Maybe this isn't a big problem for you, oh Calculus teacher, but it's a yearly issue for me. What do you do about kids not taking the AP Exam? No one would fault you having them work through the remainder of the curriculum, because not taking the exam isn't an indicator the kid is woefully lost. However, the way I do things, if I advise a kid not to take the exam, or they've chosen not to, there's a lot of evidence behind that decision. It is very likely they need (and have needed) some help for a while.

Last year I didn't have a lot of these students. Coming up a with a list of practice assignments for them to complete was easy, and fielding their questions wasn't a big burden. They did their thing and, hopefully, they got to leave Calculus with at least some fundamental knowledge about the course.

This year the challenge is bigger, I have a significantly larger number of non-testers. My filtering process got stricter (on purpose), so it was a natural result.

To improve these students' ability to be self-sufficient, I generated assignments for them as before. However, I added a little treat. For years and years and years kids have been asking me to make a database of recordings. I struggled with workflows, file sizes, and practicality, ultimately deciding each time it wasn't worth it.

Enter iPad Pro.

I've had Wacom devices for years, and still use a Cintiq daily in my classroom, where working with a full computer makes sense. Here, I have a more focused purpose: short (<5 min) explanations for kids who already heard this once, with material relevant to a specific assignment. Enough to help them answer their own questions so I can focus on other tasks during class time. Generating things like has been tedious with those devices. Having a self-contained slab I can write on works better.

The workflow is dead simple. Attach iPad to a Mac, open QuickTime player, start a New Movie Recording, and select the iPad as the camera:

An external mic is optional, the internal microphone will probably do the job. Export the files as 720p movies, and plop them in Dropbox.

Their titles mirror that of the relevant review assignment. A non-tester grabs a computer, opens the shared folder link, and works at their own pace.

Some MAJOR clarifications about why I don't consider this in the same category as super buzzword-y "Personalized Learning":

  • This is a limited run engagement, kids are using this for 2 weeks while I address other issues with exam takers
  • They got live, in person exploration/explanations from me once before, these videos are not intended for first time learning, the kids using these have some working knowledge of the concepts in play
  • This is intended for use during class, I'm not explicitly requiring they do any of this at home
  • The videos were produced quickly (record video, export, done) with a laser focus objective: offer clarification through worked example if necessary
  • This is an opportunity for kids who have been behind the curve to feel some accomplishment and back track

I'm not replacing myself with videos any time soon. I stand by my belief that having kids work through an exhaustive database of tutorials, machine graded tasks, PDF worksheets, and whatnot is nowhere near a valid replacement for talking face to face, having in person discussions with peers, etc.

If you have access to sufficient devices and are considering some kind of tutorial database, use it sparingly. Find a specific use case and keep it simple.

AuthorJonathan Claydon