Last summer at NECC I heard Allan November speak on the importance of students “owning” their education, and how teachers can structure writing experiences and lessons to make school more “purposeful” for students. One suggestion he had was that school work and homework should be switched. Traditionally, students receive instruction at school, and complete practice on the topic at home. Several problems are inherent with this model. First, if the student misses something from the classroom instruction, or needs clarification, there are no resources. Second, during the practice time, the student is on his own, and receives no feedback on his work. Finally, there is such a lag time between completion of the practice and subsequent feedback, that the payback is minimal.
This concept made sense to me, and with today’s technology, screen casts, IWB software and content management systems could make this a reality.
When I returned to school in August, I was excited to share this “concept” with colleagues. My counterpart at our sister school informed me of an initiative where a handful of math and science teachers were going to use Vodcasting to create lessons for viewing at home, and the practice or “homework” would be done at school. Talk about stealing my thunder! They had taken the “new” concept I had learned and were going to put it into practice.
Here’s how it works. Using a tablet PC ,SMART software, a microphone, and Camtasia video editing software, a math teacher records a mini lesson of direct instruction on a topic. He can go back and edit, rerecord, include a screen capture of a calculator, and talk through the topic while writing directly on to the “board” via his tablet pc. When the “Vodcast” is complete, he can download it to our content management system (we use Blackboard) which creates a SCORM file that automatically generates a short assessment on the topic that students complete after viewing the podcast at home. When they return to school the next day, they spend time “practicing” what they learned the night before in cooperative groups with the teacher right there to assist.
Several advantages become apparent. First, students can replay difficult segments of the direct instruction (Didn’t you ever wish you had a remote with a replay button when you were in a class?). Second, the feedback from the SCORM test is immediate. The student knows right away what needs to be improved in class the next day. When students complete the practice in class, they are able to discuss and teach each other subtleties in the lesson, and if stumped, the teacher can assist right away.
One question pops up: “what if students do not view the Vodcast?” For the most part, compliance has been outstanding since the students see the homework as purposeful: they need to complete it in order to succeed in class the next day. However, in the event of an absence or an, “oops,” the student may view the short lesson in class on the classroom computer, and then return to his group.
The teacher has noticed how this has changed his practice as well. He becomes more of a “facilitator” and remarked that on days like this (no, this is not done EVERY day, students are actually spending fifty minutes, reading, writing, and talking math.
Try doing that at home.