History of Mathcasts

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Part 1: Beginnings (1997)


Idea and a grant.

In 1997, I, Tim Fahlberg, had the idea to create and deliver multimedia tutorials using the Internet (still relatively new in those days) to support student learning of mathematics outside of the classroom. My wife Beth encouraged him to apply for a grant because she believed in me and my ideas. That encouragement led me to develop and present an idea for a Multimedia Math Website that was funded by the Issaquah Schools Foundation (Kateri Brow Big Ideas Fund) which lavished me with a $3,000+ grant. That grant bought some good tools (small electronic whiteboard, Lotus ScreenCam, etc) and I began working to develop methods for creating and delivering whiteboard movies.


Middle years (1997 - 2002)

Tools I tried: Wacom tablets (with inking pens!), TechSmith Camtasia - Small successes - Lessons learned.

From 1997 until 2002 I worked primarily either with an electronic whiteboard or a Wacom graphics tablet and Microsoft NetMeeting whiteboard. However the biggest breakthrough I had in those years was finding TechSmith’s Camtasia. This screen recording software enabled me to record, edit and produce movies quickly and easily. The small successes I had and the lessons I learned in those those years were enough to encourage me to continue my work. For example I learned the importance of creating what I now call “just in time” whiteboard movies which are movies that are created quickly and typically imperfectly but which are nonetheless very useful to students and certainly much more useful than near perfect movies that aren’t delivered in time to meet the learning needs of students.


Tablet PC & Corel Grafigo - 300+ movies & 12 CDs (Sample CD) (Fall 2002 – June 2003)

As the fall of 2002 approached I got more and more excited about the release of the Tablet PC. I expected this tool to be the ideal input device for creating whiteboard movies because with it I would finally be able to see what I was writing as I wrote it (something that graphics tablets did not have going for them). I went to the launch of the Tablet PC and tested every Tablet PC on display. My wonderful wife Beth allowed me to purchase a $2000 Acer convertible Tablet PC which I then proceded to use along with Corel Grafigo to create about 300 movies over a period of about 5 months. I put most of these movies on CDs using Camtasia MenuMaker and then either duplicated them one at a time (taking something like 3 hours to make 60 using 4 machines).


Extraordinary feedback: Larger grant for student movie making.

I started getting a lot of positive feedback from students and their parents as well who were both somewhat incredulous about the movies and the improvements in student learning and attitudes towards math that seemed to happen as a result. In January 2003 I also received a grant for about $10,000 from the Lake Washington School District and began having students create whiteboard movies. They did some very good work and really enjoyed it. But because the tools I was then using (Wacom Graphire tablets, eBeam whiteboard systems, and Microsoft NetMeeting’s whiteboard) were less than ideal for whiteboard movie making we didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped to. One of the best tools purchased with grant money was a CD duplicator which enabled me to duplicate 6 CDs at a time in about 2-3 minutes allowed me to duplicate 60 CDs or more in 1/2 hour.


In about March of 2003 I discovered a wonderful tool that greatly speeded my work with creating whiteboard movies as well as helped my work with creating assessments. This program was called ExamView. This fantastic program allowed me to create dynamic questions and solutions which enabled me to stop having to either steal good questions from textbooks or laboriously hand create my own questions and solutions.


I think that had I and/or the leadership at my school and district done a better job of publicizing our pioneering work with whiteboard movies that creation of whiteboard movies by teachers and students would have spread far and wide by now (some two years later as I write this). I mention this because I've learned from a colleague (Mary Moore, an extraordinary 3rd grade teacher in Richland, Washington) that oftentimes teachers have to take the initiative to let people know outside of their classroom the good things that are going on inside of their classroom. If they don't then it's very possible and likely that the outside world (beyond kids and parents) will typically never know the great things that teachers and their students are doing.


I was, however, honored well outside of my district by TechSmith who wrote an interview about my students and my work which was very encouraging and led to some people discovering my work. TechSmith also linked to a set of movies I’d created with my Tablet PC, Corel Grafigo, and Camtasia Studio.




Part 2: From NECC 2003 to NECC 2004


Kinoma & The Palm – Asynchronous collaboration – Non- whiteboard movie making - Invitation to NECC 2004

At NECC 2003 in Seattle I discovered an excellent new type tool for teaching and whiteboard movie making: the wireless GTCO CalComp SchoolPad. Apparently SMART Technologies saw the increasing popularity and success of this tablet and will soon (early 2005) be releasing its own wireless graphics tablet at a rumored price of < $500 (US) which is somewhat less expensive than GTCO CalComp's (about $700). Although I really like wireless tablets the least expensive input device (and one that I highly recommend) for whiteboard movie making is now the UC-Logic 8" x 6" tablet (see Tools - Input Devices below).


