Kay, R. & Edwards, J. (2012). Examining the Use of Worked Example Video Podcasts in Middle School Mathematics Classrooms: A Formative Analysis. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 38(2). Retrieved from http://cjlt.csj.ualberta.ca/index.php/cjlt/issue/view/79
Examining the Use of Worked Example Video Podcasts in Middle School Mathematics Classrooms: A Formative Analysis
Summary of the article
In their article, “Examining the Use of Worked Example Video Podcasts in Middle School Mathematics Classrooms: A Formative Analysis” Kay and Edwards make a case for the benefits of using video podcasts to teach math concepts to middle school students. The authors chose students from grades six, seven and eight to show them math video podcasts that were related to the specific grade curriculum and were unknown to the students. The students were given a pre-test on a math concept; then the students were shown “worked video podcasts” which demonstrated through video and audio a step-by-step procedure for solving a specific problem (Kay & Edwards, 2012). After watching the podcast students were given a post-test on that same concept. The article theorized that students who view video podcast in mathematics will be able to personalize their learning. As well, they wanted to answers questions about students’ attitudes towards using podcasts to learn math and whether there were any differences in attitudes and performance between gender and the age of students (Kay & Edwards, 2012).
The findings of this article were that the middle school students who were studied had a favorable attitude to using podcasts to learn math concepts. They liked that they could see examples and the instructions were clear. Most of the students thought the length and pace were useful for them and they liked that they could view the video if they were away from school. The authors also found that using video podcasts to teach a previously unknown math concept to students resulted in considerable gains in their performance on a post-assessment. No differences in performance were found between genders or ages. The main negative outcome that the authors came across was that the majority of students surveyed found the podcast were boring or uninteresting and did not engage them.
I chose this article for a variety of reasons but the main one was to challenge myself. I teach social studies and math in my grade five classroom and I have noticed from my previous courses that I have solely focused on how to incorporate blended learning into my social studies class. The concept of using blended learning in a mathematics course was of interest to me, especially since I feel this an area that I have not explored or understand much about.
My first reaction to the article is cautious enthusiasm. The authors do an excellent job of summing up the study’s strengths and limitations. The results are very positive. The authors found that middle school students had a good reaction to watching video podcasts that teach math theories. This is reassuring to me because as I try to move my tradition classroom to a blended learning one, I am looking for tools that will work with my age of students. Another potent benefit of using podcasts was the increased understanding of the concepts that was taught.
As a teacher, I am always looking for ways to increase student comprehension, especially in math, where I find a lot of students struggle. Video podcasts can come in especially handy when a student is away from school, needs extra help or the teacher is unavailable. This was noted in the article that students were positive about using of podcasts for outside the classroom and for review. A current “buzz word” in education, at the moment is “flipped classrooms”. Some teachers are moving away from a less traditional way of teaching and learning, so tools such as video podcasts may become more prevalent in classrooms.
The authors were very upfront about the limitations of their study. They and I would question the small sample size. Only one hundred and thirty-six students were surveyed and the authors did not personally interview the students. They handed out survey and based their results off of the survey and pre and post-tests. For me, the concern with not conducting personal interviews is the inability of the researchers to know what middle schoolers were actually thinking. I have found that when middles schoolers are asked to complete surveys, there are some that do not take it seriously, rush through and give the expected answers. The study would have come off as more effective and authentic if interviews had been conducted.
A final weakness of this article is the lack of research in using video podcasts in middle school math classrooms. The majority of research work has centered on higher education or high school. Middle school students are an entirely different breed of students from students in higher education and even high school. The article does admit that there needs to be more longitudinal studies in this area and I would even suggest there needs to be research at the elementary level, as well.
What struck me as I read the article was some of the findings, in particular that the majority of students surveyed found the podcasts either “neutral or boring in terms of engagement” (Kay & Edwards, 2012, p. 12), although 90% said that using videos was better than using a textbook. This is interesting because the authors cite studies done in higher education where students found that using podcasts were fun, interesting and engaging (Kay & Edwards, 2012). This finding certainly needs further investigation into why students were not engaged. There are a number of factors that might play into lack of engagement: including maturity level, the quality of the podcast, the newness of a learning strategy, etc. The bigger question may also be whether teachers are more focused on entertaining students or making sure that they learning.
Another question that I would have liked investigated further was the lack of using the pause feature on the video, “10% of the students used the pause feature while they watched the worked example video Podcast” (Kay & Edwards, 2012, p. 8). As teachers are encouraged to personalize learning for students, this result would seem to suggest that students themselves are not taking advantage of the option to personalize their own learning. There are a number of reasons as to why students may not have used the pause button but this needs more investigation.
Finally, the article does not go into detail about the design and presentation of the podcast and I would like to know how the design and presentation affected learning. The article noted that students appreciated “clear, slow, step-by-step explanations, clear writing and visuals that support the learning process” (Kay & Edwards, 2012, p.13) but there are many other design elements that can enhance and hinder learning; a few being: voice, the gender of the person, the relationship to the person on the podcast, colors, background, etc. It would be interesting to find out what design elements middle school students most connect with and if that benefits their learning.
Something that I, as a math teacher, can take away from this article is that there might be a new way to engage and challenge students in math. One of my concerns about design and presentation but might circumvented by having students create their own videos teaching a math concept, that way they can begin to understand how the choices we make with design can affect our outcomes. Something else that I took away from this article is the fact that just because adults think a tool is useful; students may not (In the case of the pause feature. I would have said that was great tool for students to personalize their learning but from the results, the majority of the students were not interested in using it). Maybe as educators we need to show the benefits of using tools, rather than just expecting that students know how to use them. I think using video podcasts can open up a lot of opportunities to explore how to personalize learning in the math classroom, which will, in the end, benefit the students we are teaching.