Faculty Highlight: Two Math Instructors Adopt Technology to Help Students Remotely

Thursday, June 25, 2020

By Claudia Zequeira

When Leonardo Vasquez, part-time faculty, mathematics, learned he had to switch his face-to-face classes online in March when our campuses closed, he spent a significant amount of time trying to figure out how to deliver content effectively.

One method proved especially helpful, however: physically showing students how do math in real time. To that end, he grabbed his laptop, propped it on a shelf organizer from Ikea, and began using it as a document camera where he would work problems out with a Sharpie marker.

“I tried to replicate with my laptop what a document camera does,” he said. “I used an organizer from Ikea I borrowed from my wife … and I used that to elevate the camera and project it onto my monitor through Zoom.”

Leonardo, who teaches developmental math, intermediate algebra and college algebra, said he learned last spring that teaching online is “totally different” from teaching in person.

One thing that surprised him, he said, was that many students chose not to be on camera during lessons. This, he speculated, was for privacy reasons and the fact many share spaces with relatives and children.

Another surprise for him was learning that although students had scheduled meeting times, many were not physically showing up at that time. When he noticed that, Leonardo began recording his lessons and emailing those recordings to students so that they could watch at their convenience. In addition, Leonardo said he replied to students’ emails as quickly as possible in order to maximize learning.

“When a student has a question, they need an answer right away,” he said. “And waiting a few days to provide it is not very effective.”

This semester, Leonardo is completing his Digital Professor Certification in order to learn more about how best to reach students remotely. He said he highly recommends other faculty members complete the training in order to improve their practice.

“It really opens your eyes to the many things you have to keep in mind when you teach online,” said Leonardo. “What we learned is that we have to create rapport, use different materials, and be clear in deliberate in the instruction.”

Brian Macon, professor, mathematics, similarly sought to find a way to teach effectively when the pandemic changed our way of life.

To reach his students, he began using Zoom for engagement hours and utilized an iPad as a kind of whiteboard and projected the image onto Zoom using AirPlay, a software that allows wireless streaming between devices. He recommends its use to instructors who may teach math, engineering, chemistry, biology or “any subject that uses symbols not found on a keyboard.”

“With a math class, it is so important to write,” said Brian. “And you have symbols that are not easily typed. If I did not have the ability to write for them, I think it would be really difficult.”

In addition to using his iPad, Brian also has a YouTube channel where he houses many of his lessons, which his students can then reference as needed. He also uses OneNote on his iPad as his “digital paper” and then exports class notes as a PDF file that he then shares with students. OneNote is free to all faculty through Office365 that is accessible via Atlas.

Additionally, Brian is hosting more virtual office hours, which are used as tutoring lessons. Hours can be used for one-on-one help, group activities and test reviews.

“Not all students want courses delivered online and prefer face-to-face interaction,” said Brian, who teaches college algebra, statistics and calculus with analytic geometry. “I’m doing more [virtual] office hours and making myself available that way. I schedule them at different times on different days to offer flexibility.”

Brian advised that instructors who find the cost of an iPad prohibitive can consider using a less expensive product, such as a Wacom tablet. He also suggested screencasting software as a teaching tool.

Screencasting allows professors to record everything that happens on their computer screen and save the recording, which then becomes a kind of instructional video that can also be shared. He records his screen while simultaneously narrating and writing notes in OneNote. He also displays a calculator emulator or other helpful web-based resources. Brian said he is partial to Camtasia because of its extensive capabilities, but also recommended free online options such as Screencastify and TechSmith Capture (formerly Jing).

Do you know a faculty member doing great work? Or, perhaps you’d like to share the work you’re doing? Send the colleague’s (or your) name to us at  The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu and include Faculty Highlight Nomination in the subject line of your email. We might just feature your colleague (or you) as an upcoming Faculty Highlight.


  • Sonia Casablanca said:

    Thank you very much for your commitment to serving our students, Leonardo. I do appreciate you!


    PMThu, 25 Jun 2020 18:23:22 +0000Thu, 25 Jun 2020 18:23:22 +0000pm20,6:23 pm

  • Nichole Segarra said:

    Excellent job to both Professor Vasquez and Professor Macon for all that you do to reach our students!

    AMFri, 26 Jun 2020 07:19:28 +0000Fri, 26 Jun 2020 07:19:28 +0000am20,7:19 am

  • Rebecca Toole said:

    Thank you for sharing these best practices! It is wonderful to learn about the exciting work done online.

    AMFri, 26 Jun 2020 08:13:49 +0000Fri, 26 Jun 2020 08:13:49 +0000am20,8:13 am

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