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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 11/10/2009

How can sick students catch up on schoolwork?

By Valerie Strauss

Here’s how Math Department Chairman Steve Katz is helping kids at Bethesda’s Westland Middle School keep up with their schoolwork when they are ill or simply need a refresher: He is “capturing” key parts of his lessons on video and posting the segments on a website available 24/7.

In fact, all of the teachers in the school’s math department have posted at least one video, which are created not with a video camera but with the use of an interactive white board. Kids at Westland are responding; over 100 students viewed the website over one weekend alone.

“They come all the time, but especially before quizzes and tests,” Katz said. “Some of them prefer to do this than study their class notes.”

It is especially useful, he said, during the current swine flu outbreak, when "we have kids missing weeks and weeks of school."

"Instead of saying they have no idea what they missed, they can have some concept of what we are doing in class," Katz said.

The videos, which are also being made by teachers at a number of other schools in the greater Washington region, are intended to help kids--and parents-- review those parts of a lesson that a teacher wants to reinforce.

Katz started experimenting with this last spring, and kids in high school Geometry this year are calling him and asking him to repost videos he had done for them in Algebra so they can brush up on basics.

Some of the teacher math videos at Westland are more successful than others; 8th grader Emily Gordon said she looked at one that was “confusing” but she thinks other videos could be very helpful.

Katz said that he makes his videos after the class, keeping each to only a few minutes long. and sometimes uses videos that support his lesson that are on YouTube and made by other teachers around the country. He doesn't think it is necessary to capture an entire class.

“When they are sick, or after sitting for eight hours in school, kids really just want to watch the good parts,” he said.

The technique of preserving instruction was pioneered in the area by veteran teacher Marv Mostow, who taught at George Mason High School in Montgomery County and who started making videos for less advantaged students years ago.

The task became easier when school systems began buying Promethean and Smart boards, which can make a sound recording when teachers using them.

Mostow said he contacted Katz and, through a non-profit organization that someone set up for his work, helped the Westland math department create the website. He has set up other websites for teachers in other schools, too.

“The interactive boards and the web sites are kind of like the brushes and easels and the teacher are education artists that use these tools,” he said. “...Education is full of ‘showy things’ that just look good. Steve and the teachers I am working with are not about show. They are working hard to help their students and using this tool for the help.”

Do you think this would be helpful to you and your kids? Have any of your children’s teachers come up with ways to help kids stay on track with their schoolwork?

By Valerie Strauss  | November 10, 2009; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  Montgomery County Public Schools  | Tags:  Promethean boards, capturing instruction  
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Your column is almost anachronistic by now. Even my students have been creating podcasts and using blogs for years, so the fact that one teacher is now using a school website or site he designed is maybe nine or ten years after the curve.

Posted by: ericpollock | November 10, 2009 8:56 PM | Report abuse

Providing videos of a school lesson is an easy and convenient way to help students with subjects like math. Online videos also help parents as they work with their children during homework time. A recent Harris Poll Quorum survey reveals that more than six out of 10 adults do not feel comfortable helping a teenager with “advanced math” homework.

There are many useful online math resources that students and parents can use for academic assistance. is one example. is available for on-the-spot math guidance during homework time at home. The educator-created site delivers approximately 2,000 instructor-led videos, and it also includes practice problems and quizzes that are organized into lessons. These 750 lessons cover pre-algebra, algebra, geometry and address the math concepts on the SAT/ACT.

-Nick Kouwenhoven, Sylvan Learning

Posted by: JHoltz | November 12, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

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