Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Videotext Interactive Algebra (Schoolhouse Review)

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 VideoText Interactive is an upper-level math program that uses “interactive, video-based strategies” to teach Algebra and Geometry. Until recently, VideoText Interactive included a set of DVD’s and a variety of books (Student WorkText, Solution Manual, Quiz and Test Book and Course Notes.  This version is still available, but there is now also an online version that is significantly less expensive. The online version may be used for two students and is accessible for three years per student.
 

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Algebra: A Complete Course, includes the content of pre-algebra, algebra, and algebra 2. For older or more motivated students, the course may be completed in one year. Taking 2 or even 3 years for the course is also a reasonable pace, especially for younger students. The author’s rationale for including all algebra in one course is that, typically, Algebra 2 includes a significant amount of review of Algebra 1 concepts, then each concept is studied more deeply. This course covers each concept fully to the mastery level, eliminating the time typically lost by taking a year off to study geometry, then re-learning algebra again.

 

Also available is Geometry: A Complete Course, which covers geometry, trigonometry, and pre-calculus.

The steps in the VideoText process are:

  1. To “experience and own the concept” by watching and interacting with the teaching video.
  2. To verbalize the concept by teaching it using the Course Notes.
  3. To demonstrate understanding by working problems from the WorkText.
  4. To assess mastery of the concept through Quizzes and Tests.

The goal of Videotext that is quite different from most other programs, including those using video instruction, is that the most significant learning and mastery comes during the video segment, which includes computer animations and graphics to explain the concepts. Although most daily videos are 5-10 minutes long, the lessons should take 10-20 minutes because the student is expected to pause the video to ask or answer questions. At first, the parent needs to be watching along with the student  to pause the video frequently, to ask questions, and discuss each point. Eventually, the student should be able to do this independently, while still interacting with the video lesson.

The written assignment that follows should be for additional practice of the concept that the student has already learned while interacting with the video. It is suggested that only the odd problems be completed, leaving the even problems for additional practice if needed. The student is expected to correct any errors made using the solution guide and to be able to explain his or her mistakes.

Generally, a lesson is completed one day, and a quiz on the same concept follows the next day in order to ensure that the concepts have been actually mastered and are in long-term memory. Depending on the speed the student takes through the course, he may then continue on to the next lesson on the second day or may complete it on a third day.

Thoughts and Observations:

  • VideoText Algebra has a scope and sequence that differs from traditional algebra courses. Because of this, 5 of the 6 modules must be completed in order to cover all the concepts in a traditional Algebra course. Because of this, even though it covers 2 years worth of algebra, a student can’t be half-way through and drop out to move to another curriculum for geometry or algebra 2 (or to enter public school with an algebra credit).
  • Module A (Unit 1) covers pre-algebra skills. A lot of skills are covered in this unit. It was pretty much a review for Emily except for some vocabulary, so that was perfect for us. If your student isn’t already confident in concepts such as fractions, decimals, and integers or needs a lot of practice to master new concepts, you may want to do a pre-algebra course first.
  • I was concerned about the “everything on the computer” concept, but it has worked out pretty well. If we were using the original program, we could have watched the DVD on the TV instead of the computer, which would have been preferable. Then we would have done a lot of switching between the different books each day—worktext, solutions manual, and course notes. With the online version, when we finished one component, we just had to click on the next link, which would take us to the next step. All components except the videos are downloadable in PDF form so they could be printed and bound if desired. I printed the quizzes, but Emily was happy enough to copy the daily worktext problems in her notebook from the computer screen.
  • I did find it a bit awkward to switch between student log-in and teacher log-in to  access the quizzes each day. I solved this problem by printing the quizzes ahead of time from my account, then downloading the pdf files for the course book and solution guide onto my computer. Then I could easily pull up the pages I needed to check work while Emily was still logged in to her account.
  • We found the video volume much too soft. It was barely loud enough on maximum volume. This was our experience on two different computers.
  • If you, the parent, are not comfortable teaching higher math, VideoText Online is a great option. The video lessons are not long enough to be tedious. They offer clear explanations, and topics are covered in a comprehensive, sequential manner. And you can watch along with the video and learn too!
  • Emily really enjoyed the video instruction. She said that the concepts were explained exceptionally well and that she learned new ways of understanding and approaching concepts that she had previously learned.
  • The parent will still need to check work, although the student is supposed to study the solutions and figure out how to fix his mistakes independently.
  • This is probably not a great option if your student has already completed another algebra 1 course, since he would need to go back to the beginning of the course to pick up the algebra 2 concepts that are in each unit. Alternatively, if your student has completed algebra 1, but is still weak, quickly working through the early modules might be a good review.

Algebra: A Complete Course (online version), including licensing for 2 students costs $299 (a $230 savings over the classic version). It is age-appropriate for any student who is ready to start pre-algebra, typically 7th or 8th grades and up. It’s a great option for independent learning or for parents who are not comfortable teaching upper level math without assistance.

 
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I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.

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