Discovering Subtext

Posted January 21, 2013 under Case Studies, iPads in Classrooms

Having spent countless hours observing and participating in untold classrooms in NYC, Boston, and Baltimore over the years, I have often caught a student staring at a book, handout, or some type of reading, and felt prompted to offer help based on their body language. We all know the nuances of spotting a student that doesn’t understand what they are reading: the hand on the forehead, the blank stare, or perhaps worst of all – the universal sign of surrender – head resting on the arm.

As a Senior ELA & Social Studies Instructional Facilitator with Johns Hopkins School of Education’s Talent Development Secondary, I have been humbled and inspired to support the efforts of skilled coaches and teachers that, despite these challenges, fight daily to motivate their students to read and apply the tools they need to become stronger readers. If you are reading this, you are likely one of those who is passionate about helping every student achieve their fullest potential, which, as evidence increasingly confirms, will not be possible unless students graduate with the ability to read and analyze grade-level texts that will prepare them for college and/or a prospective career.

So how can we know whether students actually comprehend what they are reading? This all-important question led me to discover Subtext.

Having taught for many years in Baltimore City utilizing smart boards (with response clickers), various iPhone apps (such as Attendance and Remote), and built and maintained numerous class websites, I am no stranger to utilizing technology in the classroom.

I envisioned a platform that ensured that students would be metacognitive in demonstrating their comprehension about what they read as they interacted with various texts using an iPad; annotated/tagged notes, shared responses, and questions would be automatically forwarded to the teacher for immediate review. The teacher, empowered with this data of student work would not only gain an unprecedented (dare I say near-psychic) ability to track student progress, but could adjust their planning, instruction, and assessments to better meet the unique needs of every student.

After much searching, I found lots of apps that enable annotation, but none with the fundamental pedagogical literacy capabilities. Then, days before a big grant presentation for literary instruction, I discovered Subtext. Long story short, my genuine enthusiasm in discovering this app has not only brought on a paradigm shift in imagining the possibility for tablet maximization in the classroom, but has led to an invitation from Subtext to document these for the benefit of teachers that share the same passion and vision for helping every student become a life-long reader.

In the coming months, I am excited to share with you how Subtext can become one of your greatest assets in increasing metacognition, explicit instruction, and implementing the Common Core standards in your classroom in an exciting and pragmatic way.

In the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out to me with feedback or questions. There is nothing I love more than helping coaches and teachers support their students – especially using iPads loaded with Subtext!

Jeff Martin

The opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of the Johns Hopkins School of Education or any of its affiliations.

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