Since we’re talking this month about creating and iterating and experimenting, I thought I’d share some stories out of my own work, starting with what is easily my most successful adventure – Dead Bunny Guides.
Several years ago, I was tutoring a lot of high school students struggling with integrated math (or with the transition back into the separate math threads), and middle school students struggling with the radical change in how math class was presented to them. They were frustrated by not being able to understand what was going on in class, and I was frustrated by what was going on in the curricula these kids were facing.
Being an experienced blogger, I decided to launch one dedicated to explaining math, which I called Dead Bunny Educational after an incident with a writing student I was tutoring at the time. I planned out a series of posts and started writing them. Most of them were fairly easy at first, and the blog was gaining attention from adult learners who had gone back to school as part of a career change. I had hoped to eventually expand the blog into a book.
But the skills became harder to cover in textual explanations, and I started realizing that skills I was trying to explain required students to be comfortable using other skills. It derailed my work for a while as I tried to decide what was missing and how best to address everything and put it all back together. I finally just sat down and wrote out on index cards every single pre-algebra and algebra skill (plus a few geometry skills) I could think of. On each card, I wrote the skill in math symbols, and the skills a student would need to be comfortable with before attempting the skill.
I ended up with 73 cards, and I spread them out across my tiny room. Then, I used those prerequisite skill lists to try to pull the skills into some sort of order that made sense. But I realized I had all of these skills that needed to be conveyed in some way, that weren’t being well served by a blog. About that time, I happened across Beyond Bullet Points, and got quite the crash course in creating presentations. (I didn’t have a whole lot of Power Point experience at the time.)
So I got ambitious and decided I wanted to figure out how to make videos to teach the skills, and Dead Bunny’s Guide to Algebra was born. It took me forever to get the hang out writing a script that could be turned into a storyboard, and then creating the storyboard. I borrowed file management ideas from game writing books I was reading at the time to keep up with everything. I was learning audio editing software and movie maker software. Using the book as a guide, I taught myself how to create slide shows, narrate them, and then put everything together.
It was slow at first. In the first four years I was working on the videos, I made a total of fifteen videos. If you look at Dead Bunny’s YouTube channel, you’ll notice there are right around 85 videos. In the last two years I was working on the series, I made seventy videos (it does help to get a production routine down), migrated the videos from my channel to their own channel, named Dead Bunny Guides because not all of the skills covered are algebra-specific, got accepted into YouTubeEDU, and learned how to create metadata, a link structure, and playlists for the skills. I’ve even figured out how to add captions. (It’s easier now than it was two years ago.)
So, that’s Personal Project #1. When I finished the last video, I told myself I might think about going back and adding in more geometry and Algebra 2 lessons, but for now, the series is complete.