Thursday, July 14, 2011

How to Record Your Own Step-by-Step Algebra Problems

The NROC Algebra 1 course includes many step-by-step worked example problems recorded by Salman Khan of Khan Academy. What do you do if you find yourself in need of an additional or alternate example? This post will help any teacher who wishes to create additional example problems for their students.

Learning Objective(s)

• For the Teacher: Learn how to create and distribute a recording of your own.

Assessment Type
This post is aimed at teachers, not students. It uses the worked examples relevant to NROC's Algebra 1--An Open Course, Unit 6 Topic 1: Solving Systems of Linear Equations by Graphing to show how one can add to the provided worked examples and supplement with examples made by the teacher.

Your finished example will look like the one linked to here:
Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

Or, you can have students follow a link to reach a full size recording:

Assignment Details
The worked examples in “Unit 6 Topic 1: Solving Systems of Linear Equations by Graphing” jump right in with some deep word problems. An example that goes straight to graphing the intersecting equations might help. Let's record that example, showing step by step solving and reviewing graphing. Of course, you can apply the same techniques to any problem you choose.

Set aside a few hours for this so you won’t feel rushed, and then have fun with it. After you’re familiar with the tools, making recordings is fast and relatively easy.

First, make sure you have an internet connected computer equipped with a microphone headset and drawing tablet. I’ve had good luck with using a Logitech USB headset and a Wacom drawing tablet. This will improve your sound quality and allow you to write out your equations neatly as you present. If you cannot get a tablet, I suggest you type out your work on separate PowerPoint slides. If you only have an area or laptop mic, give it a try and see if you find the audio acceptable.

Next you’ll need recording software. Download the free version of Jing if you’re only going to do simple recordings lasting five minutes or less. If you’re looking for something more advanced, Camtasia Studio provides many more editing and presentation options. It costs a bit, but it does have a free trial period and frees you from the pesky 5 minute limit. Both programs have the ability to record a selected area of your computer screen and the audio to go with it. Also, new tools are coming out all the time. It's likely worth it to do a quick Google for new, free screencast software if you don't think these meet your needs.

Now, set up your graphics. Since we’ll be talking about line graphing, I’m going to want a coordinate axis set up in advance. I used screencapture (fn+f11 on my PC) to pull an image of a coordinate axis from one of the tests I use. I also plan to work with three slides, so I’ll paste the image I want into PowerPoint. I plan to have an introduction slide, a working the problem slide, and a summary or “right answer” slide. Since PowerPoint does not have a straight line tool available in presentation mode, when my problem involves graphing I like the neatness of a final answer screen. Now, my graphics are ready to go as Jing will allow me to play the PowerPoint while recording.

Work your problem. Before recording, take a moment to work your problem from beginning to end while taking notes on the problem’s key points. I also recommend talking through your problem aloud while you solve it, as you’ll be less likely to stumble later. Remember, you’ll need to keep things brief to stay under 5 minutes.

Secure the space. Make sure your phone is off, and put a sign on your office door saying, “If I’m talking I’m recording. Please leave me a note, but do not disturb!” You might want to invest in a small dry erase board or some Post-It notes for your door if you’re likely to do this often.

Record! Check your audio at the beginning of each recording session and have your practice notes on hand. Expect to make errors the first time you do it, but try to reach the end of the problem even if you mess up early. This will help you ensure you have your timing right. Keep your voice dynamic! You’ll improve with practice, so keep at it! Check your recording for good sound before publishing.

Publish your recording. Jing provides you with a file that you can save for viewing in your class or upload into a server of your choice. provides free accounts with 2GB storage and works well with Jing for this. Their sharing tutorial is linked to here. Essentially, once you upload to, you will have a URL that you can paste into a website or email to a student.

There you have it! You’ve created a recording that explores additional concepts for your students that they can access at home and any time that they’d like. Perfect!

Instructor Notes
• If you need multiple slides, use Microsoft PowerPoint, or a similar presentation tool. Most will allow you to do markup while presenting. If you just need one screen to markup, Microsoft Paint or any basic image editor will suffice.
• I allow myself one caught error per recording. Any more than that and I believe the recording needs to be redone.
• If you want to capture an image from your screen to use in a slide presentation, on a PC hit the “Fn+F11" hotkey combo or the "print screen” button. This takes a snapshot of your entire screen. You can paste that snapshot into a PowerPoint slide or paint program. You can even use this to grab an image from the NROC presentation or worked examples if you need to further explain an example used there.
• If you want your students to demonstrate that they’ve viewed a recording, assign them to take notes on it and email or upload to you a scan or digital photograph of it.
• If you’re using an online learning management system such as Angel and have published an example recording via a link, the system can track which users have viewed that link. Assuming no two students work together, you can use this to track which students have viewed a recording as well.
• Keep things short, breaking things up into multiple videos as needed. This helps you as well if you’re using the free Jing software. It’s sure frustrating to have made a great recording only to stumble in the last minute.

If you complete a recording and get it to your students, let me know about it here and give yourself an A!

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