iTeachers Engaging Students One App at a Time

By: Lisa Casas

Mandatory training. That one word beginning with an M and ending in a Y leaves many teachers asking “Why?” The journey through the district’s iPad training, aka iTeach, may have begun with “what more can I fit in my day” but it’s definitely ending with a “give me more” attitude.

Watching the enthusiasm level go from lukewarm to downright enthused has been as energizing to the technology coaches as it is to the students who benefit from their teachers integrating technology.

Who knew that seven little apps in five little weeks could help bump up the level of teaching, the degree of student engagement, and the rigor offered in classes through the district? The thing that has struck me most is the creative ways teachers are using what they’ve learned in authentic lessons that increase student learning.

So what are these incredible iTeachers doing? Here is a small sampling of what is happening throughout the district.

iTeachers engaging studentsKerri Mack, librarian at Health Careers, found an innovative way to use Plickers to help 9th graders learn about the various databases. “The immediate feedback was awesome!” she commented. “I could see what points or topics I needed to cover again. I knew where the students needed more support. I think the students enjoyed using the cards. It encourages the shy students to participate too.”

An activity shy students may not enjoy participating in is the Socratic Seminar. It’s an activity that allows students to speak up with outgoing (talkative) learners loving them while the quiet student will often fade into the background of the circle. Terria Longoria, English teacher at Jay, found a way to enable all students equal access to asking and answering questions. She created a Silent Socratic Seminar on a Padlet, posing a series of questions for her students. They chose three questions to answer and then three peers to respond to.

The result? “It went great! I shared the lesson with everyone who would listen because this was a huge success in our classroom and led to some amazingly insightful answers. iTeach made this lesson possible!”

Robert Jaklich, O’Connor Biology Teacher and Basketball Coach, said of iTeach, “It has definitely been a seamless transition into my every day curriculum and life, both as a teacher and a coach.” Using Plickers for assessment has allowed me, “to quickly see what TEKS I need to go over again, either as a class or per individual student. It’s aided in both lesson planning purposes, as well as individual tutoring assessments.”

Jaklich can’t sing the praises of Explain Everything enough. It’s been a real game changer for him. He’s used it in Biology so students may re-watch lessons or labs at their leisure, but his innovation comes in using it for the development of his basketball players. “I have been able to record our players shooting a basketball, and performing drills, and play it back to them while illustrating the finer aspects we are trying to enhance and improve upon. Being able to see themselves in action, along with the illustrations and explanations on it, has shown a remarkable improvement across all aspects of the individual and team development.”

iTeachers engaging studentsPatricia Jasso, English Teacher at Health Careers, used Nearpod to teach essential information about the historical context of The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. “My favorite tool is the ability to add open-ended questions pushing the students to think about the topic at hand and write critically. Another clear benefit of this app is the guarantee of 100% participation.”

Jasso’s innovative use of Nearpod was adding an evaluation at the end where students could reflect on their learning and on the app used in the lesson. She took reflection to a whole new level and received some valuable feedback on her Nearpod activity.

The iTeach journey continues to spread across the district as teachers use the apps they’ve learned and see the impact on student learning. These iTeachers are showing that technology integration can bump up the level of rigor and increase student engagement all while adding an element of fun.