Southampton Intermediate School Teacher Jayne Clare’s aptitude for technology won her a spot on the National School Boards Association’s “20 to Watch” list, honoring teachers who have strived to integrate technology into their classrooms. She was one of only two teachers in New York State to be recognized.
According to the association, an iPhone/iPad application she developed, ABC Shakedown Plus, in addition to a website she hosts, www.teacherswithapps.com, put her on the map as an emerging leader who will help shape the world of education technology for the next 20 years.
On March 11, Ms. Clare, 58, attended a conference in San Diego, where she and 19 other teachers from across the United States were honored for their keen awareness and use of online learning tools, touchpad applications, social media, and creation of interdisciplinary projects.
The recognition was a total surprise to the seasoned special education teacher. In early March, she received an email saying she had been selected and she was invited to attend the conference, hosted by the Consortium for School Networking. She was nominated by her co-workers.
“It was life-altering and by far the pinnacle of my professional career as an educator,” Ms. Clare said. “Perseverance and tenacity have paid off, and as a teacher there are not many occasions that our service is celebrated.”
In 2009, Ms. Clare and her friend and former art teacher Anne Rachel created ABC Shakedown as a way to help young children master American English phonology and learn the alphabet. The application has three interactive “reading readiness” flashcard games that explore the sound-symbol relationship of the language. Users can match correct letter names and phonemes to the initial sounds of brightly colored pictures of fish, pigs and snakes, among other images that Ms. Rachel illustrated. A shake of the device generates a random flashcard. No sounds are triggered by incorrect answers—Ms. Clare and Ms. Rachel have observed that children often become drawn to the stimulating sounds provided for wrong answers. But when the correct match is made, the cards whimsically animate, with an S-shaped snake hissing the “S”-sound, for example, providing further reinforcement.
After the duo experienced what it is like to create an app like ABC Shakedown and explored scores of similar programs, they realized someone had to vet them.
“When making our app, we had a farther reach than just the kids in our classrooms.” she said. “Not all apps are created equal, and there are an awful lot of inferior and unprofessional apps being released.”
Their website, www.teacherswithapps.com, field-tests only what the two deem the best of the best with students, teachers and family members. “You don’t know the magic of an app until you put it into the hands of a child,” she said.
Ms. Clare has been a teacher for 30 years, 17 years at the Southampton School District, and currently teaches fifth through eighth grade students who have learning disabilities and are speech- and language-impaired. She said technology has made learning personalized in her classroom and finds that her students are more excited about their assignments. Ms. Clare’s students use iPads to create projects and complete assignments.
“Rather than working with typical textbooks and worksheets, we work with different apps, and the kids have more ownership over their assignments,” she said, adding that the students use programs like Keynote and iMovie for presentations. “I feel it is imperative that our children be taught differently than they were in the past. It’s the only way they will be prepared for the future—the only way for our country to stay in the game.”
Ms. Clare said she and her students have also, with permission, used Skype to do video chats with authors and educators, like the creators of Brain Pop, a group of educational websites with short animated movies, quizzes, and supplemental materials.
Southampton Intermediate School Principal Tim Frazier said he has observed Ms. Clare’s devotion to teaching her children the best way she knows how.
“She is always reflecting and analyzing ways to improve the students’ iPad usage and relieve the anxiety and lack of confidence teachers and students have, especially with handheld devices,” he said. “We are very proud of Jayne’s commitment to excellence in this growing and changing world of technology and its usage in the classroom.”