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VITAL was first launched in Spring 2003 in Professor Herbert Ginsburg's course on the development of mathematical thinking at Teachers College, Columbia University. Professor Ginsburg has long made use of video as a manipulative during lecture to stimulate discussion and to help his students learn how to recognize and interpret children's mathematical thinking. The VITAL environment is designed to extend this experience beyond the classroom by providing students with ready access to videos of children engaged in various mathematical task and opportunities to practice their observation and clinical interviewing skills.

"Allowing students not only to view, but also to actively manipulate and comment on my video library previous to our classes has transformed my teaching and, I believe, my students' understanding of the course content. Developing the VITAL tool with CCNMTL has helped me to reflect on the educational goals of the course and has resulted in an educational technology that allows me to more effectively teach my subject matter."
-- Herbert P. Ginsburg, Jacob H. Schiff Foundation Professor of Psychology & Education, Teachers College, Columbia University

In June 2004, CCNMTL and Professor Ginsburg were awarded a five-year, $2.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a model course in early childhood mathematics education and disseminate it through VITAL, as part of a national effort to improve the quality of mathematics education offered in grades pre-K through 3. The underlying hypotheses of the project are that VITAL aids in the development of teachers' ability to use direct evidence to support theoretical analysis, and that teachers' ability to ground theory in evidence creates a more solid foundation for pedagogical decision-making. For more information about this project, please visit http://ccnmtl.columbia.edu/vital/nsf/.

The design of VITAL can accommodate a wide range of pedagogical applications beyond the world of mathematics education. VITAL has been adopted by faculty in numerous disciplines in which video is a basic pedagogical medium, and in which developing students' skills of observation and critical thinking are an important part of their preparation for professional practice.