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Published October 27, 2015 | Mathematics

“Video Selfies” in Class

The idea to suggest to my students that they use their mobile device to make videos came to me while I was presenting the solution to a problem in my Linear Algebra and Vector Geometry class. I wanted to let the students put mathematics operations into their own words, so that they could verbalize what they were thinking and explain the solution while they were doing it. Doing this with a paper-based assignment seemed a bit too laborious. Instead, why not try to use a selfie video (filming themselves)? This also allowed me to touch on one of the higher levels of competency in Bloom’s Taxonomy (we moved from working on matrices to explaining and even analysing these operations while in the process of resolving them).

If we were to try to define the selfie video as a pedagogical technique for learning, we might describe it as a “video sequence where we see a person or part of a person (which allows certain students to get over their shyness) explain techniques or theories, or the person can perform specific tasks while also commenting on them.”

There are many benefits for students who use this method for some of their exercises. I can see both their logical reasoning and their use of mathematical language, all at once. And what’s more, the videos can be posted on-line on YouTube, which allows the students to:

1. Review their work;
2. Receive feedback from their peers;
3. Quickly receive my feedback; and
4. Self-regulate (implicit self-evaluation). I’ve seen students create some videos and then start over after they have spotted their mistakes.

I’ve been experimenting with this formula for two semesters now. In the beginning, students were just a little interested, but they were quickly won over to using video selfies. Here is what I propose to the students:

1. I choose a list of exercises that cover the subject material for a certain period.
2. Each student chooses one of the exercises (first come, first served).
3. Each student works on a video clip in which they solve a problem out loud.
4. Everyone then uploads their production to YouTube.
5. Everything is then shared in a forum on Omnivox. This way students can receive feedback from both me and the other students.

This year, taking a cue from the experience of Teachers at the university level, I even changed the user rights in the forum to allow the students to share their multimedia documentation with each other during my course (captured with their cell phone, for example). These may be images, videos, websites, tables, etc. My objective is to show them that there are different media that can be used to present information, making it as accessible as possible. The documentation may come from my in-class presentations or research that the students have done on their own.

An example of a video selfie from students (Maia Krikorian, Nicolas Nzeyimana, Rachel Haddad and Pierre-Jacques Liron)

Some Benefits

I have noticed that my students are actively participating. Some of them still prefer the traditional approach. They will film their selfies in a real classroom. Other students who are a bit shyer will opt to produce their video at home sharing their reflections while writing out their solutions. We’ll only see their hand and whatever medium they have chosen to write on. Some students add a little humour (we are talking about linear algebra and vector geometry here!). Others discover a hidden talent – one that could even lead to a career!

On my end, I discover another side of my students. Their true personalities come through. I get to know the group better on a social level. We also develop a community of sharing together on Omnivox. This approach creates more interactivity in my course. I would also say that I spend less time chasing after students to submit their assignments.

Video selfies also handle the problem of plagiarism, and allow for a review of the concepts and methods for solving problems.

The Challenges

For those students who are not comfortable putting their productions up on YouTube, you should be prepared to refer them to an alternative platform (Google Drive or Dropbox, for example); one that can handle the large file sizes. It doesn’t happen too often, but you should be ready. Students can also create a YouTube account that is for private use only and provide access to the people they choose.

I hope sharing this with you will inspire you to experiment with this formula, because I feel that it has a lot of potential to promote student engagement, and hopefully it will also help students to succeed.

Are you experimenting with something similar? Are your students recording videos as a way to the better understand the subject matter? Please feel free to share your experience and advice!