You rock

I had a student who wrote some notes on their recent exam that expressed frustration and embarrassment over some problems. I haven’t returned the exams yet (it’s a once-a-week class), but I sketched in their exam and left positive notes. I scanned the exam for this student and sent it to them, and let them know that these next chapters will be easier – no holiday getting in the middle of the class, I’m doing video lectures to help students out more, and we’ll work together to iron out tough bits.

The response I got back was “you rock”, so that was nice. 🙂

 

Rachel,
I really appreciate this email and thank you for your positive attachment! That was nice, but I can be really self-deprecating, so that’s where that came from.
I will let you know if I have any questions. I will get to my Discrete Math ASAP today; I’m such a procrastinator:(
You rock.

Video Lectures

A screenshot of a video being rendered

When I was a student, it was aggravating to no end, just knowing that I heard my professor say something in class, but not having it in my notes and not remembering what exactly it was.

I know I’ve dealt with being confused on a math topic and pouring through the book and examples and still not understanding; trying to find YouTube videos on the same topic that wouldn’t confuse me further.

Some teachers would record their entire in-class lecture and post those up online, but these were often over an hour long and difficult to parse; if it were a class session where the teacher was just coding the entire time, it would be hard to figure out what part of the class they said the thing I was looking for!


 

However, done right, video is a great medium for presenting information. For my CS 200 (JCCC) and CS 201R (UMKC) classes I taught in Spring 2016, I spent every weekend writing and recording lecture videos for them to watch as homework – then we’d spend the class period actually coding. This also means that I can reuse these videos – both for any other CS 200 sessions I’m teaching, but also to provide as review videos for classes after CS 200 – such as data structures, if the students need to review some core C++ topics!

More recently, as a result of having a Monday-only three-hour Discrete Math class and Labor Day nuking the class period for the week, I ended up recording a video lecture for the class that should have been that week. And, actually, I recorded video lectures for that entire chapter, to help my students study for the exam the following week. And it was pretty well received.

Part of building lecture videos is boiling down the book’s contents to its important bits; like panning dirt to find gold… or at least some cool pebbles.

An in-class lecture can be boiled down to 10 minutes when you’re building a lecture video by a script, rather than just hitting record and going for it. It also results in cleaner, easier to follow content.

The downside, however, is just that it takes time to do. For a standard lecture, I will…:

  • Go through the book, figuring out the important parts.
  • Write some presentation slides, then export them as separate images.
  • Throw those slides in my video editor (kdenlive).
  • For each slide, record narration (with audacity).
  • Then to work examples of the problems, record myself writing out and solving the problems in a paint program. (This requires GIMP, my Wacom tablet, and OBS) – If it’s a programming class, then Code::Blocks and OBS to record coding through some problems.
  • Putting it all together in the video editor, making sure it flows well.
  • Rendering!
  • Uploading to my server and/or YouTube.

Unfortunately, it can be a lot to ask any random teacher to build something like this. But I have the capability (I guess I’m from the “YouTube Generation” so a lot of us can handle a video editor), and the drive to do so. I feel like creating the video lectures also helps me understand the content even better, so that in class I can give a better lecture and answer questions better.

It also means that, even though it is a lot of work now, it will be less work in the long run.


 

You can view my educational content over at http://edu.moosader.com/

Programming Poems

Was just playing around with words to try to think of ways to get students to remember that they need == when comparing two values.

To compare if two values are equal,
Your equal sign needs a sequel. (==)

 

I posted it on FB, and was given the response “===” so then I wrote:

If you need to check the type and value both,
your equal signs will need another growth?

 

But a friend of mine, Chris M, also wrote a poem:

If checking type is on your minds,
why don’t you use three equal signs?

 

I just thought it was funny and cute. ^_^

 

Feedback during the 3rd week of my C++ class

Dang! It is always nice to get good feedback like this.

This was in one of the mini-essays I assigned in my C++ class (reading about & discussing problem solving techniques), so I wasn’t expecting it!

“Coming into the class I was very nervous. My friend who has taken this course before by other unnamed teacher said it was the worst and that if I didn’t understand this class that I would struggle going forward. Scary right? For me it was. But as I continue to read the content you have written to teach and share with us, I am put to ease. I find myself smiling and laughing at your videos and text, which is something I did not expect coming into the class. So while I am still terrified of falling on my face, I have faith that I will make it. And that is not something that I previously thought.”