Our What’s In My Pocket series offers an inside look at the interesting people who use Pocket to elevate their work and life. Know someone who fits the mold? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. Next up, we talk to San-Francisco-based high school teacher, instructional coach, and avid reader Mark Isero.
Name: Mark Isero
Bio: Director of Instructional Development at Envision Schools. Also: reading advocate, sort-of pianist, fan of Snoopy
Twitter Handle: @iserotope
Location: San Francisco, CA
Little-Known Fact: I like collecting used Kindles and loaning them to students. 156 so far!
Started Using Pocket: May 2011
Tell us a bit about yourself and your work, Mark!
For 15 years, I was a public school teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area. I taught 9th through 12th grade English and Social Studies. Now, I’m an instructional coach, which means that I help teachers teach better. I’ve been engaged by a charter school network of 3 schools, working closely on professional development with 15 teachers who then go on to train other teachers in turn.
What first attracted you to using Pocket?
I’m always looking for the best app for a given purpose. When I was exploring this space, I realized Pocket was the best overall service in its category. It was very simple to learn, and looked great too. It was also easy to use on both my computer and my phone.
And what were you hoping to use it for?
As a teacher, I believe in the importance of reading for students. Not just books, but also current events, and online material too. Most students are told by teachers to read, but they don’t have their own reading identities because they don’t feel comfortable reading.
I would ask my kids, “How do you get your news? How do you know what’s going on?” And they would say that they talked to friends and family, or learned things from their Twitter or Facebook feeds on their phones. But sometimes they weren’t very savvy, or “news-literate”, and they wouldn’t know what to do with stories they came across.
I realized Pocket could be a hub for my students’ reading lives, a way for them to follow their interests. And a lot of them really liked Pocket! That helped me achieve my goal: I wanted to make it easy for them not to dismiss something they found online, or to force them to read it immediately or never read it at all. Most importantly, I wanted to get them to want to read.
It’s so great to get students to recognize that words on a page can have real meaning, and that their brains do some amazing processing while they read! I’ve also brought in historical context, talking to them about the print and digital revolutions and the history of written communication.
What kinds of material were these students reading in Pocket?
With the new Common Core State Standards for education, there’s been a big push among high-school teachers to feature more non-fiction in the classroom. In my last year of teaching, I started to collect non-fiction pieces I wanted my students to read. We all shared one Pocket account, so all the students could populate it with articles they’d found on a given topic. It was really good, very visual, and an easy app for students to have on their phones: just perfect.
I also used it as a way to teach research. This is such a difficult process to grasp, especially for kids who are the first in their families to go to college. It’s challenging for them to follow a topic over the course of, say, a month. Pocket was really helpful, a way for them to collect and curate resources, and in a fun way too.
With Pocket I was successful in showing that research is simply getting interested in something, following it for a while, and learning more about it–not a scary or laborious process.
How did they (and the schools) feel about using mobile technology for homework?
Many schools don’t allow use of phones on school property, but the reality is students are using their phones all the time. Sometimes teachers try to enter students’ realms by using apps the students already have, but I think that can sometimes be unprofessional. At the same time, I don’t want to use an app that they would never use (like an RSS reader). Pocket was a great middle ground. And my students used Pocket when they were outside school as well.
How do you use Pocket now that you’re outside the classroom?
Pocket is my headquarters, or hub, for my reading flow. Everyone has a different flow; I try to make mine as simple as possible. I collect information from a lot of sources: Feedly is my RSS app for the blogs I follow. People also email me links.
My blog, iserotope.com, is all about reading. I use IFTTT so that items from Pocket render over to my blog in one step. The “Extras” section on my blog is a collection of additional articles I like, many of which I first read in Pocket.
What’s your favorite Pocket feature?
If I find articles that would be interesting to other teachers, I’ll use Send to Friend to share them. I think this sort of personalized sharing is really appreciated. It’s different from sharing something on Facebook or Twitter, where people get exhausted scrolling through dozens of links that aren’t personally tailored to their interests.
What kinds of content are you saving to Pocket right now?
Social justice: One of the reasons I became a teacher was because I am passionate about social issues. I save a ton of long-form articles on things that are affecting society today, such as the connection between socioeconomic status and health, or between crime rates and education. I read about things like, what educators can do to keep at-risk 6th and 9th graders from dropping out of school. I also read about political and racial matters like stop-and-frisk. The Atlantic is one of my most frequent sources for this kind of material.
Reading about reading: This is a meta-topic!
I’m fascinated by what happens in our brains when we read, what happens to our brains as a result of reading, the effect of reading non-fiction versus fiction…
I like to stay current with the studies that are published on these topics.
Speaking of reading, at the end of last year I got an email from Pocket that told me I was in the Top 1% of Pocket readers! That was so great, because it told me some of my trends. I read 2,715 articles, for a total of 2.5 million words: that’s like reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby more than 53 times over!
If you’re also a teacher who uses Pocket in the classroom, please tell us how! You can write to us at email@example.com; we’d love to hear from you!