Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Grade 9 Videos Review Project

I am learning from a not-great experience with having kids create videos to recap the skills that we had learned during the first semester. I'm jotting it down here so that you can read about how it went and help me to make it better next time.

I still think the idea was good. We had done so much great multi-stepped, contextual algebra practice during the first semester (with my "low" Grade 9 class), that I didn't want them to just leave it all behind as we move on to new Geometry topics in the second semester. I didn't want to have to come back in June to re-teach them everything they knew, but I knew that retention would always be a problem for these kids.

So, I came up with the idea that we'd divvy up all the topics from the first semester, and each group would be responsible to make some explanatory videos on one topic. They'd upload the videos to the web, and I would provide links for all the kids to access these instructional videos. Then, during Spring Break, I'd assign as vacation homework for the kids to watch each other's videos and to do just two or so practice problems related to each video. This way, they're somewhat refreshed on the old concepts over time, and it also takes the pressure off of me as the "all-knowing info source" when it comes to review time.

Sounds good in theory, except I totally underestimated what a huuuuge task this would be for a group of kids who cannot really self-monitor their progress very effectively. They really did try; that I am impressed by. I had helped them prepare for the filming last week prior to leaving for the AGIS Conference, in hopes that they could just use my day of absence to film their videos on the iPads and to upload them. Little did I know that it was not going to be so easy. When I got back this week and looked at the videos, I was pretty disappointed. Most of their videos either had inaccurate mathematics, or the problems they picked were too easy (or, sometimes, too ambitious). I blame that on myself; if you want it to be done right, you simply have to closely supervise the kids in order to give them just-in-time feedback as they are filming and pulling those last pieces together. So, today in class I gave them another 80 minutes to re-do and re-do their mathematics and their videos. This time, I checked in with every group to make sure that their math was production-ready by the time they started filming. Even then, they still had to repeat the filming a bunch of times just to avoid all the careless mistakes. It was just so tough for them to master the simultaneous communication and solving of a multi-stepped problem. In the end, it was really good practice for them to zoom in on their own mistakes and to keep re-doing to correct them, even though the final video quality was not great. (On the iPads, the audio and the video are both of weak quality.) Fortunately, since the kids had mostly selected (with my help) the topics that they had individually struggled with on the semester test, this was a great remediation strategy for them to have to create these explanatory videos, regardless of video quality.

In the future, I really need to think carefully about what technology to use, how to set up the room so that different groups can be filming at the same time, how to help them rehearse prior to filming, etc. There is too big of a range between groups who put in a lot of effort into this project to make a good video, and those who just kind of slapped something together and called it a day. I also need to think about the timing, because unfortunately, this project takes too much time in class, as the kids need support all the way through (including the filming parts) and part of me just wants to move on to new topics already, knowing how much ground we still have to cover.

It's quite a shame that this project didn't work out to have superb products, because I think the process was definitely worthwhile and many of the kids learned a fair amount while doing this. It was definitely challenging for them, and I think some of their frustration came from how challenging this task was. I have hope though, that with some restructuring, I can find a way to make this work much better the next time. One of the restructuring ideas I had, for example, was that instead of everyone doing review videos all at once after a whole semester, after each unit I'd pick a small group of students (who had performed weakly on the exam) to do the videos for just that recent topic. This will ensure that timing is less of an issue, because they'd just work on it outside of class with my help, say at lunch time, and it'd also ensure more immediate remediation. I would also be able to ensure the videos are of better quality, since I am only focusing on managing one group at a time. Have you ever done something like this? Can you share any tips with me to make this a more successful experience in the future?

Addendum: Here are a few samples of produced videos.,,,, The kids in my "low" group had to create videos for lines, quadratics, midpoint/distance word problems, drawing geometric diagrams, and analysis of angles. only lets me upload 3 videos each day, so I'll post more links later!

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