I should tell you that I was moved to tears while watching and listening to 3rd graders create whiteboard movies. I would never have guessed 8 years ago that the work that was then so difficult could later be done so easily by such young people and that they would be so engaged and love doing it so much. And I think that it was perhaps because I could almost see them learning well as they created their movies while they talked and wrote that I fully convinced that student- created whiteboard movies were an even more powerful learning tool than teacher-created movies.


Just before NECC 2004 I began working with Palms and the Kinoma Player. I found that it was incredibly easy to create, produce, and play whiteboard movies on a Palm that had sound and color (using Kinoma Producer). It's very exciting to me that it is now possible to put several hours of whiteboard movies (with voice) on a tiny and relatively inexpensive SD memory card and play them back on a multimedia Palm (like the Zire 71, 72 or Tungsten series). See the Tutorials section for a demonstration of creating and producing whiteboard movies for the Palm.


NECC 2004

I gave a presentation at NECC 2004 "Creating Whiteboard Movies that Teach and Foster Collaboration" to about 80 people and was greatly encouraged by their response and the questions they asked. A version of that presentation is here (including a movie verson of the presentation).


Beyond NECC 2004

Following NECC in 2004 I have spent an increasing amount of time collaborating with teachers (and other professionals) from around the world who want to learn more about creating whiteboard movies. Several of these (Dr. Linda Fahlberg-Stojanovska of Macedonia, Rev. Graeme MacNeil of Australia, and Julie Dansby and Martha Thornburgh of the US) and many students have their movies linked to from the Whiteboard Movie Stars.


I'm now using and recommending various combinations of hardware and software for whiteboard movie making. See the Tools section below for more information about these.


Now that more and more people are asking how they can create and produce whiteboard movies several of us (Dr. Linda Fahlberg-Stojanovska, Rev. Dr. Graeme MacNeil, and I) are working together to create a more polished and complete whiteboard movie making course. Eventually we'd like to see some college or unipversity offer these courses to teachers for continuing education credit. You can see the beginnings of these under Tutorials.



Dr. Robin Kay of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (a math education professor) is now (November/December 2004) beginning to start a research study on the learning, teaching, and collaborative benefits of whiteboard movies. Please email me (Tim Fahlberg) if you'd like to get involved with this study and I'll put you in contact with Dr. Kay.




Part 3: NCCE and NECC 2005


NCCE 2005 (Seattle - March)

Martha Thornburgh (see Whiteboard Movie Stars below) will be presenting on her work and that of her 5th grade students with whiteboard movies.


NECC 2005 (Philadelphia - June)

Tim Fahlberg presented with Jake Nonis. Jake is a former student of Tim's who now teaches at Newport High School in the Bellevue School District (in Washington State). Jake's work with whiteboard movies has really caught on in the Bellevue SD where the teaching and collaborative possibilities have been quickly understood all the way up to the superintendent of this district.




Part 4: 2005 and 2006

Joined by more and more people from around the world including Dr. Linda Fahlberg-Stojanovska (FYR Macedonia) and Rev. Graeme MacNeil (Queensland, Australia).


Many others started creating mathcasts including Colleen King, Patty O'Flynn, and many other teachers and students (see Mathcasts By Teachers and Mathcasts By Students).  Tim Fahlber's daugher created her first mathcasts when she was about 4 (see Mathcasts By Children).


Whiteboard movies were originally located at www.tbflearn.com and then moved to www.CoolSchoolTools.com.


The collaborative mathcasts.org wiki (powered by MediaWiki) for mathcasts was created in June 2006. It was inspired by Will Richardson's book "Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms". It is now being replaced with this version.  It was abandoned relatively quickly in favor of a JotSpot wiki.




Part 5: 2007


Early this year two sets of teachers in Washington State (USA) won $10,000 Qwest grants to fund projects related to mathcasts.  See Mathcasts By Teachers for more info.


August - October 2007: A team of us, Dr. Linda Fahlberg-Stojanovska, Colleen King, Robert Fant, and Tim Fahlberg applied for a $250,000 Digital Media and Learning (DML) grant funded by the MacArthur Foundation focusing on mathcast spaces.  As part of the grant application Tim created a screencast in which he shared his plan to create a new mathcast library using VoiceThread for 500+ K-7 mathcasts to be created in 30 days by students and educators.  This set of mathcasts is now here and is virtually "complete" ("complete" is quoted because each mathcast/VoiceThread really needs multiple contributors and discussion).  An overview of that project is here.


October: After having major problems with our JotSpot (Google) wiki we moved the mathcasts wiki to a PBwiki here: www.math247.PBwiki.com.




Part 6: 2008


Started recommending Jing or VoiceThread as two great tools to get started with.


NECC 2008 in San Antonio: NECC2008



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