Weldon Rinn teaches 7th and 8th grade math, science, and information and computer technology for Rosenort School in Manitoba. Rosenort, a K–12 school serving a rural community south of Winnipeg, maintains high standards for their students. In 2012, Weldon turned to IXL Math to incorporate more technology in his classroom and make it easier to differentiate instruction.
Bringing Technology into the Classroom
Rosenort has a 1:1 laptop program and a strong commitment to building technology skills along with academic proficiency for their students. In addition to teaching a computer skills class, Weldon likes to incorporate technology into his math and science classrooms. He initially used Khan Academy, but the video-based approach did not keep his students focused and engaged. He wanted to give his students a more interactive and differentiated program that would better meet their individual needs.
Differentiation had always been a struggle, particularly in math. “Overall, our students do quite well, but there can be quite a range of ability levels in a given class,” Weldon explains. “There are always those one or two who really struggle, and others who aren’t being challenged enough.” Prior to using IXL, Weldon pulled worksheets from different grade level textbooks or purchased workbooks targeting specific concepts to help his struggling students. However, this approach was time consuming and expensive. “I had to figure out exactly where a kid was struggling and find materials that matched their ability level. If we didn’t have something appropriate already, I would have to go out and buy it. And I didn’t have much of anything for students who were accelerated,” he says.
“Differentiating from the textbook is a gong show. It requires far too much teacher time and effort. IXL has really reduced the prep time overload. It’s worth its weight in gold to me for that reason.”
-Weldon Rinn, 7th/8th Grade Teacher
An Easier Way to Differentiate
With IXL, differentiation is now easy and automatic. Weldon says, “My high achievers can move ahead and accelerate their learning, and kids who aren’t up to speed can go down a few grades to build skills that are lacking.”
Weldon can easily assign IXL skills aligned to his daily instruction for additional practice. Students who are struggling are assigned related skills from lower grade levels to fix any gaps in their understanding. Those who have mastered the grade level curriculum can work ahead at their own pace. IXL has proven to be an effective resource for whole-class instruction as well. Weldon projects problems related to the daily lesson on a Smart Board to demonstrate problem-solving strategies. “It’s easier than coming up with my own example problems and writing them on the board manually,” he says. “With IXL, we can do as many as we need to until everyone gets it. I don’t run out of problems.”
Motivated by Mastery
IXL saves Weldon considerable time as a teacher. It has cut down on prep time for lessons significantly and eliminated the work required to locate and assign appropriately differentiated materials. Weldon also relies on IXL Analytics to quickly identify areas where students are struggling and adjust his instruction to meet their needs. “I have a group of students this year who are struggling with basic math facts and concepts like commutative property, distributive property and associative property. I put them back in 4th and 5th grade skills to brush up on those topics and prepare them for their algebra work,” he says.
Most importantly, the program is working for his students. Students enjoy seeing their progress over time. The progress reports let students take ownership of their learning and quickly see how far they have come and where they need to buckle down for a little more practice. “They push themselves a little higher on IXL than they do with pencil and paper,” notes Weldon. “IXL is really motivating my students to stretch their learning.”
In fact, a few of his students are a little obsessed. “My high achievers drive me crazy sometimes because they don’t want to stop until they get that 100,” Weldon says. Getting there isn’t easy; the IXL SmartScore makes students work harder and complete more complex problems as they approach mastery. But when they get that score, they know they’ve really learned something.
A copy of the full case study is available for download here.