Meet Chris Hua
This week, we're featuring the voice of Christopher (Chris) Hua, a member of the founding team of Podsie, and the first teacher to use Podsie in his classroom.
Chris is in his sixth year of teaching and is the middle school science department chair and 8th grade science lead at Pilgrim Academy in Houston ISD. He is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University where he received his Master of Science degree in Educational Studies. He also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Science from the University of Texas at Austin, and received his teacher certification through The New Teacher Project (TNTP) in 2014.
Chris uses Podsie, because it is a tool that tackles three challenges of strategic spiraling, differentiation, and bridging the gap between learning science and classrooms.
strategic spiraling to help students remember previously-learned content
differentiation to account for the needs of every individual learner, and...
bridging the gap between learning science and classrooms to ensure that the deep knowledge that teachers have of their individual students can be supported by both data and proven learning strategies
Whether it's in supporting students to build long-term knowledge or prepare for testing, teachers need to strategize around both 1) spiraling previously-learned concepts and 2) finding time to do so. Ideally, teachers plan out Do Nows or Check For Understandings (CFUs) throughout the year to ensure students are continuing to revisit topics that are built upon in future topics. However, in practice, deliberate review can be challenging to plan for and implement on a consistent basis: because of this, the goal of facilitating long-term learning is co-opted by the goal of cramming for upcoming standardized tests. Chris faced this challenge in his first few years of teaching, before Podsie.
As a new educator, I struggled with a problem that plagues many other teachers - students weren’t remembering what I taught...At the end of the year, students must take a standardized exam, and like many teachers, a month before the exam I began the process of reviewing. I was in disbelief. Content I had previously felt confident my students had grasped were completely forgotten. In turn, I spent the next month cramming as much information into them as possible.
No two students are alike in the exact topics they need to revisit, which begs for a form of differentiation that can also be challenging to implement in practice. From the start of his teaching career, Chris asked himself how he would "account for and support each student and their individual academic levels and learning needs" in a sustainable way.
I began the laborious task of creating multiple differentiated assignments and forms, proceeded to pull out students into small groups and tutorials everyday, and tracked every piece of data I could get my hands on. But there was a bigger problem: I was getting burned out. What I was doing wasn’t sustainable.
Learning Science & Classrooms
On top of strategic spiraling and differentiation, Podsie is on a mission to bridge the gap between the learning science community and classrooms. Podsie utilizes the proven strategies of spacing, interleaving, and active retrieval practice to ensure that every student can be the best learner that they can be, and every educator has the resources to be the best teacher that they can be. Chris sees this as a significant way to tackle systemic inequalities in education: every teacher should have proven, easy-to-use strategies at their disposal, to support - not replace - the work that they do and the knowledge that they have about their students.
As a member of the founding team of Podsie, Chris and his classroom have informed Podsie's build and direction from the get-go.
Chris has been an invaluable part of Podsie's build from the start, when it was a brainchild and side project that stemmed from Podsie CEO Joshua's own passion for learning and teaching. In Chris, Joshua found a teacher who was both passionate about refining his teaching practice year after year and excited to bring that passion to the rigors of building out a tech start-up. Much of what Podsie is today was built on top of the iterations patiently carried out in Chris's classroom, all for the shared goal of ensuring teachers and students have the tools to be the best they can be.
While Chris has contributed and continues to contribute so much to Podsie's build, Chris has also found that the process of building out Podsie has made him think more critically about education as a whole. Chris aims to bring not only his voice, but the perspectives and potential needs of all teachers, into the app's features and design.
As a teacher of one classroom, you often think about what works best for you and your specific students, but when you begin considering an app that could potentially reach thousands or millions of other individuals, you have to think about how the practices that have been effective for you may not necessarily work for others.
Despite the inevitable lift of learning and teaching a new technology, Chris views the immense amount of teacher voice that has gone into the build of Podsie from the beginning to be a refreshing change in the ed-tech landscape. To teachers who may be hesitant to use Podsie and confront the potential burden of introducing new technology in the classroom, Chris emphasizes that, beyond the unique ways that the app tackles classroom challenges, the team behind Podsie truly, legitimately cares about teachers and students.
How often are you going to get an opportunity to be a part of the building process of a tool that works specifically for you? To have a team who is willing to hear your concerns and address them with you, in real time? Never. But that is what Josh and Jesse [CTO] have done for me. Every concern, every thought about how the app could be improved, they listened to and considered. They sincerely want to create change in education, and are willing to listen to and consider the opinions of every teacher and student in doing so.
You can read more about how Chris uses Podsie in his classroom here, and you can find more information about Chris, as well as some of his teaching tips and resources, here.