Adopt AND Adapt

Sometimes, I see new technology being integrated into the classroom, but the instructor is not really harnessing the power of the new technology.

Instructor A (adopts, but does not adapt): Began their math career writing out math problems using chalk on a chalkboard … then black markers on a whiteboard … they switch to writing out problems in black & white on an overhead projector … then later type the same problems in a powerpoint presentation (now all their text is in yellow) … and later later still they write out the same problems on a tablet PC.

Instructor B (adopts and adapts): Began writing problems on a chalkboard, immediately bought some colored chalk. Upgraded to a whiteboard … began projecting graphing grids, tables, and theorems onto the whiteboard, adding annotation in markers directly on the whiteboard space. Later integrated the chapter content into Powerpoints that included animations, and focused on using Powerpoint for the material written word for word in the textbook (like theorems), to free up class time for group work. How will this instructor adapt their content for a Tablet PC?

Personally, I always hope to be in the Adopt & Adapt category, however successfully I can do that. I did actually begin my teaching career in classrooms with old-fashioned chalkboards.

Now I have a tablet PC, so I’m rethinking the way that I “present” content again. What kinds of things can a tablet do that I didn’t have the capability to do before? I’ve been using it in the classroom for a week now… here’s what I’ve learned so far:


1) In Windows Journal (or any of the “tablet” programs I’m guessing) you have the ability to highlight using a variety of colors. I’ve always used underlining and circling in colors, but with the color highlighting , the substitutions simply “pop” out of the integrals. Here’s a video example of color highlighting using several comparison integrals using secant and tangent. Integration by parts using the color highlighting was WONDERFUL! And even my algebra class agreed that they understood the factor reduction in rational expressions better with each set of factors highlighted in a different color.


2) I am recording the example problems for my online class “live” during the on-campus class. Really the two courses live in a blended environment this semester, sharing their LMS space, online homework system, and message boards, so it seems appropriate to bring them together in the video lessons too. So I took a leap of faith last Tuesday, and projected the tablet screen on the whiteboard behind me, set up a headset, and recorded problems that we did in class using Camtasia. I made sure to repeat questions that on-campus students asked, and repeated their answers when they provided them, so that the online students would benefit from the conversation. Here’s an example from my algebra class “live” on factoring the sum or difference of cubes … and here’s my first “live” recording from my Calc II class … our first problem on integration by parts.

Technical notes: I stopped recording and saved between examples (worried about computer crashes). During the slight lag time between examples, I had students begin thinking about the strategy for the next problem. One of the reasons I recorded each problem separately was that I wanted them to post as separate links in the LMS… see picture below of live links.

Then I realized that I could use markers in Camtasia to place “bookmarks” in my recordings of the places that I wanted to split up the files for production. Now I’m up to 3-4 examples in each recording without getting nervous. There is a 5-minute training video on markers in the Visual Lounge on the TechSmith website.

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  1. mathfaery says:

    This post is so timely! I also like to think of myself as an adapter. My Tablet PC has been in my hot little hands for less than a week, and today was my first day using it completely for my lessons in class. A couple of times I noticed that I was just using the Tablet PC exactly the way I would use an overhead projector. I’m sure I will improve with more practice. I love the example photos you posted, they are just what I needed to think ahead about how I want to use the tool more effectively. I am new to Camtasia, and plan on creating videos for my classes soon. The major concern I have with the videos would be with adding captions to make it accessible to students with visual disabilities. Accessibility is a huge buzzword at our campus.

  2. Maria H. Andersen says:

    I know that Camtasia 5 does have closed captioning options. However, I wouldn’t want the responsibility to caption everything (which still means writing the script and timing the videos). I would kind of think that job would fall to your campus special services office.

  3. GS says:

    I’m not keen on the idea of using a tablet PC, so I’d like to hear about your broad experience with them. I have an interactive whiteboard in my classroom and love it.

    One excellent application of highlighting I found was in calculating the perimeter of composite shapes. I highlighted each edge of the shape in a different colour. Then on the regular whiteboard I wrote the working for each edge, identified by the colour.

    The was good to get the students to see that you have to look at one edge at a time and work out that edge independently from the others.

    Put simply, highlighting is great! I’ll keep that example about reducing fractions in mind.

  4. mathfaery says:

    Our campus does not have the resources to do the captioning for us. If we purchase a video that is not captioned, we have to find funding to have it captioned. My understanding is whatever materials I create and wish to post on my class website must be made accessible, either by me, or by finding a way to pay someone else (off-campus) to do that work. This leads to quite a bit of extra work for faculty. I have played around a little bit with captioning, and it isn’t difficult, just very time consuming.

