More teachers are taking their lessons online whether it be to YouTube, a blog or Twitter. Some teachers use these sites specifically to provide a place for their own students to find assignments or test prep resources.
But then there are others like Tyler Tarver who take it to a whole ‘nother level.
Tarver is the director of curriculum, instruction, communications, and technology for the Bauxite School District in Bauxite, Ark.
But before that, he was a classroom teacher and a principal. He posted his first video to YouTube while he was teaching high school math nine years ago. Now he still posts math videos even though he works in the district office.
Tarver’s educational videos have more than 10 million views. He runs two channels on YouTube and the website tarveracademy.com, which includes his math videos as well as tutorials for teachers on using technology and career advice. I recently caught up with him to ask about his success.
Below is a lightly edited version of our conversation.
Why did you decide to start doing math videos?
When I was teaching, I taught high school math. I had one class at our ALE (alternative learning environment). Whenever you’re over there you’ve got kids that are at all different levels: Algebra I, Algebra Connections, Algebra A, Algebra B, Algebra II, and geometry. They’re all in the same class, and I only have one period with them. I didn’t want to water it down and everybody just learn Algebra I, so I recorded a bunch of lessons of me teaching geometry. Then my geometry kids would watch those videos. They would work through the book, and I would be more like a facilitator for them. They had the original iPods with the video. Those kids would watch that, pause it, rewind it, and then ask me if something gave them trouble. Then I could teach Algebra I and roll into teach Algebra II. So I was teaching three different maths in one period. It helped me do that. Also, I wanted a resource for my kids in my regular classes, if they missed, or I was going to be absent, I would record a lesson and then they could watch me teach it.
When did you decide to put those videos on YouTube?
It was 2008 or 9, and I had videos where I was trying to be funny on YouTube, like sketch videos. I was in my young 20s, and I thought I was funny. I wasn’t. I was tossing those videos up, and I just thought it might be easier for my kids to find these and maybe it will help some other kids. So I tossed a bunch of them up on YouTube. I have every lesson of geometry for the first eight chapters of like 60 videos. People will email me and say that they’re going through geometry with my lessons, so they use it for their classes or teachers give it to them for flipped classrooms. (They) let me deliver the lesson as they come in and help the kids with the problems they have.
The video above has 1.25 million views. You have a handful of geometry videos that have a quarter of a million views and several that range from 20,000 to 100,000 views. Were you surprised by how popular your videos became?
Yeah, I didn’t plan on it. I was just doing it for my classes, and now I’m getting comments and views from all over the world. It’s really just them being able to choose who their teacher is. In the past, it was always my math teacher has to be whoever this principal interviewed and hired, and that’s who I have to learn from, and I hope they deliver it in a way that I get it. Now kids can choose their own adventure. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of teachers on YouTube.
What do the students who watch say about your videos?
Either they talk about how they learned more in five minutes than they did in two days. It’s really not because I’m a better teacher. It’s just maybe they needed to hear it from someone else. Or, they’ll bash their teacher, which is never encouraged. Or, they’ll make fun of my accent. (Tarver works in a rual district and has a bit of a Southern drawl.)
Now that Tarver is an administrator he encourages teachers in his district to use videos to help their kids even if those videos aren’t shared publicly. And he still finds time to make his own videos for YouTube. How do you manage to do that?
A lot of staying up late. After school, I record math videos. I’m trying to finish up every lesson for Algebra I and Algebra II. I also do a bell ringer every morning. Used to, we’d put a bell ringer up on the overhead, kids worked it on paper, and sometimes they passed it to the front. Sometimes you just discussed it.Now I make bell-ringer videos. They’re four minutes long. Teachers, I encourage them to send it to Google Classroom as soon as class starts. Kids work that problem on their own. You can take roll and get everything ready.
So are you looking to be the next Sal Khan?
Absolutely, I’d love to. Everything I do is outside of work hours, so it’s a lot slower-moving than I want. My ultimate goal is to build up so that people can go through and learn any type of math or tech things that they want to learn. If Bill Gates wanted to give me a couple of million like he gave Khan Academy, that’d be great, and I could do it a lot faster. Khan Academy’s website is phenomenal. The videos are boring. My goal is to start with the videos and make them fun and engaging. That’s why I throw in jokes and try to keep it animated. I want to use those videos to help as many kids as I can. I’d love to eventually expand that into other subject areas and grow it to where it is essentially a free, online academy for anybody to go in and learn anything they want.
Photo: Tarver poses for a photograph in front of a white board. (Photo reprinted with permission of salinecountylifestyles.com)
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.