Rick Van Eck: Games as Innovative Teaching Keynote

I've had this sitting in draft for about 7 months. It goes all the back to the end of May when I had the good fortune to attend the Microsoft Innovative Teachers Conference held here in Winnipeg. The line up of speakers was excellent, but Rick Van Eck stood out as the highlight of the entire conference for me. (I blogged about Rick's Breakout session at the time.) He has a very down to earth, practical, honest approach to using COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) games in education. Unfortunately the question period isn't included. Rick really shined during the Q&A afterward where his direct, honest, polite replies to pointed questions impressed everyone.

Anyway, I've mentioned this talk several times in passing since I saw it and now I can point people to hear the man himself. It's short; 22 min 21 sec. Worth every minute. You can click through Rick's slides below the video as he speaks.

(Download mp3, 25.4 MB)


Debating Standards Tests

Last night on twitter I tweeted:

That started the exchange below between myself and Gary Stager. Chris Lehmann joined in and we had a lively debate. I've decided to archive it here in response to the various communications I've received about it. Maybe extend the conversation a bit.

Gary and I





Chris Lehmann joined in. Chris' tweets should be interlaced with those of Gary and I above but summize.com doesn't do that. You can probably figure out where Chris' tweets fit in from the context of what came before.


Ian Hecht added this to the debate:

These things happen on twitter. While it's happening it feels like something of moment. Time passes, passions cool, and we realize we haven't necessarily added something new to an age old debate but perhaps we've articulated our thinking, and reasons for believing as we do, a little bit better. We might also come to respect the reasoned positions of colleagues who disagree with us and walk away having learned something about ourselves and each other. Identifying Similarities and Differences is one of the most powerful instructional strategies don't you know. ;-)

And Calculus For All: Update

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 thms.nl
Vintage Copyright by flickr user Ornithorynque

And Calculus For All

When I returned to work after 10 weeks of parental leave I wanted to find a way to measure how well my AP Calculus students had learned and understood what a derivative was. So, the day I returned to class I challenged them to create a commercial that educates: What is a derivative?

Some of the parameters they have are:

  • The video must educate people who know nothing about calculus.
  • The video must be published on YouTube.
  • Students may work in teams of up to 3 people.
  • No images of students faces. Masks or other methods of obscuring their identities may be used.
  • No algebra.
  • Maximum video length: 30 seconds.
  • Include as many different descriptions as possible in the time allowed.

The way we're doing this is I have published a video to YouTube describing the assignment and extended it as a challenge to the entire math community on YouTube. Students will "hand in" their commercials as video replies to mine.

I'm hoping other people in the math community on YouTube reply to the challenge. It will go a long way to adding another layer of authenticity to the assignment and create a more meaningful reason than "marks" to create high quality content: social credit.

Social credit is a powerful motivational force in the lives of teens; a force that hasn't fully been tapped in educational circles. It's behind the outstanding work some of my students do on their class blogs. I'm trying to be more deliberate about accessing that potential in new ways this year.

The video has just been published to the AP Calculus 2008 blog. The students commercials should be published by Friday morning.

If you have a moment, head over to their blog and leave them a comment telling them you're looking forward to their commercials. It'll help make real their sense of audience and perhaps encourage them to do their very best before they hit the publish button on their videos.

Calculus Commercial Seed Video

Photo Credit: Excuse Me Ma'm... by flickr user nobleignoble