My Online Teaching Journey
In the Fall 2012 semester, I’ve begun my online teaching journey, and I’ve done so tepidly. While I enjoy using technology in my teaching, online instruction has been a different animal to me. I originally became a mathematics teacher back in 1992 because I loved the immediacy of the performance. Clayton Dodge notes that ”all good teachers are frustrated actors at heart.” That is certainly true in my case. Hence, the prospect of teaching without a “stage” (in fact, without a performance hall!) challenges my notions of what teaching is. While I no longer feel compelled to be the “sage on the stage” (I am truly content being the “guide on the side” when it comes to student-centered instruction), I’m struggling to find my “voice” as an online teacher. More importantly, I’ve found it difficult to orchestrate the kinds of collaborative projects and problem-solving experiences for my students that became the bread-and-butter of my face-to-face instruction. This has been particularly difficult while teaching mathematics. Although videoconferencing software (e.g., Skype) is useful for facilitating small group class discussion – for instance, one-on-one or one-to-many chats – it is not a satisfactory tool for sharing mathematics work. It is difficult to create and revise mathematics diagrams and symbols collaboratively while conversing with the tools. Until now, this has been a deal-breaker for me in terms of my participation in online courses.
Scoot & Doodle to the Rescue
After talking to several mathematics educators about my concerns regarding videoconferencing, a friend recommended Scoot & Doodle. As their website notes, Scoot & Doodle provides users with “a whole new collaborative experience” within Google Hangout. The application allows up to 9 users to connect, create, and collaboratively edit drawings on a shared virtual whiteboard. Although the promotional material on the Scoot & Doodle website suggests that the intended audience for the application is young children (their blog includes entries such as “Connecting with Grandparents Online”), preservice teachers in my EDT 265 course have found the interface useful when solving challenging mathematics tasks in teams of 3-4.
With the help of Dr. Michael Meagher, a dear friend and colleague from Brooklyn College, I provided the EDT 265 students with a Scoot & Doodle tutorial in as a YouTube video. The video illustrates some basic features of the Scoot & Doodle as well as basics of Google Hangouts.
While Scoot & Doodle isn’t currently available for my iPad, I’m happy to say that the interface works satisfactorially with a mouse and MUCH better with a Wacom stylus. Although the capabilities of the software are somewhat limited (for instance, I really wish I could upload images then annotate them directly within the application, overall the experience is satisfying.
Notable Features of Scoot & Doodle
Admittedly, the Scoot & Doodle tool set is limited. Nevertheless, it provides students with the capability of drawing collaboratively – a feature lacking in all other videoconferencing software I’ve used. The figure below illustrates some features of the software. A large drawing board is provided on the left, with a tool palette placed on the right.
- Eraser – erase portions of drawings or text from your creation.
- Clear – erase the entire screen with a single click. Save – save your creation to the built-in scrapbook for later retrieval / on-line sharing.
- Stamp – drawing tool that provides “die-cut” style templates of circles, hearts, x’s, and o’s.
- Brush – the Scoot & Doodle drawing / paint tool. Users have 5 brush sizes from which to choose.
- Bubble – a handy tool for incorporating text into your drawings without resorting to writing with the brush.
The interface, while certainly simple (and arguably under-developed), provides tools that undergraduates in my course found genuinely useful for discussing challenging, secondary-level mathematics tasks.