Eric Marcos is a math teacher for 6th grade at Lincoln Middle School in Santa Monica, California. Eric uses Camtasia Studio, clickers, wireless tablet PCs, SMART Board, livescribe pens, Skype, and his class website, MathTrain.TV
Watch Eric’s students use MathTrain
Can’t see the video? Click here.
ISTE 2011 Presentation: Kids Teaching Kids
Letting students create their own math videos (or “mathcasts”) has helped Eric Marcos create a dynamic classroom where kids help teach each other! This practice has given him a better method of tutoring, performing authentic learning assessments, and creating a united classroom culture. You’ll view actual student-created videos and discover how easy it is to create and share “kid-lessons” with Camtasia Studio and Jing.
Watch this presentation at ISTE:
Monday: 11:00AM, 2:00PM, 5:00PM
Tuesday: 11:30AM, 2:30PM
Wednesday: 11:00AM, 1:30PM
An Interview with Eric
What led to your encouragement of student creation of tutorials and the development of your website, Mathtrain.TV?
Most of it was by accident. About 5 years ago, I purchased a tablet PC to use for teaching in the classroom. I didn’t know much about tablets at the time, but I knew it was the right thing to have. Even though I love gadgets in general, the tablet PC was what I like to call “purposeful technology”. I was tired of getting colored markers all over my hands from the loud, clumpy overhead projector. I wanted a better way to save lessons, and I was looking for new ways to engage my students by using more authentic data and real world activities.
I decided to consider the tablet PC “our” tablet PC. Together, the students and I shared with each other as we learned new things and new ways to navigate the tablet PC. Almost daily, there would be a semi-circle of students hovering around the tablet PC to mostly draw or to use a cool physics animation software program I had installed. It was during these times where I observed students helping each other and building on each others’ ideas and tips. Hence, “kids teaching kids”.
So it’s important to note that the tablet PC itself was a hook, and it brought students into my classroom for hours after school. Often, we would do math problems on it as well, and the students would always ask to write the problems. They loved writing onto the tablet PC screen.
One evening, a student (her Mathtrain alias is “Paul”) e-mailed me a question about a homework problem. I decided to respond, but didn’t want to try to answer in e-mail form. Have you ever tried to explain a math problem in a Word document? Bleh! Luckily, I had just stumbled upon a software program called Camtasia Studio. Using Camtasia Studio, I created a quick video lesson on how to solve the homework problem and e-mailed the math video file to the student. The student responded minutes later stating, “Thanks!”… “Can you make another one?”
The next day, other students were asking to view the video and they began requesting tutorials as well. It was exciting. But not nearly as exciting as what happened next!
The turning point came when one day a student (alias “Bob”) asked if she could make a math tutorial. I didn’t have a lot of experience with Camtasia Studio or screencasting at the time, so “Bob” went over to the tablet pc, opened Camtasia Studio herself, found the record button and began creating our first student screencast.
“Bob” had no script. She held the pen stylus in one hand and the microphone in the other (at the time we only had a handheld microphone). Her opening words were something like, “Hello, my name is Bob…” and she proceeded to craft a colorful and compelling math tutorial. I was stunned.
Other students who saw “Bob’s” screencast began showing up after school waiting their turn to make a math video. Quickly, we accumulated numerous videos and I needed to find a better solution for sharing and searching through them. That is when Mathtrain.TV was born. Mathtrain.TV is a free site that uses free “YouTube-clone” software called phpmotion. Later, we added our Mathtrain Student iTunes Podcast (which is also free).
As I mentioned, students come on their own to create our math tutorials because they want to. By the way, students also volunteer to help caption our videos. I am a huge advocate for closed captioning videos, but it can be quite a time-consuming task. Camtasia Studio takes captioning seriously. The newer version not only makes captioning simpler, but it has a useful speech-to-text feature. Now our students can make a video and then caption it right away.
Overall, I don’t need to encourage my students to create a video or even caption one. It is the energy from the students that keeps this project going strong. The students are the true heart, soul and brains behind Mathtrain. (But I’ll take the credit if you want me to!)
Do your students need prompting to use this tool or is their use mostly self-motivated?
Extremely self-motivated! The entire Mathtrain Screencasting Project blossomed because of the fact that a student asked me if she could create a math screencast. I did not prompt or suggest it, the student herself came to me. And almost 5 years later, students still come on their own to create math videos. They don’t get any grade or extra credit for it. They do it because they want to! It’s fun. If you are interested in learning more about why that may be so, Alan November often cites Dan Pink’s book “Drive” as a great resource for its topic of “what motivates people”. It is a great book and perhaps explains why a student might spend only 15 minutes doing 10 traditional homework problems, but will spend an entire hour doing just one problem as a screencast! It’s quite fascinating.
What would you like for those who come to your presentation to take away?
I hope seeing and hearing from the actual students, whom I’m co-presenting with, will show that screencasting is fun, purposeful and pretty simple. We also hope to convey and remind people that “kids can do some amazing things when given the chance”. And please, let them touch the computer.
Connect with Eric
Follow Eric on Twitter
Check out Eric’s website, Mathtrain.TV
Watch an interview with Eric at ISTE fromeSchool News
Look forward to the next blog post about Jeremy Vanicker on Tuesday, June 28th.