Ditch the binders, be more present, and utilize a student data organization tool made for teachers by teachers. That’s the call to arms offered by Literator, an app created by Michelle Ching, a second grade teacher at REACH Academy.
According to Michelle, Literator is an app that provides teachers with important insights and actionable next steps for instruction by providing them a platform to collect student performance data and immediate analysis. In other words, it's like a modern day binder featuring individualized student profiles, a reference guide, and data collection tools that allows for organization and sharing all in one.
When asked how she came up with the idea, Michelle cites her real world experience.
“The saying is, in second grade, you learn to read, and in third grade (and beyond) you read to learn," Michelle said. "The reality, however, as I observed in my own classroom is that students are all across the spectrum of literacy and their needs vary drastically.”
As such, Michelle and her fellow teachers struggled to provide each student with the individualized support that they needed through whole-class instruction. Small group and individual student conferences were the best strategies they came up with, yet providing small group and 1-1 support for students requires a lot of materials and time.
“I found myself juggling books, binders, post-its, and trying to very quickly observe students reading and provide them with the exact support they needed,” Michelle said. As a sign of modern times, she thought to herself "there must be an app for all of this," but there wasn't. Not yet, at least.
In Feb. 2015, Michelle entered an event called Startup Weekend EDU where designers, engineers, and educators come together to solve problems in schools. She pitched her idea, worked with a team of strangers over the course of a weekend to build a prototype, and she won!
Cut to a year later and the addition of two technically-gifted co-founders, Michelle and her team now have a product that streamlines the entire practice and improves upon it.
Teachers who use the app can quickly create individualized student profiles which are aligned to their specific reading levels. The app then provides the exact skills, strategies, and prompts for teachers to use in the instruction. While teachers read one-on-one with a student, they are able to rate these skills as in-progress, proficient, or flag them as a goal, with one simple click.
Michelle elaborates, “It's all done in a very intuitive way, with little-to-no training necessary. The ratings are immediately compiled and shown to teachers in the form of trends; Literator shows the skills that many students are struggling with, and the groups of students who need support with each skill allowing teachers to easily plan a lesson around the most pressing skill or create small groups to teach a specific strategy.”
Literator is currently available and being piloted by over 150 teachers in OUSD. “We are really excited to be reaching out to more schools who are interested and are offering to come to school PD's to set teachers up--which takes about 10 minutes. It's been amazing to see the response!”
Michelle says “There's now an app for that and it's better than I originally hoped it would be!”