David Inselmann, a sixth and seventh grade teacher at St. John’s Lutheran School in Elk River, was named a recipient of the IXL Elite 100 Teacher award for the 2018-19 school year out of 400,000 teachers worldwide. Inselmann was recognized for student achievement in the area of language arts.

IXL is an online, subscription-based learning site for K-12 students that is used by over 8 million students worldwide. The program started in 1998.

Inselmann said IXL is a supplement and one of many tools that he uses along with regular classroom instruction.

“What it can do is streamline it and make lots of it a lot more efficient,” Inselmann said. “It gives that immediate feedback to the students. When they get something wrong, it shows up that they got it wrong and then it gives them an explanation as far as what they did wrong and how they can correct it and do it again and do better. The instant feedback that they get is beneficial.”

Inselmann’s approach to education is different for every subject that he teaches. He uses card games, hands-on labs and simulation in his science classes. When he teaches language arts, he uses Grammarly, an online-based spelling and grammar corrector popular with professionals with the students. He gives feedback to students through one-on-one conferences with each student, going through every sentence and every line of their work.

“You do that intensely, paper after paper, individually,” he said. “It helps their papers become more and more proficient. With IXL, they do earn badges, which can be that reinforcement. Then, it shows their total number of hours and the number of questions that they’ve answered. There’s certain awards where they get recognized on the site internationally if they answer 10,000 questions. We had four students last year that actually went over that threshold in language arts. This year, I have one in science that’s managed to do that.”

One of Inselmann’s techniques to teach students hard concepts, whether it’s subordinate conjunctions in language arts or chemical reactions in science, is to use flashcards. He has created a card game featuring superheroes that represent the different elements in the periodic table of elements. The heroes aren’t Batman or Superman but generic characters specific to each element. 

Inselmann said IXL allows him to focus on more difficult coursework in class and assign easier material as homework. 

“By having them do some of the IXL at home, it allows me to do the hands-on projects here in the classroom and provide that type of learning environment, having a blended classroom approach, where some of the things that are going on in the classroom are the more beneficial ones where you need a teacher versus kind of the drill and practice where that can be easily done outside of class,” he said. 

Inselmann joined the staff at St. John during the 2015-16 school year. He previously taught at St. John Lutheran School in Corcoran which had introduced IXL. When he came to St. John in Elk River, there wasn’t much technology incorporated into classrooms. He brought in a one-on-one Chromebook initiative and other programs that he wanted to use, including Google Drive and Google Classroom. He signed St. John up to become a Google school.

Inselmann said students who have succeeded with IXL have improved their test scores.

“Their scores typically increase quite a bit, much more that what you would typically see in a one year as far as progress goes,” Inselmann said. “You’ll see multiple years of progress when they really focus in and work hard on it.”

Inselmann said his main goal is to encourage students to learn to enjoy learning as well as be successful students so that they become lifelong learners.

“The more methods you use with students, the higher the achievement and interest is going to be,” he said. “What works with one student may not work as well with another student. If they see it, hear it, write it, do it, doing it on a worksheet and doing it digitally, and doing it hands-on multiplies the learning. They understand it that much better. The creative ways of integrating and weaving the different approaches that you’re doing really help students understand it, learn it, stay interested and motivated.”

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