Ten-year old Jessica perfects her fraction model while Ben gets ready to solve a geometry problem. Down the hall, excited third graders draw base-10 blocks to demonstrate place value. Today is mathcast day, and students can’t wait to share their thoughts about math and problem solving with classmates, parents, and students around the world.
A mathcast is a digital recording of on-screen writing and voice narration that explains mathematical concepts and problem-solving steps. The movie is produced in a common video format and distributed to students via the Internet, CD, or DVD. Mathcasts may even be downloaded to iPods or iPhones for learning on the go.
Both teachers and students can readily make mathcasts. Teacher-created mathcasts are effective instructional tools available on demand. Mathcasts are the ultimate in asynchronous learning, providing simple and inexpensive interaction between teachers and students. Student-created mathcasts promote collaboration and peer-to-peer learning while providing a valuable means of assessment for the teacher.
Making Your First Mathcast
Making a mathcast is a quick and easy process thanks to the proliferation of online collaboration tools. Our favorite online tool for student-created mathcasts is VoiceThread. With VoiceThread, teachers can upload and organize math problems aligned to their curriculum. Students may then use the simple annotation tools and recording capabilities of VoiceThread to create mathcasts in minutes. All you need is a computer with Internet access and a built-in microphone.
VoiceThread is the tool of choice for the popular K–7 Mathcasts 500 Project. Tim Fahlberg, the project’s visionary, has uploaded hundreds of elementary and middle school math problems for students to solve using VoiceThread’s annotation and audio tools. Through this innovative project, students across the United States are communicating, problem solving, and sharing math ideas online.
Teachers who want a more professional setup may create a mathcast studio. A typical classroom studio would include a computer with a video projector, a wired or wireless graphics tablet, a headset with microphone, screen recording software, and annotation software.
The benefits of a classroom mathcast studio are significant. One of the greatest advantages is the ability to integrate images from other applications. Graphs, charts, geometric shapes, and diagrams can be imported and used in the mathcast. Tablets enable both teachers and students to have better control over their writing, and wireless tablets have the extra benefit of mobility. Screen-recording software supports additional audio tracks and other media elements, simplifies the editing process, and renders high-quality mathcasts in many popular formats.
We recommend the InterWrite SchoolPad (about $400), a wireless graphics tablet that comes with its own annotation and recording software, InterWrite Workspace. The purchase of a single SchoolPad gives the school a site license and also allows the software to be installed on home computers as well. This makes the tablet completely mobile. (The software also integrates seamlessly with Exam- View questions, allowing teachers and students to easily set up notebooks with ready-made math problems from textbooks or online sources.) If wireless is not an option, we recommend 8-inch x 6-inch graphics tablets, which cost between $50 and $100. The best capture-and-production-software products on the market are: Tech- Smith Jing (free); Camtasia Studio (for screen recording); SnagIt (for screen capturing, $199 or less for educators). They work seamlessly with InterWrite Workspace. SnagIt, Jing, and Workspace allow teachers to easily capture problems on the fly or in advance while Jing or Camtasia Studio can be used to record, edit, and produce mathcasts in a wide variety of formats. We recommend hosting mathcasts using Screencast, VoiceThread, or TeacherTube and then sharing them using a wiki (such as our Mathcasts PBwiki), blog, or Moodle. The tools and how-to sections of our Mathcasts wiki have additional product recommendations as well as step-by-step instructions for creating, producing, and sharing mathcasts.
Mathcasts as Assessment Tools
One of the most effective ways to assess our students’ mathematical understanding is to have them develop mathcast portfolios. When creating mathcasts, students must focus on step-by-step problem solving, mathematical connections, and the communication of ideas. In this way, mathcasts offer views of our students’ mathematical thinking that cannot be achieved through standardized testing. This makes mathcasts extremely powerful assessment tools. Mathcasts give us a more complete understanding of our students’ thought processes. This enables us, as teachers, to identify and respond to areas of weakness in a way that best serves the needs of our students.
Motivating with Mathcasts
Mathcasts provide an engaging way to combine our students’ fascination with technology with curriculum objectives in math. VoiceThread accounts can be set up as private learning spaces or as collaborative environments with other classrooms. Math strategies can then be compared with those of students from around the world. Comments in VoiceThread promote interaction and introduce a social networking component.
Perhaps the greatest motivation for your students will be their increasing self-confidence and improving attitude toward math. Students who regularly create mathcasts take ownership of the math concepts they explain. Mathematical ideas become more meaningful to students when they know their work will be viewed by others.
In the words of Samantha, a 5th grade student, “Mathcasts make me practice math just like I do for soccer or the school play.”
InterWrite SchoolPad: http://www.interwritelearning.com/products/pad/detail.html
Mathcasts Wiki: http://math247.pbwiki.com/
TechSmith Camtasia Studio/SnagIt/Jing/
—Linda Fahlberg-Stojanovska, PhD, is a professor of mathematics and computer science at the University St. Clement of Ohrid in Bitola, Macedonia. Using her avatar Janita Collins, she is a docent and tour guide for ISTE in Second Life.
—Tim Fahlberg taught high school and college math, and plans to work on a doctorate and research focusing on the learning and collaborative benefits of mathcasts. He currently works for eInstruction through EduTek Midwest in Wisconsin.
—Colleen King is a math teacher and publisher of interactive materials for K–8 students. She has created hundreds of mathcasts to accompany the learning activities found on her Web sites, Math Playground (http://www.mathplayground.com)and Thinking Blocks (http://www.thinkingblocks.com).
Copyright © 2008, ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education), 1.800.336.5191 (U.S. & Canada) or 1.541.302.3777 (Int’l), firstname.lastname@example.org, www.iste.org. All rights reserved.