The Art of Teaching Smarter Not Harder

Contributed By

Philip Charles Stephens

Contributing Writer

The Art of Teaching Smarter Not Harder

Posted in Community | October 22, 2015

Kai-Michael Walther’s story begins near the debut of Schoology. “I have always pushed the envelope with technology in the classroom,” Kai-Michael explains, “and when my school started a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program, about 5 years ago, I was right there to lead the way.”


Kai-Michael, an English/Library Media Specialist at Maple Grove Junior High in Minnesota, was using the open-source learning platform, Moodle, in his classes, but was on the lookout for something better.

New Possibilities in Education

“I discovered Schoology while reading about new, classroom friendly online learning management systems,” Kai-Michael says. “I checked out the site and then had my classes use the free version for part of the school year.”

Then, in the spring of 2014, Osseo Area Schools, Kai-Michael’s district, announced they would be moving to a 1:1 iPad program for the fall of the 2015/16 school year.

“I was part of the committee,” he recalls, “and when it came to looking at Learning Management Systems, the only one I recommended was Schoology. It is very student and teacher friendly, works on mobile devices, and is very intuitive.”

Wearing Multiple Hats

The district decided to go with the Enterprise version heading into the 1:1 program, and Kai-Michael bent his considerable experience to the task.

“My first year in the iPad program had me wearing two different hats,” Kai-Michael explains. “One as a classroom teacher who would be creating course content and engaging students in the Schoology environment; the other, a media specialist who would be helping teachers navigate the ins and outs of Schoology.”

Gamifying the 9th Grade Research Unit

Kai-Michael used all aspects of Schoology to create a blended learning environment for his students. “The greatest success I had with the teacher hat on, along with another colleague, was using Schoology to gamify our research unit,” he explains. “Students were able to complete their research at their own pace (with an expected completion date) and earn badges along the way.”

The ninth grade students he taught enjoyed getting the badge for each level and would ask about the badge if they failed to earn it, posing new questions and engaging them with the problems they’d encountered.

Teaching Others to Teach Smarter Not Harder

But Kai-Michael’s success hasn’t been restricted to student progress; he has also helped his fellow teachers utilize Schoology more effectively.

“I have been able to show teachers how using Schoology can make them work smarter not harder and have a greater impact on student achievement,” Kai-Michael explains. “I have been able to take teachers who were a little reluctant and hesitant about online learning and turn them into confident users of Schoology.”

Kai-Michael Walther
English/Library Media Specialist
Maple Grove Junior High
Educator of the Year Finalist

Written by Philip Charles Stephens, an English author and ghostwriter based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Learn more at

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