If teachers want to meet students where they are, it’s going to be on their smartphones.
3,000 students attend San Clemente High School in California and most of them walk around with a smartphone in their hand or pocket, says Manoj Mahindrakar, assistant principal at the public school.
Starting this school year, the school’s 20 English teachers will encourage students to take a look at the vCarrot app, an educational tool that rewards student for reading.
“As educators, we recognize that so many students are on tablets and smartphones—it’s in their hands—so we are looking for something to reach out to students that is in their medium,” Mahindrakar says.
The app is preloaded with 170 high-level comprehension quizzes on books that are common in high school curricula, such as “1984,” “10,000 Days of Thunder” and “A Tale of Two Cities,” all of which San Clemente teaches. Students can take the quizzes to see if they understood what they read beyond plot summary, as the questions ask about the theme and the prose of the novel. Each question is timed so students cannot search the Internet for the answer.
“It’s a tool we can recommend teachers to list as a resource,” Mahindrakar says. “When reading this book, as an additional test, if you want to feel like you are prepared, in addition to your curriculum, this is an easy tool that’s not going to cost anything.”
While some students are intrinsically motivated to do well in school, Mahindrakar knows that a number of students are not and need an extra boost. For parents who want to reward their children to use vCarrot to make sure they understand what they are reading, vCarrot lets parents give their children a gift card when they pass the reading test. The name vCarrot, means virtual carrot, a digital version of the throwback image of a man on donkey’s back, dangling a carrot on a string in front of the donkey’s eyes to motivate him to walk forward.
Parents download the app and become a sponsor for their child by buying a $25, $50 or $100 gift card from a selection of more than 50 retailers, such as GameStop Corp., Shutterfly Inc. and Banana Republic. Parents can set the amount of time the student has to finish the book and complete the quiz. If the student receives more than a 75% on the quiz, the app automatically emails the student the digital gift card. Depending on the retailer, the gift card either is a virtual gift card, a barcode, or a number and pin that the student can redeem online or in store. The parents can also choose to redeem the gift card at any time and also decide when to give it to the student..
The app is free for the schools, parents and students. VCarrot makes money through reselling the gift cards, says vCarrot creator Chris Flynn. VCarrot is a part of several gift card aggregating networks that sells the company gift cards at a discounted rate, so vCarrot can then resell them to parents at face value. Flynn started creating the app in November 2014 and inventors have put more than $1 million into creating the app, Flynn says.
Mahindrakar says having an app is useful since students already heavily use apps in their day-to-day lives and are comfortable with the medium. “I think it has the potential to help a lot of students,” he says.
The app is especially useful for students because they can use it on their own as a resource right away, whereas adopting a new text book or embedding something in the curriculum could take years, Mahindrakar says. In the future, Flynn hopes to add SAT testing preparation to vCarrot as well.
The app is currently only available for iPhones and iPads and will be available for Android in September, Flynn says. San Clemente is the only school currently encouraging teachers to use this resource.Favorite