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The story of a magical musical app

Here's a secret for helping your students become deeper learners

In the midst of the ed-tech revolution, teachers are need to make informed decisions about what brings value to the classroom. As a geography teacher at Monrovia High School in California, I’m interested in finding ways to prepare students for the 21st century while teaching them about the complexities of the world around us.

Teachers at Monrovia value being able to instill students with the skills they need to be successful outside of the classroom, a task that we’ve been able to achieve through an individualized approach to learning—and an acceptance of digital tools.

Breaking the tech barrier
Most educators are familiar with “the battle of the cell phone.” We’re faced with the tough call of whether to ban or embrace technology. Because students will need to be digitally literate to be successful in the workplace, I sought a way to keep things relevant, engaging, and valuable through technology.

My solution was to find digital learning tools that are fun and produce valuable learning opportunities. For my classroom, the best option was to find educational mobile apps that students can use on a smartphone or tablet.

Since parents are often dealing with the same conundrum of phone usage at home, finding apps that bring value to students’ phone time became the mission.

Individualized learning through music
All students identify with music. Being fascinated by the concept of the Earworm effect, where a song gets stuck in your head long after it’s stopped playing, I wanted to find a music-based educational app that would use this strategy while staying aligned to my lesson plans. The answer came in the form of Studytracks, an app that allows students to explore different subjects through relatable, catchy tracks.

Studytracks has more than 1,300 songs available covering a wide range of subjects, making it the perfect test for teachers at Monrovia. Students are able to work at their own pace through different tracks, using it to retain what they are learning in class.

Most importantly, this resource is customizable, allowing me to use it as a supplement to lesson plans, as a homework assignment, and as a studying tool. Students were struck by their newfound ability to retain knowledge through listening to music rather than reading from a traditional textbook.

Unprompted, students began exploring subjects outside of geography. To me, this is testament to the value of edtech, with the ability to inspire students to look beyond the basic requirements to see the value of broadening their knowledge.

In conjunction with Studytracks, I used Google Classroom to collaborate and share data with students. I brought gamification to life through Kahoot! and made lesson plans interactive with Nearpod.

The combination of these tech-based resources helps my students understand curriculum in a way I haven’t previously seen. Students are now taking ownership of their learning and are able to identify where they are struggling—giving me the ability to offer more support where it’s needed.

Best of all, students feel motivated to learn. Studytracks has a leaderboard where students can compete through quiz scores, giving an extra incentive to do well on exams. Motivation paired with the right resources is resulting in a transformational change across curriculum.

Incredible results
After implementing a music-based approach to learning last year, out of 19 students who passed the AP geography exam, 15 used Studytracks. Two of the three students who had the highest score of five used the app on a regular basis. In addition to this statistic, more than 75 percent of students who earned a passing grade in my geography class last year used the tool in and outside of the classroom.

I feel empowered to help students in a way that I couldn’t before. One student who previously struggled with reading was able to work at his own pace at home. Listening to music gave him confidence and increased understanding.

This initial success has inspired my school to continue to see where we can go with the help of digital learning tools. We’ve seen the tangible value that edtech can bring, and we’re going to continue to see how to harness it.

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