Featured Apps: Tools for Intensifying and Individualizing Instruction

By Cathy Buyrn, M.Ed.

November/December 2012


The mandate to intensify and individualize instruction to meet students’ needs is now more pressing than ever, placing great demands on teachers.  But a variety of digital applications can support teachers as they shift their practice from whole-group to small-group instruction and individualized support.  Some of these technologies are tied to specific devices, while others are just a click away via an Internet connection. 

Students don’t necessarily have to have another teacher in the room to receive more intensive instruction.  Technology has made it possible for teachers to “flip their classrooms” by arranging for preteaching, reteaching, or alternative teaching without having to provide one-to-one instruction at all times.  Flipping the classroom allows teachers to maximize direct instruction for all students, while matching individual student needs.  The following applications support this process.


Knowmia is a destination for learning that features short video lessons from great teachers everywhere.  When a student needs a different teaching style to grasp a new concept or lesson repetition, Knowmia allows teachers to access another professional on video to provide the student with another teacher.  Knowmia's initial focus is on helping high school students; they plan to expand to other grade levels over time.  http://www.knowmia.com/


The Khan Academy is a not-for-profit organization with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere. Khan Academy provides a library of over 3,300 videos on everything from arithmetic to physics, finance, and history.  All of the resources are available free of charge. http://www.khanacademy.org/


The Geometry application was built for elementary students ages 5-10. Designed in collaboration with teachers, parents, and students, the application teaches geometric concepts. Learning modules explain each concept clearly, with easy-to-follow illustrations and narration. Practice modules allow students to practice at their own pace. A critical thinking section poses challenging questions to build higher-level problem-solving skills. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/geometry-4-kids/id446626897?mt=8


Study Jams, a Scholastic website, is designed to help elementary-school students learn and review math and science information through songs and videos. Each Study Jam offers a short tutorial on a given topic in the form of a video, slideshow, or song. When songs are used, Study Jams provides a karaoke format for kids to sing along if they wish.  Study Jams songs can also be downloaded into an iTunes music library to be used with the whole class or added to iPods for individual students.  http://studyjams.scholastic.com/studyjams/


VoiceThread allows teachers to create and share their own dynamic lessons around documents, snapshots, diagrams, and videos. VoiceThread takes lessons to the next level. Students can add notes or voice comments so that teachers can assess their understanding and make decisions about the need for additional instruction.  Anyone can join the discussion from an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, or PC.   http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/voicethread/id465159110?mt=8