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My interest in using the iPad centered on finding ways to help my calculus students, especially those who needed assistance with pre-calculus concepts (generally centering on skills from algebra or dealing with functions), to understand the course material. While students are encouraged to ask me questions during class or labs, there are many moments while we are discussing their question or dealing with new material that the following simple notion occurs to me: “they keep getting stuck on this calculation” or “if only they could understand this one thing, the rest of it would make so much more sense.”

While I always entertain questions at the beginning of every class period on homework, prior to an exam, I ask students for written questions about whatever was confusing to them. This way they have to take the time to think about where they are confused and to communicate that to me in a coherent way. In a class where students may be more comfortable submitting these questions anonymously, I feel I get a good idea of where the students need help. I would then answer the questions and consider the task completed. While helpful, it may not have staying power with the students.

So discussing these concerns with my iPad colleagues, Claire Morrissey suggested I look at Educreations, a site which provides the basic mechanics of creating simple instructional videos. So, I kept a running list of the things that continued to confuse students — small topics for which I could make small videos using only a stylus in a short period of time.

I therefore began to make a series of short videos on a variety of topics, and even offered to make a video on any topic the students wanted. Some of the students responded and I made those videos. In the last month or so, these videos were made:

Secants vs Tangents
Roots – Finding by Factoring
Derivative Part 2 – The Power Rule
Derivative Part 1
How Near is Near?
Line Them Up!
Embrace Your Inner ( ) Parentheses
Is it a Stretch?
Do I shift right or do I shift left?
Getting positive about negative exponents
Even or Odd?

Students are able to access them whenever they want, and view them over and over if they wish. The program is simple, and relatively easy to use. I used it in its most basic form, simply drawing and recording. Unfortunately, while errors can be “erased” one cannot go back into the program and edit it. One can cut and paste diagrams into the video but I decided to make them as simple as possible, and not involve too much “technology” so that the videos do not intimidate.

The videos are part of my account on the Educreations website. If I designate the videos to be public, they can be viewed by anyone with an Educreations account and I can post them anywhere. Currently, I put the links to the videos on my course website, where students can easily access them. The first ten videos had 100 viewings!