By Sandra Menxueiro

Yes, I am that type of person with a thousand apps on their iPhone. But they all help me somehow either learn, teach, collaborate, manage or entertain my energetic toddler at home. As a principal, every time I find an app I share with my teachers through an email, on Twitter or during one of our #FariasPLChat. Still, many of these apps never make it to the classroom and I just see a little impact on students. I started thinking on my way home about the apps that actually make the cut and stay on my phone. Why did I select them? How did I find them? After 30 minutes of beautiful Houston traffic, I found most of the apps have been recommended to me on chats and I only select the ones relevant to my teachers and students. So, I concluded educators learn new apps only through direct exposure and not through an intentional search. They also need to be recommended by another educator who explained a clear outcome after using it or even shared pictures about it. So I asked myself: Why are my teachers not using the apps I recommended before? I am their principal, I am recommending these on an email. Shouldn’t this be enough?

On my way to school the next day, I kept thinking about my app conundrum and I had an epiphany. Teachers don’t read their emails, they need time to play with the app, find it relevant for their students and create some type of product with it. After that, it is easier for them to remember how to use the app and find more uses for it. I also knew teachers do not enjoy a sit-and-get faculty meeting where I show them the features of these apps. So, how could I get my teachers to learn five or more apps in a two-hour period?

If you work with me, you already know I am easily distracted. I am an impatient participant in trainings when the contents of a session are not engaging enough. How does someone as busy as me find time to play with apps? What motivates me to use them? Then I remembered during #TCEA16 I chased people for pictures to complete an app challenge in order to get a t-shirt I didn’t really need (Sorry Mr. Roland Rios! I am not a stalker, just a very competitive person). That was it! Teachers need a challenge! Everybody needs to feel invincible once in a while and so #FariasChallenge was created. Since we have an outstanding Outdoor Classroom, I decided to also take the challenge as an opportunity for teachers to get familiarized with what we have in our Garden. But pretty much you can use any content: math, social studies, fun facts, etc.

I don’t know who had more fun, me creating the challenge or teachers gathering things to gain points during the challenge. The challenge required teachers to do the following:

1. In Spain, Central and South America, _________ is known as menta. Take a picture of someone who is really enjoying smelling this plant or a picture of a product with this herb in it. All team members post their response by checking in our Garden on Swarm and post to Twitter using #FariasChallenge (You can do both things on Swarm).

2. This vegetable can come in several colors: white, pink, red, green, purple, yellow and orange. Make a short video on Adobe Voice singing a song with this vegetable’s name in it. You must include pictures. One member post the movie to Please add your team’s name!

3. This insect loves to hang around the garden, buzzing away. Record yourself imitating this insect sound around the garden and send it to the principal through Voxer. All members need to record themselves and send to the principal. Bonus: Take a picture of this insect for bonus points and post to Twitter using #FariasChallenge.

4. This vegetable is the new super healthy trend for foodies. It is usually used for salads but you can make chips out of it! Take a picture of the plant and post on

5. Find the seeds of the cilantro plant, take a picture and make a graphic using the app Typorama. Post your graphic to Twitter using #FariasChallenge.

6. This vegetable is a favorite for rabbits. Take a picture of the vegetable and then hop around the garden like a rabbit. Record this with Boomerang and post video to Twitter using #FariasChallenge.

Teachers had a blast! After that, I brought them all together again in a classroom. We did a few GoNoodle exercises and ended our session by playing some engaging Kahoots. I challenge you to create and play a similar challenge with your teachers. Not only will they have fun, they will collaborate, learn together and feel less afraid to use whatever app you throw at them. Search #FariasChallenge on Twitter and enjoy pictures and videos posted by teachers.

Explore these apps further:
Adobe Voice

Sandra Menxueiro currently leads Dogan Elementary in Houston ISD. She is passionate about providing a quality education to all students as a #leadlearner. Follow her @menxueiro.

Reprinted with permission © Sandra Menxueiro. The article and accompanying photos originally appeared on Sandra Menxueiro’s blog in 2016.

TEPSA News, January/February 2018, Vol 75, No 1

Copyright © 2018 by the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association. No part of articles in TEPSA publications or on the website may be reproduced in any medium without the permission of the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association.

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