I’ve heard people talking about podcasting for the last few years, but have never seriously thought about trying it out for myself. What made me decide to try it out now was a workshop at the CESI conference in Portlaoise last February. The workshop was by Mark Pentleton (@markpentleton) and was a practical session on podcasting and eBook production. We used iPads (this is where my love affair with the iPad began!) and the Pages software to put text and audio together. On the drive home, my mind buzzing with ideas from the conference, I thought that producing notes with audio for my Maths classes might help students to grasp the concepts better. Currently I produce class notes and tutorial sheets in Microsoft Word, which I upload to the college Moodle site. We then work through the notes and tutorial sheets in class. When working our way through the notes, we will often go through different examples, usually made up on the fly, as I find that the students learn more when things don’t work out cleanly.
While this has worked OK for the past few years, I have been looking for other ways to teach what I teach. A problem I often encounter teaching Maths in 1st year in college is that students come in with Maths baggage. This commonly involves either sheer terror at the thought of Maths class or complete apathy, neither of which help! So this year I’m going to shake up what I do, in a bid to overcome these problems.
This will involve a few things, one of which is podcasting. I think that being able to see someone go through examples and hear their explanations will help the students to get a better understanding of what they are doing and why. During the last 8 years teaching Maths, I am often shocked that students can sketch a parabola on a given interval, without having any idea of the properties of the quadratic function or how to sketch the function if they are not given the interval (apologies to those for whom the above makes no sense, but the mathematician in me has to come out somewhere!). So I’m hoping that my podcasts will allow me to reinforce this context for students. They will also allow me to remind students of things that they already know! To supplement my own podcasts I have also been sourcing video clips on YouTube, which work through some of the concepts that I will be teaching.
The other change to what I do, will involve putting the Maths that I teach into context. I teach Maths to 1st year computing students on courses such as Games Design and Development, Smart Sustainable Technologies, Computing and IT Support. My plan is to incorporate guest lectures into my teaching. This will allow me to bring in people working in these areas, to talk to the students about how they use Maths in what they do. I hope to supplement these lectures with video clips and examples of applications of Maths. Finally I will also get the students to research applications of Maths in their chosen course of study. I intend to use a wiki to get the students to discuss these applications, which is where my final resolution comes in.
So now you know where I’m coming from, feel free to share your thoughts, ideas and resources.