If We Build It, Who Will Come? – An Online Algebra 1 “Textbook”

I just finished Karl Fisch’s post about approaching homework differently. It is a much more detailed and cogent explanation to what I was saying here.

My plan is to deliver the traditional lecture portion of an Algebra class as the homework, thus freeing up class time to explore the mathematics and pursue some interesting problems, as well as provide time for guided practice and collaborative work.

Since Algebra is very much skill based, my hope is to provide short (less than 10 minutes), targeted instructional videos that students can watch (and rewatch if necessary) that focus solely on the skills, one skill at a time. Now I want to be clear that these videos typically will come after inquiry and exploration in class.

As I said in the comment of Karl’s post, I think this is a brilliant idea. I can’t think of one downside to this plan, other than it will challenge people’s existing beliefs of what education looks like. (That by itself is not a bad thing; the fallout of that challenge might cause some headaches though.)

Watching Karl’s ‘Proof of Concept‘ video, it’s pretty obvious that this is going to be a time-consuming effort. As is mentioned, there are tons of online resources already but they tend to have been created by individuals for their own use. I could use them in my classroom but they aren’t always at the right level or don’t always have enough practice or aren’t the right length.

So here’s my question: Is it possible for us, as  a community, to create an online open-source Algebra 1 skills-based video textbook? What would we need to do so? Here are some initial thoughts:

  • We would need to come up with an agreed-upon structure for each video. (I like Karl’s Five Part Plan: Learning Goal, Explanation/Examples, Guided Practice, Self-Check, and Closing.)
  • We would need to come up with a generic list of skills that are applicable to all, regardless of state or national standards.
  • We would need people to volunteer to create a video for each skill on our list. If two or three people create a video for the same skill, that’s not a bad thing: more choice for our students.
  • We would need to come up with a structure for displaying or publishing our textbook. I’m thinking create a YouTube channel and use a wiki as some sort of Table of Contents.

Can we work together to share the time-consuming aspects of this idea so that we all spend more time focused on the ‘heavy lifting’ aspect: supporting our students effectively with our time?

Anybody interested in trying?

Image: ‘soccer practice

4 thoughts on “If We Build It, Who Will Come? – An Online Algebra 1 “Textbook”

  • April 25, 2010 at 9:45 am

    I think it’s definitely doable, but it would be tricky to get everyone to agree on content, length, concepts, production values, etc. I would also worry about consistency across different videos and whether that might end up confusing students.

    As I said in my post, I felt like surely I could just find something out there that would fit the bill, and I did end up finding many really good things, but none of them quite did what I wanted them to do. Which might be the problem with this idea – could enough of us agree on what we wanted them to do to make this work?

  • April 26, 2010 at 11:05 am

    This is a great idea and there are already tons of people doing it. The only problem is that most of it is not free. I have started a website project to do something similar to what you’ve mentioned here as well as incorporating all the other pieces to math education – parent info, pd resources for teachers, worksheets, lesson ideas, forums, etc.

    I am looking for people to help build content and share resources if you or anyone else is interested in collaborating. http://www.mathmadesimple.org

    As for specific video sites, there are already some great free resources such as Math TV, Math Vids, Khan Academy, Brightstorm, among others.

    It’s a project worth pursuing and with all the content available online, this will quickly become a key component to education.

  • April 28, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    @Karl Fisch Thanks for the comment. I think that, so long as we can agree on the big picture (skills), then any differences in the details can actually help students, particularly if more than one video is made for each skill. This will give students choices and multiple perspectives. Echoing your post, I don’t envision these skills videos being used to introduce or reinforce conceptual understanding. This is the domain of the classroom teacher, and s/he would have more time to do so if the mechanical portion of the course is shared amongst us all.

  • April 28, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    @Kevin I was lucky enough to be one of the original course contributors to Brightstorm. I too think online content will become a key component to teaching and learning. Blended classrooms will become the rule, rather than the exception.

    What I’m interested here, however, is not an online course, just a textbook. I’m after something that people can use as a resource to supplement or replace what they already do, something that students can refer to at home (or in school!) much as they would that 400+ page behemoth in their backpack.

    Thanks for the link to Math Made Simple. I will definitely check it out!

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