Matt East teaches economics and history at East Coweta High School in Georgia.
According to Matt, his paper-based system took too long and didn’t allow him to connect with his students or field questions outside of class.
We caught up with him about how he uses technology to stay on top of his classes and keep tabs on what his students need as they work through his course.
Our interview was edited for length and clarity.
Tell us about your classroom, Matt.
I teach AP microeconomics to 12th graders. They’re on a block schedule, so I have three classes a day that are an hour and a half long. I also teach co-lab, which is a combination of special ed and regular ed students in an econ and U.S. history course.
The reason why I started using Chalkup was the ease of grading and the instant feedback that a student can get - plus the instant questions they can send to me through the chat feature.
I was having a hard time staying on top of all my AP work with paper and pencil. [Chalkup] is so much easier than hauling paper around. I can open it anywhere I have an internet connection: grade it while watching TV on the couch, while traveling in the car somewhere, visiting family on the weekend. Anytime I have a free moment - anywhere I’m at - I can look at papers.
What is the most exciting thing you’ve been able to do with classroom technology that’s really taken your classes up a notch and boosted learning gains?
I use Chalkup as well as other types of technology - I use Twitter, I use Socrative, I use EduCannon for video response questions - the immediate feedback and response I can get with these are so much better than hauling papers around.
And if my students turn in something early and shoot me a message and say “hey, did I do this right?” I can get a notification and take a look and say “looks good” or “maybe do this one again” and they’re able to go back and forth and correct mistakes prior to grading, if they stay on top of things.
I gave a quiz right before our spring break via Chalkup. And [my students] posted, “man, this was the worst quiz ever!” And someone else said “no this quiz was awesome - I think he wants us to really know this.” Students were able to leave messages about the assignment and it ended up being a pretty cool class discussion. The next time I saw them, I already knew how they felt about the quiz.
What’s one thing teachers who are looking to implement new digital systems should keep in mind?
You can’t break it. A lot of times they think, “oh we got this new program and I’m going to mess it up.” No. You’re not going to be able to break anything in Chalkup. If you even try, your kids will probably be able to figure it out with you. Don’t be intimidated by the fact that it’s something new.
If something doesn’t work the way you think it will, try it again. Exit and log back in. You’ll figure it out. It will be fine.
And don’t be intimidated by the vast uses of it. Find one thing to use it for. Once you get comfortable with that, move on, maybe to something a little deeper. Don’t feel like you must do everything possible with a platform the very first time you open it up.
Where do you see technology taking classes in the future? What’s your vision?
My goal in my classroom - I know it’s difficult - is to go completely paperless.
I know this and I’ve done the research - about 95% of teenagers have phones or some way to check the internet. They’re on it anyway. I try to tell teachers they’re going to be on computers and on the internet anyway. Instead of trying to stop them from doing it, we’ve got to join them.
What gets your students excited to learn? What do we have to do to get even more students excited to learn?
[My students] really like the computer-driven stuff where they can create and they have choices.
Give them five or six choices for how they complete an assignment, whether its creating a video or doing a project. Or answering questions or creating a PowerPoint. It’s up to them.