Actively Learn is the most incredible online program to engage students with text that I have seen. Admittedly I have not looked for other competitor programs before, but Wow, I haven’t seen anything else like it! I really believe it has the ability to completely transform education. I know that technology can engage students, but I didn’t know how much technology can transform learning to become richer and fuller. It is such a powerful tool, and I now understand how powerful one to one learning is! Of course, it is only as powerful as the teacher who utilizes the features and creates lessons, monitors students and directs the student learning.
Normally when students engage with text, they do so independently. Students can partner with others, students can even discuss text in small groups. But they do have to read it on their own to make sense of it. Actively Learn allows my students to engage with others as they read the text. This is what I like best about this program.
While students are reading they can annotate the text and choose to share their annotations with their group members. You may think that this is not so different than what can happen with Google docs, however it is much more. Students can have discussions on the text and reply to each other regarding the text, they can highlight the text. Misconceptions can be cleared up by team members, or the teacher, and the teacher has a copy of all of the notes left.
I especially like how a teacher can embed questions in the text. Students cannot continue reading without answering a key question. I use these questions to show context and deeper understanding. Students have to explore the text to find answers to the questions. What is critical is that students can only answer these questions once. Only after they submit their answer, can they see what other students in the class have submitted. They cannot go back and change their answer. This allows students to read others answers to get an even deeper understanding. Many students find it helpful in their learning as it elevates their response since they know their answer is published to the group. As a teacher I can easily score each student Incomplete, Basic, Proficient, or Advanced and leave comments if I choose to on their performance. Students can also “like” by giving a thumbs up to the responses which they feel are proficient and advanced. (That is how we are using it in middle school), though I also see liking responses that they think are interesting and something they have not thought of before.
You can also embed video as well as pictures in the questions. I love the way students can collaborate with each other in the process of reading. It is an amazing platform and I have gotten great feedback from students.
My students said it best:
“I like it because it gives you a chance to see what your class mates wrote. I like how you can send notes to another person in the same class, and everyone can see it. You can also help each other and answer questions. I think it would help students learn more by their typing, and it would help with communicating skills. It would also help them because they already use so much internet things so they are used to websites and other stuff like that.” (Destinie, 7th Grader)
“I love this program. I like that you can give feed back to your group members. It is kind of challenging on some questions, because you have to go back to the text if you dont understand. I would like this in my other classes because this would make learning more fun. I think it would help students learn more because it is more interesting than a text book. It would help students learn more because there are better resources than a text book.” (Francisco. 7th Grader)
“I really like this program! I like how we can communicate with our classmates and get direct help from our teachers! I feel like this website is easy to use and there is really no issues that I have found yet. I think this would be helpful to use in other classrooms because I appreciate that you can get help from other students and the teacher. I don’t think that students would be off task because this is really fun and it would be hard to go and do other things because you can discover a lot on this website. This would help other students because they get other responses from others, which could give them main ideas or just a simple help! 🙂 “ (Mia, 7th Grader)