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We Want our M(ath) TV! First-Person Instructional Videos and the Youtube Classroom

Posted in Knerds on January 6, 2011 by



Innovation in education deals with two big questions: how people can learn what they need to learn better and faster, and how they can remember it for a longer time. In an educational world increasingly filled with smart boards, in-class clickers and shiny apps for the teacher, one highly democratic technology is starting to look a bit dusty.

YouTube turned 5 years old in 2010, and in Internet time, that’s… well, a long time.  Like television before it, the educational potential of free online video remains largely unfulfilled, and not for lack of trying. At Knewton we’ve always thought that online video has tremendous power as an engaging educational tool; recently we used Youtube to create an interactive, choose-your-own-adventure quiz. Luckily, we’re not alone in seeing video’s potential for engagement — and instructional power.

A recent New York Times article about iPads enhancing classroom learning was yet another reminder that today’s video game-loving, YouTube-watching generation of students is much different from the students of yesteryear.  It’s now clear that as students’ personas change to reflect technological changes in society, education has to account for how today’s learners think, feel, and understand.

With this in mind, we’re going to examine some of the online video formats, past and present, that people — not companies! — are using to teach one another.  First up, is a series of videos where the content and teaching, not the teachers, are the focus.

First-Person Shooters

One format that has gotten more attention recently is the first-person video, where the “teacher” is not visible and the teaching takes center stage. This is the preferred format of math luminaries like Salman Khan, who is working with the Gates Foundation to bring video back to the forefront of education, Patrick JMT, whose math YouTube channel has over 14 million views, and Denise Robichaud, a Massachusetts math professor who is leading the way in online math video. In their worlds, math is king.

Salman Khan

Salman Khan, creator of the “free classroom for the world” Khan Academy, has already been applauded by Bill Gates for his clear and conversational instructional YouTube videos covering a wide array of subjects.  In this CNN article addressing Gates’ enthusiastic support for the project as well as technological advances in education, it’s clear that Khan’s videos have gained widespread popularity even without advertising.

Across the world, both students looking for self-teaching resources and teachers seeking supplements to their in-class instruction have expressed thanks and provided suggestions on Khan’s videos and YouTube channel as to what else they’d like to see from Khan and his creation.

Patrick JMT

PatrickJMT, a seasoned math teacher and tutor, also uses YouTube to create instructional math videos to help students in areas ranging from algebra to calculus.  Like Khan, PatrickJMT has garnered praise from students.  With over 14 million views on his YouTube channel, he promises to deliver math lessons as efficiently as possible.

As one video commenter note, PatrickJMT’s especially engaging because he places the camera at an angle that allows students to feel like they’re actually doing the math problems with him:

Daniel Rezac

Rezac, a proponent of incorporating technology in schools to enhance learning and improve teaching, created the Mathademics YouTube channel where students can view tutorials on a wide array of mathematical concepts.

Denise Robichaud

Robichaud, a math professor at a community college, creates YouTube videos to further explain concepts she discusses in the classroom.  Her YouTube channel lets all students (officially at the school or unofficially all over the world) get extra help at their convenience.

These are four examples of individuals who are using technology to enhance their instruction and reach a wider student audience.  In our next post, we’ll look at teachers who are using YouTube to recreate the classroom environment in their instructional videos.  Stay tuned!