Thursday, September 10, 2015

Powerful and Engaging Literacy Tools to Start Your Year

I was recently at a Seattle EdTech Meetup and learned about this very engaging new tool to help improve literacy. Like MyOn and Overdrive, Actively Learn gives you the ability to provide a virtual library to your school that is device agnostic.

Unlike those other services, Actively Learn allows teachers to get in and chunk the text, add thought-provoking questions throughout, and build supporting content - like videos and images. Actively Learn also allows teachers to track if students are gaining a deep understanding of the content. Students can annotate their version of the content and post discussions with the class around parts of the text.  They can quickly get the definition to words and have sentences spoken.

There is lots of content already in the Actively Learn library, including subject-area content and tons of free books. And you can add your own content and add links from major news services (this is huge!)

Actively Learn is also building partnerships with publishers to grow their paid content. They currently have many books from HarperCollins and Simon and Shuster. Teachers can "rent" titles for .99 cents per copy for a 3 month period (districts can purchase longer contract lengths for content.)

And lots of the content that is in the Actively Learn library comes pre-loaded with prompts and assessments (that you can use or discard).

Oh yeah, and because of support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Science Foundation, the platform is free for teachers and students. (There are, of course, pro versions that enable school administrators to oversee content progression and rigor.)

We've all done this before: I find a terrific news article as I am reading the New York Times and think "this will be a great discussion piece for my advisory." I then copy the link to the article to my LMS or email it to my students (or print out copies to hand out.)

Problem is... you are making the assumption that all of your kids are at the same reading level.  But for many kids - especially those who we want to engage the most - the article is just not at their reading level. This can effectively disengage students from the content and, therefore, the instruction. It also can enforce with these kids that news and current events are not something for them... not good.  

Newsela is a great service that takes current event content and builds articles on the same topic at different reading levels. You can assign individual students the reading level that is appropriate for them to understand the content, or let the students choose. You can print articles on good-old-fashion paper and (like Actively Learn) you can add quizzes to check for understanding, offer an introduction or background about the text. Oh yeah, many articles can also be read in Spanish.

Again, the basic version of Newsela is free for teachers. This is a terrific tool for getting ALL your kids reading about the world around them!


Harry Dixon said...

these literacy tools really can kickstart your career on high. I am very hopeful that i will achieve some essayhave for my upcoming assignments.

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