of your blog.

  35. Karl,
    I'm enjoying watching your trials with different approaches to teaching. Currently I make my own videos and have students in my 7th grade Pre-Algebra class watch the videos at home, complete 5 -10 problems, and work on problems during class. I am still getting used to this new way of teaching and it is a big transition. For me, I prefer a very interactive lesson both as a teacher and learner. However, I do see the upside to the inverted classroom model, and I do spend time interacting with the class as a whole reviewing the concepts at the beginning of the class. I currently teach harder concepts during class and use the inverted model for easier concepts. Going between models actually slows the class down. I have asked the kids verbally if they prefer me teaching or watching the videos at home and about 40% prefer teaching, 30% prefer videos and the rest could go either way. I'm going to give them a survey with more detailed questions about how they would like the videos to be incorporated into their learning (for reviewing concepts, learning concepts, mixed with classroom teaching). I also agree to make your own videos. As much as I like khanacademy, it just doesn't fit my curriculum (I'm at a private school). I also am trying to figure out how to ensure students are watching the videoss. Currently, they have the follow up problems and I call on them randomly during class the next day. I have had some suggestions like having them blog about a conceptual idea that was in the video, but not giving them the prompt until after they watch the video or before if they have to watch the video to get the entire concept. Of course, time management and organization are my biggest issues getting used to this new way of teaching, finding ways to incorporate it that I can manage. Thanks for your blogging and I look forward to hearing more of your experience. -Leslie F. at Cary Academy, NC

  36. I love this idea, that video is amazing too. I'm interested in trying this at the university level, got inspired after watching your trials with different approaches to teaching.