Video Creation | Feature

BYOD Class Takes Their Learning to YouTube

Even as YouTube is pushed out of most classrooms because it's deemed distracting, high school algebra teacher Vito Ferrante is committed to the idea that having students create videos for the site can be a powerful means of engaging them in learning.

Ferrante, who teaches at Jesuit High School, an all-boys Catholic school near Sacramento, CA, first discovered YouTube’s potential when he posted a series of videos outlining solutions to math problems, which was well received by both parents and students. But it was only when he took the next step and flipped the model, turning his students into the on-camera instructors, that he noticed the true gains.

Ferrante’s new BYOD approach to math instruction has his students using their own Flip cameras and smartphones to create math-related videos that offer him a window into how well his students are mastering concepts and thinking through problems--something not always readily apparent with pencil-and-paper assessments.

The result is a class full of budding Khan Academies. Each student began the semester by creating his own YouTube channel and then paired off with a device-wielding partner to create, critique, and collaborate on a series of what Ferrante calls “think aloud” videos, in which students choose a problem from their homework or quizzes to work out on paper and verbally document their thought process. After a video is created, partners swap roles and repeat the process.

Every Friday, students upload their best video for viewing by Ferrante, their classmates, and even their parents, who make up a significant portion of the viewing demographic. "When I do the analytics with my own channel, one of the highest viewing groups are adult males and females from the ages of 45 to 54," Ferrante said. “That’s not someone learning algebra--that’s the parents. They’re absolutely loving it, and it’s translating over to their sons’ channels as well.”

At the end of the semester, Ferrante plans to have students choose their 10 best videos to be graded on.

While the program is still in its pilot stage, Ferrante has already noticed the positive effect it’s having on the way some students are learning to self-correct their mistakes. "Thinking through the problem forces them to see what they’re doing correctly and incorrectly," Ferrante said. "It seems like they’re catching their problems a lot more quickly, and they’re not just doing the same things over and over again incorrectly."

The program’s early successes haven’t gone unnoticed by the rest of the school. In fact, Ferrante said, faculty in other disciplines are exploring how video creation might fit into their curricula.

"It’s a lot of fun and it’s using their mobile technology in a different way than they’re used to," he said. "That’s kind of what we’re charged with as teachers--to teach them how to use their smartphones for something other than texting or watching videos online. It’s worked out really well."

About the Author

Stephen Noonoo is an education technology journalist based in Los Angeles. He is on Twitter @stephenoonoo.