  5. Maria H. Andersen says:

    Would it be safe to assume that you are also expected to do your own sign language in the classroom and type up all your classroom notes in braille as well for every lecture?

    And has the school provided the appropriate training for you to do these things?

    It seems to me, in general, that schools are trying to gain control they lack over the traditional classroom environment by imposing it in the online environment.

    If your college does not require you to sign every lecture and produce notes for traditional classes in braille, then they should not require you to aption in online classes either.

  6. Robert Foth says:

    As far as captions go I have been playing with the idea of having the dictation tool open in office/Word while recording lectures – put yourself in front of your tablet to record your video and on your office machine have the dictation program writing the speech (obviously you would need two machines running at the same time – which most of us have if we also have a tablet – and two microphones). Could this work in a classroom while teaching – yes and no since it would require a microphone for each machine to be on you.

    My other thought to get a transcript of the video is to see if there is any software out there that can take the audio file (assuming mp3) with your voice and dictate what was said – not sure if anything like that exists. I heard of Dragon and was going to check it out – may see if this could run in the background to transcribe the lecture while recording (I wouldn’t add the captions, but at least I would have a transcript if it were to be requested).

  7. mathfaery says:

    Our Disabled Students Program provides interpreters for hearing impaired students. Students with visual impairments that I have worked with are able to see, but needed handouts blown up to a larger size. I have not worked with a student who is blind. As far as notes in class, we find a fellow student who is willing to be a notetaker, and they are supplied with carbonless copy paper (I’m not sure what it is called) that creates a copy of what notes they write.

    I already make some accommodations in class for students with disabilities. With a student who is hearing impaired, I make sure to speak at a pace that does not go faster than the interpreter can sign. For a student who is visually impaired, I make sure to verbally describe in detail anything I write. These accommodations not only support the student with a disability, they are beneficial to all students in the class.

    I am expected to make my website accessible, which (in theory) makes it more usable to all students, not just those with disabilities. We do not have a webmaster who creates websites for faculty. If you want a website, you create it yourself.

    It would be great if there were funding for someone to do the captioning for us, but the funding is just not there.

    The videos I plan on making (at least to start) would be supplemental to in-class lessons. Most of my classes are traditional, on-campus courses. I am teaching one hybrid course (50% online, 50% on-campus), and for that I am using the publisher’s videos, which can be made available with captions.

    I’ve thought about using some kind of software like Dragon to transcribe the audio to text, but just haven’t gotten there yet. (I also just noticed that I originally stated I needed captions for students with visual disabilities, obviously I meant with hearing impairments).

    The campus has provided accessibility training within our programs that train faculty to teach online as well as work on web design. Camtasia is new to our campus, and there are only a small handful of faculty who have even tried it. It will be interesting to see if the responsibility for making materials accessible will shift from faculty to someone else. As it becomes easier to produce multimedia materials, more faculty will be interested, and then maybe there will be a larger demand for that responsibility to shift away from faculty, but I won’t hold my breath. ;)

    In the mean time, I will do my best to create accessible materials in order to comply with the state and federal laws.

  8. Maria H. Andersen says:

    You could use dragon to transcribe the audio to text. But I have a much simpler solution for you.

    The nature of math means that we pretty much write everything we say. So any video recorded with audio will have a visual record of the class (for the hearing impaired) and an audio record of the class (for the visually impaired). That really should be sufficient.

    Websites are naturally text based, and so a blind student could use reading software to listen to the information that is typed on the site. Hearing impaired students can read the site.

    Since you’re just planning to supplement your material online, and are not required to do this, the simple solution to the problem is to host all of your non-required material on your own website. If it is a website outside the college system, and you are not required to post these materials as part of your job, and, it seems that the materials are already accessible… at least to me, then hosting off-site will just officially relieve the college of the “burden” to ensure that the materials comply with state and federal guidelines for accessibility.

    Just out of morbid curiosity… when the administration posts meeting notes on the website (board meeting, committee minutes, etc.) do they also include audio files of these for the visually impaired?

  9. mathfaery says:

    I’ve previously considered your suggestions, and I just haven’t decided what I will finally do. You are right that most of what we say is just what we write, so that could take care of the idea of captioning. As far as notes put up by the campus online, for a visually impaired student, the assumption is that they would have screen reader software that would be able to turn text into audio. I don’t know that there is an assumption in the other direction for hearing impaired students.

    This has been an interesting discussion, thanks!

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