It has been my experience that although students may know how to solve a series of directed problems in mathematics given a formula or strategy, they have a difficult time taking that knowledge and applying it in a realistic situation. The Jasper Series attempts to move students beyond the basic component skills regularly taught in the classroom, to the higher level problem solving and generative thinking. In other words, students must learn to identify and define issues and problems on their own rather than simply respond to problems that others have posed for them (CTGV, 1992). The video series provide stories with embedded information needed to solve the problem the story poses. The information is often given within the dialogue, rather than explicitly with demonstrations, although this is also evident. This requires the students to analyze which information is important for them to use to solve the problem.
One of the positive aspects of this model is that the videos can be accessed by anyone, and most students will be able to glean information from the story, allowing all students to participate in the activity. There are many entry points for students at varying academic levels. Where some students are quite capable of thinking about Bernoulli’s principle and weight payload of the ultra-light, other students could easily measure the distance on a map. The beauty also lies in the affordance of the students to use their own strategies to come up with a solution, not an answer. There could be many solutions to the problem which takes away the notion of right and wrong, which allows students to take risks with their learning. Unlike other videos such as Khan Academy which are much more didactic in tone, telling the students what they need to know, rather than letting them discover it for themselves.
Although the Jasper videos are somewhat dated, the problems and solutions are still very relevant today. One thing that I thought might be interesting for older students to demonstrate their mathematics knowledge would be for them to create similar video scenarios, either for their peers or for younger students, following a similar format, and posing a challenge at the end. A project for the future perhaps.
Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt. (1992). The Jasper experiment: An exploration of issues in learning and instructional design. Educational Technology, Research and Development, 40(1), 65-80.
Shyu, H.Y.C. (2000). Using video-based anchored instruction to enhance learning: Taiwan’s experience. British Journal of Educational Technology, 31(1), 57-69.