And Calculus For All: Update

12/19/2008 10:29:00 pm

Why YouTube?
In the comments to my last post I was asked why I chose to use YouTube instead of TeacherTube as a platform for my students to share their videos. I answered:

I chose YouTube for three reasons:

(1) That's where the kids go for video. They feel comfortable there and have their own accounts from which they publish video outside of school. This allows me to model some digital ethics vis a vis what do you and what don't you publish on YouTube.

(2) That's where all the people are. There is a significant math community on YouTube and I am hoping to draw their attention and perhaps participation which would add value to the assignment in terms of authenticity and audience.

(3) Kids think TeacherTube is for teachers, not them. That detracts somewhat from the value added by publishing publicly online.

A number of people have left comments for my students on their class blog. Thank you so much for that. In one of those comments pirategirl mentions how slow TeacherTube can be. I guess we can add that to my list of reasons above.

As part of this assignment we talked about copyright and I emphasized that using copyrighted material (music) is considered stealing unless they have permission to use the content. Generally, I believe that using 30 seconds or less of copyrighted music falls under Canadian Fair Dealing guidelines. (If I'm wrong about this I welcome the correction.) As part of this discussion I pointed the students to Jamendo where they could find free music to use without worrying about any copyright infringements.

I'm really proud of the way they all dealt with copyright issues and how they credited all the sources they used. Click through to their YouTube videos (see below) to read the details they included not only in the videos but in the informational text that accompanies their work.

The day before the deadline for students to publish their videos one of them left this comment on their class blog:

Maybe JAMENDO should be my name =D

it helps a lot.. thanks..

STATUS: currently cutting down 1:30 to 0:30 s.... 0__o

I was particularly chuffed about that "status update." (See the short podcast below.)

The Videos & The Podcast
Here are the four videos that the student groups generated (the 30 second time limit did not include credits) followed by a brief podcast reflection we did on the last day of classes before the winter break. Give it a listen, this project isn't over yet ...

Ben and Zeph: Calculus Commercial

Kristina, Jamie, & Joyce: YE OLDE DERIVATIVE

Paul, Shelley, & Yinan: Team PSY Derivatives Commercial

Francis, Lawrence, & Justice: Calculus commercial complete

The Podcast Reflection

(Download mp3 file, 3.3 MB)

One of the things we learned was that 30 seconds is too short. The next round of videos will have a 60 second time limit. They'll all be published by the end of January. Stay tuned. ;-)

Photo Credits: YouTube and Joost by flickr user
Vintage Copyright by flickr user Ornithorynque

You Might Also Like


  1. Hi Darren,

    This is a very creative assignment, and your students clearly demonstrated a lot of this creativity in using media and metaphor to create a "commercial".

    I would agree that 30 seconds of content is way too short; it ought to be a limit to focus them, yes, but ought to be maybe 60 seconds or 2 minutes even.

    My thought though is their subject should be more than "defining" what a derivative, and more so demonstrating how it can be used/observed in every day life. A few of the commercials suggested it, but might go beyond the citing a definition phase.

    But again, I love the concept, and thanks for the reflection piece with student voices.

  2. Re: Using YouTube part of your post...

    I think it's great that you are using youtube- I like to use Viddler, because of its increased functionality, but find myself posting videos on youtube as well just because that's where the people are...

  3. Hi Alan,

    I think you're absolutely right on all counts. We're going to a 60 second time limit. I want to garner as large an audience as possible for my students work and I think a minute might be the upper limit of time that most folks would be willing to invest in watching a video about calculus. ;-)

    Your suggestions about the content are right on the mark too. I don;t want them to "sell" the math, I want them to create content that educates in a Presentation Zen sort of way; I want them to describe something complicated in a way that makes it seem simple.

    I think I'll use Charles Mingus' words as the tagline for this assignment:

    “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity.”

    I'll be pointing directly to your comments here in my opening class of the new year. Thanks for your input and continued interest in the stuff my kids are up to.

  4. Hi Talia,

    We see it very much alike. ;-)

    Thanks for dropping by.

  5. Hi Darren,
    Your students' ads look great. I too agree that YouTube is better than TeacherTube. Another positive aspect of YouTube is that one is able to easily upload videos to YouTube using Mac's Imovie with just one click.

    I recently had my 8th grade science class create ads for specific elements on the periodic table. They had to explain certain key facts about their element (atomic number, valence electrons, etc) and then "sell it" in their ad by describing its key uses. I tried to have them keep the ads under one minute, but many didn't have enough time to edit as needed.

