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Using video in an online module to encourage students to engage with research and theory

An online course is helping students to engage critically with the theory and research by using video. Dr Cosette Crisan (Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment, UCL Institute of Education) explains.

9 February 2017

‘Digital Technologies for Mathematical Learning’ is an optional module offered as part of the MA Mathematics Education programme at UCL Institute of Education.

The participants on this course are either practising or prospective mathematics teachers in schools in the UK or abroad. 

As well as its online delivery, students must familiarise themselves with a wide range of digital tools and resources (such as graph plotters, dynamic geometry environments, statistical software, fully interactive online packages) and critically reflect on the implications of using such tools in the learning and teaching of mathematics at secondary school level (in the UK, 11-18 year old students). 

Using videos to simulate real-world experiences

Evaluation of this newly-designed course after its first delivery indicated that online collaboration amongst the participants was lacking.

In light of this, video cases were developed as an opportunity for the students to make their contributions grounded in authentic learning episodes available to share by all the participants.

Video cases are recordings of a pair of pupils using digital tools and applications while working on a mathematics activity.

Each video case show two pupils (video of their faces) talk through the activities (audio recorded) as they use a digital environment to do some mathematics (their on-screen activity being captured, too). The pupils worked independently from a teacher. They were encouraged to talk through and to each other when doing the mathematics activity. Once the recordings were edited by the tutor, the short video cases were uploaded online. 

An opportunity to put theory into practice

Students watch and reflect on these short videos. By choosing to focus on specific parts of a video, they explain their new thinking and insights into pupils’ learning. Prompt questions are used to scaffold their online asynchronous discussions.

This innovative approach has been inspired by the university’s wider missions around the six dimensions of the Connected Curriculum. In their analysis and interpretation of the learning episodes, the participants are encouraged to be consistent in making connections between the research and theory base of the module and their observations of the pupils’ learning in these videos. They were made aware of the expectations of engaging with the literature reviewed to support and back up claims about ‘what happened’.

Through this pedagogical intervention, students are supported in becoming more actively engaged with the research and knowledge base of the module rather than just messages that ‘experts’ put forward about the potential of digital technology in fostering learning in mathematics.

Software used to create and edit the videos

Screencast video-recording software was used to enable video recording of students’ on-screen work as well as an audio recording of any student-student interactions.

The videos were created using a free online screen capture tool ‘Screencast-Omatic’ software and edited using the ‘iMovie’ programme for editing videos.

The process of finding information about, deciding upon, and ultimately learning about the specific software was time consuming, however colleagues in the Learning Technologies Unit in the UCL Institute of Education helped support its use with suggestions, recommendations and descriptions of the main feature of the suggested pieces of software.

Developing the course through feedback from students

Through surveys carried out at end of each theme of this module and through the end of module evaluation, the participants’ feedback have helped in improving the online delivery of the module.

Networking & collaboration amongst the participants has been greatly improved by building it into the course.  

We encourage a weekly presence, where the participants are expected to generate at least one new thread in the discussion forum and respond two other threads.