Podcasts, online courses multiply comprehension opportunities
During his first period AP calculus class, math teacher Michael Fenton uses a Smartboard to teach the concept. Fenton's writing and voice are recorded by the computer, and can be viewed in an iTunes podcast.
This is the second installment of a two-part article about technological advances in the math department. For the first installment, read Fenton leads math trail-blazing.
In order to facilitate students' comprehension of math concepts, math department head Michael Fenton aims to implement technological programs that help students understand.
According to Fenton, his recent online sources have helped students who have a desire to learn.
"The students who want to work hard are now given the opportunity to study as much as they need to," Fenton said. "Only a small percent of students learn well without the help of an instructor. Most of us learn by doing examples and practicing. The videos are much like a personalized review session in that they allow kids to watch a lesson over and over until they get it. It's almost as if they are in class."
According to Fenton, the other main issue that prevents kids from learning material is absences. Once a student misses class, he or she has a harder time understanding the lessons. Therefore Fenton came about with the idea to record class sessions.
"I knew that my computer could record the online math sessions with sound as well as video. I had also heard that the Smartboard could do the same thing but I wasn't sure how it operated," Fenton said. "So I worked with Mr. [David] Martens [IT Director] for a while to see how we could make it work. It took a long time to figure out, but now that we know how to use it, it's quite simple."
The Smartboard resides in the far corner of the room, which is difficult for students in the back row to see. However, a projector was installed that takes the picture from the Smartboard and projects it onto the white board for all students to see.
?The students who want to work hard are now given the opportunity to study as much as they need to." --Michael Fenton, math department head
"We needed the projector because it's not fair to neglect the students who did show up to class from learning," Fenton said. "Once we got that installed, the videos were downloaded straight to my computer and put onto an iTunes podcast for students to download. In order to save the videos we did have to purchase a hard drive which will have to be supplemented every 5-10 years."
According to Fenton, the department plans to duplicate this set up in every math room next year. Then all students will have access to videos for their specific class. Those videos will be stored on a hard drive and used as online courses for the following years.
"Some public schools are not offering summer school anymore due to budget cuts. This online class would provide students in the valley, and throughout the country, with a solid math course while profiting the school financially," Fenton said. "It will also help to make people more aware of our school and the programs we have to offer."
Eventually, every math level will be offered online for students who have failed previous classes, as well as home-schooled students whose parents lack the resources to teach high level math.
For more information, e-mail Fenton. To view math lesson podcasts, search "Mr. Fenton" in iTunes. For more about the math department, check out its Web site.