Great classroom tools should connect classrooms in ways they couldn’t before. It can be a journey to find classroom apps that work best for everyone, but when you find just what you’re looking for, that journey is more than worthwhile.
Powerful Enough for Students at Any Age
The Azle Independent School District (ISD) in Azle, Texas has 10 schools and one alternative centre, with 7,000 1:1 iPads for students from K-12. Going 1:1 was just the first step, though. ICT Specialist Amy Tong explains the need for finding a streamlined workflow app:
“Our kids were creating amazing products on their iPads through pictures, movies, and app smashing. There wasn’t a way for students to share these because they couldn’t have email addresses and a lot of these apps weren’t compatible with the LMSs we had.”
One day, a kindergarten teacher introduced Amy to Showbie, recommending it as a workflow app she was finding success with in her classroom. Open to suggestions from teachers, Amy did some research on Showbie before recommending it to the other teachers in her district as a way to collect work from their other apps.
“A kindergarten teacher was using it as a paperless classroom solution. The layout of it was very streamlined and interactivity was very intuitive. We started describing it by saying ‘kindergartners can use it, but it’s powerful enough for students at any age.’”
Though not every teacher immediately adopted Showbie, Amy says its problem-solving abilities spread through the district by word of mouth quickly.
“Kindergartners can use it, but it’s powerful enough for students at any age.”
“I think with anything, when you first spread the word about something, there’s a handful of teachers that try it and start talking about it to other teachers. Someone would complain about a problem and a teacher would say ‘I don’t have that problem anymore because I’m using Showbie.”
The Success of on Demand Edtech Support
“The term instructional tech has been around for a few years,” explains Eddie Alford, the Technology Director for Azle ISD. “It’s a training position that helps teachers use technology. We highly value that, and it’s helped with this rollout specifically.”
The teachers in the Azle district all emphasize the fact that having a technology coordinator like Amy has helped them learn how to optimize their technology. As one of three Instructional Technologists in Azle ISD, roles like Amy’s help lower teacher stress levels by training them and taking care of any tech concerns they might have.
“Having a tech leader has been great. We have teachers who might not have exposure to technology, and for Amy to go in and teach them helps them be more confident. They learn it along with the kids so they know the ins and outs and the little tricks, and that’s been amazing,” explains Jennifer Riley, a grade one teacher at Azle ISD.
“I try to be somewhat on demand for teachers as they need me rather than pull them in to say they need to meet me,” Amy says. “Some teachers say they have a new app they want to integrate, and I’ll help them incorporate it into a traditional lesson and help them create something that couldn’t have existed without the app’s technology.”
“Kids can keep the same Showbie login year after year, and they can carry their portfolio of work with them as they progress through school.”
Rather than trying to get all teachers using Showbie the same way, Azle ISD encourages teachers to use what works for them. This is an approach that many different schools and districts find success with, especially considering the grade differences between elementary and high school classes.
“Teachers shouldn’t be afraid of how much Showbie can do — and they shouldn’t feel like they need to be using everything. Use the features that fulfill your purpose,” explains Jennifer.
The Missing Piece of any Tech Classroom
Apart from its immediate benefits as a means to replace time consuming printer trips and have a place to collect student work, Showbie also provides a way for Azle’s classrooms to save their digital work so they can look back on it for years to come. With apps like Puppet Pals, PicCollage and BookCreator, the need for a place to save their work was important to students at Azle ISD.
“We knew iPads were excellent tools for helping kids create work like iMovies and augmented reality work, but it was frustrating because kids had no way to keep them, and at the end of the year they’d be wiped forever.
With Showbie, we can take that work and keep it in the Portfolio. Work can be showcased, and the ability to do that has allowed teachers to embrace creativity on iPads — they don’t feel like creating that work is pointless.”
The teachers in the Azle district use Showbie’s Portfolio feature often, seeing it as a way to not only showcase student work to parents, but to keep and collect a digital record of student progress as they go through school.
“Kids can keep the same Showbie login year after year, and they can carry their portfolio of work with them as they progress through school. Then when they go into parent meetings to talk about how they’re doing, their portfolio can be used to really assess their development over time.”
“Work can be showcased, and the ability to do that has allowed teachers to embrace creativity on iPads.”
There are other ways Showbie has made Azle’s teachers’ lives easier, such as the ability to give quick feedback from virtually anywhere.
“One thing they were most excited about is how easy it was to give feedback to kids because now they can do it on the fly. Creating, collecting and grading work is a lot easier.”
After four years, Azle ISD has a confident grasp on using technology in their classroom, and as the missing puzzle piece in their app rollout, Showbie’s simplicity makes it easy for any new teacher to pick up.
“Each year you’re going to have new teachers, so there are two main points I pitch Showbie on: first, you won’t have to worry about making copies or worry about paper or a workbook, so you can push out work through this app,” Amy explains. “Second, it’s good for the environment and our budget — which is a good thing overall.”