Testing VoiceThread

It is possible that linking YouTube videos is not enough to count as student interaction. One suggestion is to use VoiceThread instead of YouTube. I started tinkering with VoiceThread today. So far, it looks interesting.

I would be happy to separate my YouTube channel from my online courses. That would give me more freedom in selecting video topics. Also, I would be able to monetize the channel without worrying about conflicts of interest.

The downside is that VoiceThread may prevent me from sharing my materials. So, let's test embedding a VoiceThread in an external webpage.

So far, so good.

Digits: A New York Times Number Puzzle

Over at Lifehacker, Beth Skwarecki wrote a nice article introducing the Digits game at the New York Times. Go check it out. The only thing I'll add is that I find it's easier to factor the target numbers at the start of the puzzle. The larger numbers seem to break down nicely.

Screen capture of the Digits game. The target number is 462. The results on the right show my solution and the publisher's solution.
A screen shot of Digits.

To get 462, I factored it as 14 * 33. Combining the numbers to get 14 and 33 is much easier.

As an experiment, I tried to paste the results into the blog. It looks like it worked.

Digits #5 (15/15⭐)

59 (59)   ✖➖➖

133 (133) ➖➖➕✖

218 (218) ✖➖➕

388 (388) ✖➕✖➖

462 (462) ➖➖✖✖

You can play digits at The New York Times website.

YouTube Update - Back to the Drawing Board


Screen capture of YouTube video statistics. Average view duration is 13 seconds.
Video Analytics of Shame

Well, hard work usually pays off, but not in this case. I have been laboring diligently on updating my YouTube content to comply with the new captioning guidelines. I want to make sure that my videos are accessible and inclusive for everyone who wants to watch them.

You can see from the analytics from the first video that I have some work to do to improve retention. The entire internet decided this video is worth about two minutes. Even though I'm not interested in making money from YouTube, low average view duration tells me that people aren't getting what they expect from my videos. 

I decided to investigate why this is happening and I found out that it has a lot to do with the structure of my videos. Since the videos are designed for my online classes, I start the video with specific indicators of where the material fits into the course. Students in the class can get that information from the Blackboard shell. Viewers outside the class don't care.

As an additional point, I like to use the Bing AI feature to draft my blog posts. Without any prompts, the AI generated this list of improvements for my videos. I like the list, so I'm quoting it almost verbatim.

Here are some of the things I'm going to do:

 - Start with a hook: Instead of giving a long introduction, I'm going to start with a hook that grabs the attention of the viewers and makes them curious about the topic. For example, I could start with a question, a fact, a story, a joke, or a challenge.

 - Use shorter segments: Instead of having one long video, I'm going to break it down into shorter segments that focus on one main idea or concept. This way, the viewers can digest the information more easily and stay focused on the topic.

 - Add visuals: Instead of just talking to the camera, I'm going to add some visuals that support and illustrate my points. For example, I could use images, graphs, charts, diagrams, animations, or screenshots.

 - Use captions: Even though I already have captions in two languages, I'm going to use them more effectively. I'm going to make sure that they are clear, accurate, synchronized, and readable. I'm also going to use different colors and fonts to highlight important words or phrases.

 - End with a call to action: Instead of just summarizing what I said in the video, I'm going to end with a call to action that encourages the viewers to take action or learn more about the topic. For example, I could ask them to subscribe, like, comment, share, visit my website, or check out another video.

New Textbook from OpenStax - Contemporary Mathematics

The textbook I've been waiting for has finally arrived! OpenStax released Contemporary Mathematics on March 22, 2023.

(I can't believe I'm this excited about a new math textbook.)

There are not as many good OER materials for Liberal Arts Mathematics classes as there are for other math subjects, so I was excited to see this new book from OpenStax. The book Math in Society by David Lippman has been my first choice for examples. However, It's a little lacking for exercises.

I use OpenStax books for references in my math videos because they are good enough quality and are free to copy, with appropriate attribution. The math selection from OpenStax has been fairly robust, with the algebra and calculus books being the most useful.

I will use it to create videos based on the text for the Fall 2023 semester, and I hope you will join me in exploring the fascinating world of contemporary mathematics. The videos will be on my YouTube channel: Navigating College Math.

You can access the book online or download a PDF version from the OpenStax website. You can also sign up to be notified when print copies are available. You can also find additional resources created by the OpenStax community on OER Commons.

I hope you will give it a try and share your feedback with me and the OpenStax team.