    This brings me to my, well, my conundrum with this project. My students used about one class period to research their element. They then used four additional classes to create their video. Because of the need to use Imovie, a program almost all of my students could not access at home, I had to use my science class time as time for them to create and edit the videos. Even with the four days, I think the majority of the ads could have used more edit time.

    So now I'm thinking about how to do this project next year. The question I'm asking myself is whether it's worth it to use a week plus of science class to work on video editing. Though I love the ads (as do my students), I feel like I'm losing some quality science time in the process. It would be great if my students could work on the project at home or during a multi-media type class in school, but as of now, these are not options.

    So my (two-part) question is: 1 - What kind of balance did you pursue in terms of having your students develop better calculus skills in conjunction with video production skills? and 2 - How did you assess those skills?

  6. Hi Eric,

    Time is always a problem. In my case this project took 0 class time. It was a project for them to work on from home. We tweeted a request for video editing tools and received these suggestions:

    For sound editing my hands down favourite is Audacity but an online alternative I've heard good things about is Fruity Loops (now goes by the name FL Studio). I think you can find a wealth of demos for FL Studio on YouTube.

    The point of all this is I might use part of one class, maybe a full class if you're going to do several of these assignments throughout the course you're teaching, to show the kids the tools and briefly demo how they work. Keep links to them all in a handy place, like a class blog or wiki, so the kids can go back and get them when they need them. I then give them more time than they need to do the assignment and set a due date. With younger kids I would have a couple of check points along the way:

    (1) Hand in a timeline for your project (brainstorming meeting, video shooting schedule, content editing meeting, editing schedule)

    (2) Submit a storyboard or other outline of the content you will include. Include any creative ideas you have about how you want to do this but feel free to change your mind about these ideas at any time in the process.

    (3) Deadline for final publication to YouTube.

    As for your question about assessment, I'm developing the guidelines with my students and I'll share them here when we're done. My feeling is the lion's share of the grade should be for the (in my case) calculus content (I'd say 50% of the grade), we'll also have something in there about respecting the guidelines I published in my earlier post, something about copyright, something about capitalizing on the nature of the medium (video), and something about creativity.

    I've done this sort of thing before. You can see how here (my flickr assignment) and here (our Developing Expert Voices project — read from the bottom up).

    You can hear me talk about this approach to rubric development in a slidecast from a workshop I gave a while back. The rubric development is discussed on slides 13 to 19.

    Hope that helps. Let me know how your class projects turn out by dropping a link to them here.


  7. Anonymous2/1/09 16:28

    Hi Darren,

    What a great assignment - and thanks for recording the reflection as well, all very helpful.

    Now that the videos are complete and are on YouTube, would you ever consider posting them to sites like or TeacherTube to increase their distribution and also spread the idea to other teachers? I understand why you used YouTube for the initial project, but also think that the act of sharing in school-safe sites is also valuable.

    Looking forward to seeing next year's submissions!

  8. That's a wonderful suggestion Jennifer! I'll discuss it with my students in class on Monday.


  9. Great idea! I might use it for my calculus class as well.

    My students usually create full-length movies after the AP Exam as part of their final. I've also had them create commercials when we study optimization when they design a Super-Ultra-Mega Big Cup (that's SUM big cup!) for the McDerivative Corporation.

  10. Darren:
    Thanks for sharing the videos. I agree 30 seconds is too short. My 8th grade students created a "newscast from Gettysburg" to help explain how people of the time felt upon hearing the Gettysburg Address. Their audience is our sixth graders. I gave them a 60 - 120 second time limit. We are going through the videos two at a time to review the production and educational value of the videos this month. I've shown some of the best and one of the less polished videos to the seventh grade. They are currently trying to outshine the eighth grade videos.

    I haven't reflected on the whole process in my blog, but I enjoyed hearing your podcast reflection with your students. I think there is a lot of learning going on during the process that the students do not realize. Your students mentioned in passing that they had to talk about what they knew and whittle it down to the content that they presented. I saw that happening in the classroom as well.

    I appreciate what Erik said in the comments. I spoke with our social studies teacher about my plans for the project, but it was completed during our computer class. We meet twice per week for 42 minutes. It took about seven classes. This was their first time creating movies. We discussed scripting, storyboarding, how to control photo effects, creative commons music, a Garageband review, and other items as well. It should go quicker with the seventh grade since they made a movie last year. We'll see.

    Thanks for sharing your process.