classroom instruction: Video on demand boosts students’ math scores

Short video clips that reinforce key concepts are effective in increasing student achievement, according to a second research project. An earlier study found that video can improve learning in science and social studies. Now, brand-new research shows that judiciously selected video clips also can produce statistically significant gains in algebra and geometry scores.

The new study, conducted by independent research firm Cometrika and headed by Franklin J. Boster, a distinguished-faculty-award winner at Michigan State University, was released June 21 during the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) in New Orleans.

Approximately 2,500 sixth and eighth grade students from four Los Angeles middle schools participated in the study. Each student was given a pre-test to assess comprehension of specific California state education standards for math, and at the end of the quarter, post-test assessments were given to gauge improvement. Throughout the quarter, teachers assigned to experimental-group classes incorporated approximately 20 standards-based, core-concept video clips into their daily lessons, while teachers in control group classrooms continued with their traditional lessons.

Boster and his team found that sixth-grade students whose teachers showed them video clips during instruction improved an average of five percentage points more than students in the control group during post-testing. Eighth-grade students in Los Angeles improved an average of three percentage points more than students in the control group.

The clips came from the unitedstreaming video-on-demand (VOD) service provided by United Learning, a division of Discovery Education, whose parent company produces the Discovery Channel.

These latest results come as educators are looking for ways to help students meet the rigorous testing requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). To help more schools experience the same kinds of gains, Discovery Education has announced it will offer its unitedstreaming service at no cost to one school in every non-subscribing public school district in the United States during the 2004-2005 school year. School districts already subscribing to the service are not eligible for the introductory program.

According to the company, the service provides access to more than 2,200 full-length videos and 22,000 video clips correlated with individual state standards.

Educators in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) had an inkling of what the study’s outcome might be even before the results were official. Jill Longman, a sixth-grade teacher at LAUSD’s Olive Vista Middle School in Sylmar, Calif., said she knew the videos were working by the way her students had responded to them.

“We were feeling the positive effects long before the results came in,” said Longman. “The [students] were telling us it was working.”

In January, the research team approached officials at LAUSD, the nation’s second-largest urban school system (behind New York City), with a proposition: Open your doors to a group of independent researchers for five months, and if you like what you see, Discovery Education will give participating schools free access to its content for one full year.

Aware of favorable results involving science and social studies in a similar study conducted across three rural Virginia school districts in 2002 (see “Virginia schools boost student achievement with video on demand,”, LAUSD officials signed on.

In an interview with eSchool News, Discovery Education Vice President Jim McColl branded the project a success and said the combination of the two studies is proof that unitedstreaming can be deployed effectively by educators at almost any grade level, across a wide range of disciplines, regardless of rural or urban locales. The company’s program currently is used in approximately 26,000 schools from coast to coast.

In the classroom, educators saw results quickly. At Olive Vista, where two-thirds of the student population speaks English as a second language, Longman used the power of video to highlight mathematical concepts where words sometimes failed.

“Visuals are helpful when language is a barrier, especially for math,” she said.

Educators at Olive Vista are now planning how to deploy the technology in the upcoming school year. Besides using the application in the classroom, Principal Jean Whitaker said, the school also will offer access to unitedstreaming from a private area in the school library, where students who were absent on a given day can watch the videos to review any concepts they might have missed in class.

“To see the look on a child’s face when they connect with a concept and share in their joy when they truly understand the subject matter is a wonderfully gratifying experience for all of our teachers,” said Whitaker of the technology.

Discovery Education

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