Enhancing Your Math Teaching using Moodle 1.9: Part 1

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There are many topics to explore in this article, so let’s make a start with mathematical PowerPoint presentations.

PowerPoint and Mathematics

We have already seen how we can use the Microsoft Equation Editor to include mathematics notation in Microsoft Word documents (we copied them from the document into our Moodle course). Microsoft PowerPoint also includes the Equation Editor, and we can use this facility to create some quite elegant online explanations of difficult mathematical ideas. Here is a quick recap (using Microsoft PowerPoint instead of Microsoft Word):

  1. Click the slide to which you want to add an equation.

  2. On the Insert menu, click Object.

  3. In the Object type list, click Microsoft Equation 3.0 (if Microsoft Equation 3.0 is not listed, then you will need to install it. See http://support.microsoft.com/kb/228569).

  4. In the Equation Editor, use the buttons and menus to type your equation.

  5. To return to Microsoft PowerPoint, on the File menu in Equation Editor, click Exit.

The equation will now be included on your slide.

Add a special Equation Editor button to any Microsoft Office application toolbar. For example in Office 2003, in the View menu, point to Toolbars, and then click Customize. Click the Commands tab, and in the Categories list, click Insert. In the Commands box, click Equation Editor, and then drag it from the Commands box to a gray area within any toolbar. Then click Close. Click on the new toolbar button to install and display the Equation Editor.

Quickly crafting a Pythagorean PowerPoint

I’m guessing you’re going to be fairly familiar with PowerPoint, so let’s make a start by creating a basic presentation, showing our students how they can transpose/rearrange an equation. I’m going to be showing my students how they can find the missing length in a right-angled triangle. Note that I’m an Office 2003 user running Windows Vista. If you aren’t using the same version of Office or the same operating system as me, then as you follow my examples your screen might look different from mine:

  1. The first step is to create a new presentation. For the first page of this presentation, I’ve added a new slide and used the Title, Text, and Content layout:

  2. Moodle 1.9 Math
  3. I’ve searched for a Creative Commons image of a ladder on Flickr and drawn a schematic using Microsoft PowerPoint’s built-in drawing tools. Here is the completed slide:

  4. Moodle 1.9 Math

  5. In the next slides, let’s demonstrate how we can turn the ladder problem into a Pythagorean Theorem/algebra problem (without being too scary about the algebra). Let’s animate the slide to allow the students to recall the theorem:

  6. Moodle 1.9 Math

  7. Now, allow the students to check if they got it right. Right-click on an object and select Custom Animation… to make the presentation a little more interactive:

  8. Moodle 1.9 Math

  9. Now I’ve recalled the Pythagorean Theorem, which I need to relate back to the ladder problem. Again, I’ve used animations to make the slide interactive:

  10. Moodle 1.9 Math
  11. I’m going to complete the presentation by giving my students a little guidance on algebraic transposition and then that’s it—I’m done!

Moodle 1.9 Math

I hope you’ll agree that with some simple custom animations we’ve made this PowerPoint far more engaging and entertaining than it would otherwise be.

Want to avoid creating a truly boring PowerPoint presentation? Navigate your browser to http://www.youtube.com and search for Don McMillan’s video on how NOT to use PowerPoint!

Uploading to Moodle

I could simply upload the PowerPoint as is to my course files area, but I’m a bit worried that without my describing what’s going on in the presentation, it isn’t going to make a lot of sense to my students. To overcome this problem, I’m going to record an audio commentary.

You can insert sound directly into your slides either from the main menu (Insert) or via the Insert tab in Microsoft PowerPoint 2007’s ribbon.

Providing an audio commentary

The presentation I crafted in the previous section is fine on its own, and I do use something similar as part of my face-to-face teaching. But I want my students to be able to study this example in their own time and, to that end, I would like to enhance it with an audio commentary. There are three basic ways I can achieve this (aside from inserting audio into each slide). Each has its own advantages and disadvantages:

  • Record a separate audio track and allow the students to listen to the audio following the presentation at their own pace—almost like a read-along story
  • Upload the presentation to SlideShare and use SlideShare’s built-in audio recording tools to narrate the PowerPoint
  • Record a screencast. Either upload it directly to our Moodle course or to a content sharing website (that is, YouTube or TeacherTube)

In the following sections we’ll investigate each option in turn.

Recording a separate narration—using Audacity to narrate a slideshow

A great way to record a narration is by using Audacity. Audacity is an extremely popular, free recording and audio editing tool. Download the latest version from http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/.

Once you have Audacity installed, it is very easy to use. Let’s record a narration:

  1. The first task, before we begin recording, is to write a script. There’s nothing worse than listening to a badly prepared or rambling presentation, so let’s make sure it’s tightly scripted:

  2. Moodle 1.9 Math
  3. When you are ready to begin recording your commentary, press Audacity’s “record” button:

  4. Moodle 1.9 Math

  5. When you are finished recording, press the “stop” button. Don’t worry about making mistakes or there being pregnant pauses because we can easily edit these out in the next step. When you have finished, the recording is displayed:

  6. Moodle 1.9 Math

  7. Audacity is loaded with many great audio editing features, so by way of an example, I’m going to pick just one: Fade Out. Use the selection tool to select the final segment of your recording:

  8. Moodle 1.9 Math

  9. From the main menu, select Effect | Fade Out. Try experimenting with some of the other audio options that are available:

  10. Moodle 1.9 Math

  11. When you are happy with your recording, you’ll need to save it. From the main menu, select File | Export as MP3….

  12. Choose a suitable filename and location and click on the Save button.

  13. Complete the ID3 Tag dialog:

  14. Moodle 1.9 Math

  15. Hit the OK button and Audacity creates your new MP3 file. That’s it. We’re done!

Recording a narration—recap

When my PowerPoint is included in my Moodle course, it will be viewed by students who won’t have the benefit (or curse) of my commentary when I am giving my face-to-face teaching. It would be great if we could also include an audio commentary so that students can follow the presentation in their own time, at their own pace. To that end we’ve just used the free audio recording and editing tool, Audacity, to create an audio commentary for our PowerPoint presentation.

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