The Next Step in Math Blogging?

Dan Meyer‘s recent post on how to deliver a “3-Act” lesson really got me thinking that more teachers should be posting videos of themselves teaching.  The main point about having a math blog is to become a better teacher.  Right now, the way the we achieve this is through sharing ideas, giving and receiving feedback from other bloggers, and reflecting on our practice.  Is it possible to go further by recording yourself, and then getting feedback on the actual delivery of the lesson?  I feel that I continually create lessons that I have such high hopes for, but rarely ever live up to the amount of time and effort I put into creating them.  I think being able to receive feedback on lessons you taught, as well as, seeing how other “expert” teachers deliver a lesson, would be so helpful.   It’s one thing to create the perplexing lesson, and I feel like this is getting easier since joining the math blogosphere, but it is entirely different thing to implement it.  Steve Leinwand proposed an idea at NCTM 13 of recording teachers every month and then at the professional development meetings, randomly watch one of the videos as a department.  I think this would be a great idea, but I also think it would take the right department, and a good department chair to lead the discussion so that it is productive.   That is why I think putting the videos online would be much more productive.  First, the audience is much more motivated to give sincere and meaningful feedback. Second, it is easier to give and take feedback when it is written down because you have time to process it.  If this is already going on, someone please tell me where and how I can join, but I think this is the next place the math blogosphere can go.  Is this something other teachers would feel comfortable doing?  Is this something that teachers would even want to do?  And if it is, what would be the best way to do it?  Let me know what your thoughts are on this.

3 thoughts on “The Next Step in Math Blogging?

  1. As much as I like this idea, as a researcher I know there are some significant (and important) hurdles to overcome. The laws that protect research subjects require that we must protect people’s health and well-being, including their reputation. This usually means securing student assent and parent consent to participate in research, and while it’s relatively easy to get those if you’re sharing transcripts of classroom discussion while using pseudonyms, it can be very difficult to get if you’re using video to be shown to the world.

    I think the benefits of what you’re suggesting would far outweigh the negatives, and teachers collaborating and critiquing each others’ teaching might be the best way we can improve practice. But we have to figure out how to do it the right way, and I don’t think dismissing this as “not really research” is the way to go. Large school districts usually have a research office and maybe we can work with them to figure out a process to make this work.

    • I agree the legal issues are the hurdles to overcome. My vision of what this would look like is a website that any teacher could go and post a video or view and comment on other teacher videos. In order for this to work, the teachers would need to feel completely comfortable that they will not get sued if they post a video of their students. Also, the process to post the video and get the necessary consent forms needs to be somewhat easy. Below are a couple ideas that might work.

      1. Like you said a consent form would be a good first step. I am sure I could create a universal consent form that teachers could print and have their students fill out and return. The question is, what do teachers do with these consent forms after they get them filled out? Do they need to just keep them, or do they need to scan and upload them to the website?
      2. A disclaimer page when you first enter the website saying something like, “I will not use any of these videos for any non-educational purposes…”.
      3. Make it so videos could not be downloaded from the site.
      4. Edit all of the videos to blur out student faces. (I don’t know how hard this would be to do.)
      5. People would have to get approved before they could view the website. For example, they would have to show that they are some how involved in the educational system.

      These are just ideas. I am not sure if all of them would need to be done, or if they would even help in making this legal, but I think you are right I need to get help from someone involved in research. I will check with my district.

  2. I think this is never going to work, because it fights human nature.

    1) No lesson is perfect, so any lesson put up is going to include some moment that the person being taped will wish was not up there. And taking out embarrassing bits or less successful bits pretty much ruins the point of seeing the whole thing. This issue doesn’t arise with blog posts, lesson plans or videos, all of which are heavily self-edited.

    I would suggest that the best thing would be to tape every lesson, and take the good ones.

    2) It effectively puts the teacher being taped in an invidious position with regards their fellows, possibly looking like a show-off or worse. I think I am probably the best teacher in my department, but I’m absolutely not going to say that to them. But even if I think I am the best around, I might be quite wrong. So putting up stuff like that risks me looking like a self-important idiot. I’ve a hide like a rhino to that sort of thing, but even having a website tests it at times.

    3) Some of the material put up will be rubbish. I generally tape my own explanation videos onto YouTube because although they each take two hours or more to set up, it’s actually quicker than wading through the dreck out there to find the good ones.

    4) The lessons may be excruciatingly boring to watch at any length. I have no natural interest in Pythagoras, so watching someone teach it is going to be heavy going for me — even if they are doing it brilliantly — and I will have to wait a long time to see anything interesting. Which I may never see anyway, since the interesting things are often spread across multiple lessons with students, written down on paper or otherwise inaccessible to video. If I can barely watch most scripted YouTube video maths explanations with the sound on, so awful are they, I can’t begin to imagine how boring ordinary lessons would be.

    There are also technical issues, though not the ones you mention. If you film from behind at quite a high angle, blocking the occasional faces is relatively easy.

    A) Taping sound is extremely hard. A teacher can wear a microphone, but the students are lost in a blur of secondary noise. I’ve taped a classroom to write a transcript, and it is hard work trying to decipher what they said, even if you were there. That’s why films retape dialogue and have foley editors.

    B) Whiteboards are notoriously hard to film at any distance — if you film from the back you won’t see the writing on the board.. If you film up close, then the teacher has to stay in a very small angle. I’m a bit prone to staying at the front of the room, but even I move around more than a close camera will allow.

    I know that sounds awfully negative, because the idea is great. All power to you if you can find a way to make it work, but execution would be an absolute bitch.

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