Mobile Apps | Feature

Teacher Creates Own Apps to Help Students Study

Since December, much of high school science teacher Frederick Feraco’s spare time has been consumed with a new way he has found to help his students ace their assessments--by developing his own apps.

Feraco, who teaches multiple subjects at Columbia Secondary School for Science, Math, and Engineering in New York City, recently released a series of educational apps dedicated to helping students prepare for the New York State Regents exams, the state's subject-based tests that high school students are required to pass for graduation.

A native of Long Island, Feraco began noticing the number of people with an attachment to digital devices after a year at Columbia Secondary School. "Everyone is on their cell phone, everyone is on their iPad, everyone’s heads are down," Feraco said. "It’s fantastic, but it’s everywhere."

His observation sparked the idea for his educational "Buddy" apps, which capitalize on the amount of time students spend on their cell phones and tablets anyway, utilizing them to provide interactive knowledge on a topic. Out of the 12 apps he has developed so far, eight are specific to the Regents exams, covering subjects like biology, algebra, and U.S. history.

"The New York State Regents are a very big deal; all teachers are judged on how well their students do on Regents and there’s pressure on students having to perform well," Feraco said. "I thought it would be great if I could take all of the useful teaching tools I use in the classroom--or I wish I could use in the classroom--and put it on one app."

Each Regents app contains six primary features: basic lessons organized by topic, interactive Regents "fun quizzes" with questions from past tests, YouTube videos with relevant content, newsfeeds sourced from subject-specific media, vocabulary flashcards, and the option to share the app on social media.

Additional features are dependent on the app’s subject; for instance, the history apps contain location-based maps to famous museums around the world. After researching Regents curriculum for each topic, Feraco consolidated the multimedia content in order to target diverse learning styles.

"Students need to hear things to learn things, they need to see things, they need to actually do something to learn it," Feraco explained. "Students are used to having so much noise around them, just to have [the option of] soothing music in the background could help auditory learners feel more comfortable reading through the information, rather than just seeing words and becoming bored with them."

Feraco said he’s received feedback from home school teachers and parents of special education students that the apps’ vibrant visuals have been constructive in keeping their students occupied and attentive to learning the curriculum. The apps’ daily newsfeed feature is intended to challenge students in accelerated programs.

Though digital devices are prohibited at his own school, Feraco loves the idea of schools going BYOD.

"I hope that technology can become more advanced in the classroom and if it does, I think these [apps] would be ideal," he said. This summer, Feraco aspires to learn more about other states’ tests and begin developing apps specific to those exams. He’s open to suggestions.

"I’m always willing to improve,” Feraco said, “and if there’s anybody that thinks we can make this better for students and teachers, they should definitely contact me."

For more information about the apps, or to request a promo code, contact Fred Feraco.

About the Author

Kim Fortson is a San Francisco-based freelance writer. Find her on Twitter @kimfortson.