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TechCHAT: Using Knovation Tools With Math Teacher Susan Menkel

The TechCHAT series invites educators and others from across the country and around the world to share how they’re using technology to enhance instruction and student learning.


Susan Menkel is a 5th-grade math teacher at Mooresville Intermediate School (Mooresville Graded School District) in North Carolina. Her school has used Knovation solutions for several tech and learning initiatives, and she has offered up her experiences using the tools netTrekker, a resource locator for their database, and icurio, Knovation's digital curriculum builder focused on individual learning that's aligned with Common Core standards. 


Education World recently spoke with Menkel to learn more about her experience using Knovation tools.



What Knovation products have you used? How and in what setting do they help? Do you have access to the Knovation Open Educational Resource Library?


I have actually used netTrekker, icurio 1.0, and icurio 2.0. net-Trekker and icurio 1.0 provide access to a library of standards-aligned, educator-curated OER. I can trust that the resources have been vetted and are academically appropriate for the standards and subjects they are linked to. There are various ways to structure a search - I mostly search by standard, keyword, or subject - and then narrow the search by criteria such as by grade lev-el, reading level, and resource type. Both icurio 1.0 and net-Trekker allow a teacher to save and organize the content for future use. You can also share those resources with other teachers in your grade level, school, and district using shared folders. For teachers new to digital learning or new to a subject or grade level, being able to find and share resources is crucial. The fact that they have already been aligned to standards is a huge time-saver. icurio 2.0 takes the OER library a step further by providing a plat-form to deliver these resources to students in lessons designed by a teacher or teachers working in collaboration and enabling the interaction between teachers and students. icurio 2.0 has enabled me to have all I need in one place: students can see the re-sources I’m sharing, read instructions for what they are expected to do with these resources, see the questions I’m asking to check for their understanding, and receive feedback from me.


What platform is used most and what device are you using it on? How often? 


We use MacBook Airs. Teachers have 13 inch and students have 11 inch. My students and I use icurio 2.0 every day.


What makes these resources worthwhile? Please provide some experienced-based examples.


When MGSD began its digital transformation, there was no net-Trekker. There was no “go to” site that housed the best of what was available the internet. I spent hours curating and vetting my own content. Anyone who has done a web search knows that the list of results is overwhelming. I became more and more adept at searching and refining my searches, but it was still an exhausting and time consuming process. As educators have turned more and more to the internet for content, we find more resources are “out there.” That’s both a blessing and a curse: there is more to choose from, but there is more to wade through. Having a product like netTrekker or icurio to provide easy and quick access to a high-quality library of digital resources is a life -saver for a teacher. The content team at Knovation are constantly adding new re-sources, aligning and tagging them appropriately, and making sure exhausting resources do not go dead. It’s like having a team of assistants helping a teacher find what she [or he] needs.


As a teacher, how helpful were the admin at your school in 1:1 implementation? 


I have been with MGSD for 15 years. I taught here before the conversion, during the implementation, and continue to be a classroom teacher. Over the course of that time, I have taught all subjects; currently, I teach 5th grade math. Our administrators have always understood the importance of supporting teachers, they provide support and have allowed us the freedom to be innovative. Every administrator I have been lucky enough to work for has been welcoming of me trying non-traditional methods for approaching teaching and learning. 


Has the Resource Library helped with Common Core implementation? 


Immensely. Any time there is a shift in the curriculum, it is like starting over for a teacher. It is my job to know the standards I teach in detail–this demands careful study to understand what is required based on the wording of the standard. In my case, I also shifted grade levels and subjects when my state implemented Common Core. icurio enables me to choose my state, select the standards I am looking for (Common Core or essential standards, for example), pick my grade level, and drill down to specific content aligned to the standard I want to teach. Knowing that experts have aligned the content helps alleviate the stress of tackling an unfamiliar curriculum. 


How has collaboration with other teachers helped with tech adaption. In what ways? 


Collaboration has been the key to our success. When we started down the 1:1 path, there was no one for us to look to. We were really pioneering a new way of teaching and learning, and this really created a different kind of culture among students and staff. We turned to each other to share the successes and the failures. For me, it helped change the approach I take to teaching entirely. There is nothing that levels the field between children and adults more than trying something new together. We were all using laptops we had little experience with, programs we’d never used, and in ways vastly different from the traditional classroom methods we were used to. My students and I learned from each other. 


We also discovered that some of us were able to learn new pro-grams more quickly, so it became second nature for staff to know who to go to for help with certain things. Our tech facilitator was also amazing at pushing in to classroom to help as well has holding help sessions for teachers. As new staff come in, we acknowledge that this can be an over-whelming transition and use our experience to support them. 


Has icurio helped develop strengthen curriculums for personal learning in any way? 


The idea behind personalized learning is for students to have more control over their learning and the pace at which they progress. icurio is a “one-stop shop” for me when planning personalized instruction. I start by curating resources and organizing them by type: instructional videos, games, online practice, lesson ideas, articles and so forth. Then I can actually build the lessons in icurio incorporating the resources along with instructions to students, written by me and the other teachers on my team. We also add questions and opportunities for feedback into the lessons' activities. Once we have a basic lesson, we can copy it and edit it to meet the different needs of students who may need the lesson scaled back. We can also add opportunities for enrichment for students who need to be pushed. Even before icurio 2.0 incorporated the student feedback piece, I was still able to take resource links and embed them somewhere else. 


Have you used Knovation’s Professional Learning services along with their products? If so, how? 


Any time we added one of their solutions, we have had Knovation professional learning team members come and guide us through the product so we could better understand features and how to use the solutions to achieve instructional goals. Knovation also provides excellent support for its products—if I have a question, request, or a suggestion, I know that I will get the feedback I need in a timely manner. 



Article by Jason Papallo, Education World Social Media Editor

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