Jin-Soo Huh (DC ‘09) is an ed-tech evangelist. During his three years teaching 6th-grade math in Prince George’s County, Maryland, he led the charge to integrate iPads into classroom instruction. He pulled colleague after colleague into using Edmodo, shaped new tools for his school to run faster on Google Apps, and built relationships with emerging ed-tech startups.
He is now an Instructional Technology Specialist and 9th-grade Math Teacher at John McDonogh High School, part of the Future Is Now charter network, in New Orleans, LA. I recently spoke with Jin-Soo as his first school year as an ed-tech leader in NOLA was getting underway.
What is one ed tech tool can you not live without?
If you’re in a 1:1 program with iPads, tablets, or laptops, I feel that Edmodo is so valuable for teachers. And it’s cool for students because it’s like Facebook for schools.
For teachers who are wary of technology, it doesn’t change the delivery of a lesson, because you can still put a quiz online or an exit ticket or upload worksheets as pdfs.
But for those teachers, it immediately show the benfits of technology when they realize, “So wait, I don’t need to grade all these things?” It also lets students share instant feedback and has personal learning network tools for teachers built right into the platform. It’s a “gateway program” that lets teachers move to truly transformational teaching using technology.
What is a significant instructional breakthrough or student achievement gain that an ed tech tool has helped you achieve?
It’s definitely been Socrative. The ability to deliver good checks for understanding is a skill that teachers try to master for years and years and years. Trying to figure out the pulse of a classroom and stragegically poll the room or call out students to see if they know what you’ve taught, using accoutability sticks–there are so many techniques teachers have tried.
But with Socrative, you can instantly see exactly who gets it and who doesn’t get it and how well they got it. That changed my teaching. I saw a noticable increase in mastered objectives immediately because my CFUs weren’t necessarily weak, but they were not perfect. Before Socrative, I wasn’t able to go around and get every single student to respond. With it, I could adjust course immediately. You’re able to see exactly what level of understanding students have.
You’ve been given free reign at your school to design a technology-enable curriculum. Where did you begin?
I have been given “free reign,” but one constraint is the device. We’re becoming an iPad school, and I’m happy with that because that’s what my background is in.
Right now, it’s about figuring out where the teachers are. Some are scared using email. There are others who were born with a computer and play with computers and know lots of tricks. We have a diverse group of teachers in terms of technological ability. When we know where the teachers are with technology, we can decide how we can integrate it into their teaching. But before that, we have to get buy-in from teachers, and that’s something we’re still working on, because a lot of teachers aren’t necessarily choosing for the technology to happen to them. So it’s a lot of talking about why its so important to know technology and to be competent in technology.
Another part of this new beginning it has been talking to other people in ed tech and asking, “What do you use?” It’s also been a lot of talking to companies and saying, “Show us your product.”
What is an example of a tech tool that you’ve reached out to a company for and that you’re going to use at your school?
EverFi is a free product that we’re going to use to teach financial literacy. Our school is focused on two ideas this year: technology and entreprenuership. EverFi has lessons on financial planning and how to use a credit card. I worked with our business teacher here to get a demo from the company and we went for it.
I’d actually forgotten what it’s like to be in a school where teachers don’t know what tools are out there. Last year, my school had 1:1 iPads for all students, and by the end of the year, even those teachers who were scared of technology–they all knew what Edmodo and Socrative were. It’s fun to now be in a place where teachers are eager to find new tools and are then stunned to find out that these products are already out there, and can make our lives easier.
How are you using these tools in your math classes?
We’re doing a lot of project-based learning this year. As much as possible, we want the kids to demonstrate their skills on projects as summatives assessments and to learn new material through the course of projects.
I think the iPad really facilitates that. First, the Internet is right there. But I think the thing that really separates the iPad from other devices like a laptop is the portability and the camera. It makes it so easy to document things.
I also think they’re great for students to publish and share their work instantly through photo collages, ShowMe videos, or iBook Author books. In math class, it’s no longer solving a problem and sharing it with the class. A teacher can post your video to a blog and some other students around the world can watch that video to see what they think about it. That drives students to do better because it’s no longer just the teacher looking at it or even just their peers, but it’s the world community that could look at it. Will it be the bext viral hit? Probably not. But that’s a “cool” factor.
Most of the marketing around the iPad presents it as an entertainment device for books, videos, music, and Angry Birds. What we’re going to to work hard on with teachers and students is to show them that it’s not just an entertainment device. It’s something you can use in the classroom to enhance learning.
What kind of tool do you wish someone else would build?
I think the holy grail that everyone is still looking for is the integrated dashboard. Especially now, with so many startups, it would be amazing if there was one program that could pull data from every program I’m using and put it in one place. This would allow teachers to use whatever program they want.