All right, descend from soapbox and let’s take a look at a tool that will help us in the teaching of literacy. This tool is called Actively Learn. It is one of my new favorite tools for ELA, well it’s not new, just newish to me. If you are not familiar with Actively Learn, watch this short video to get a quick overview:
- Content - the content available in Actively Read is phenomenal. I taught the gamut of HS ELA classes (everything from English 9 to AP English Lit and College Composition) and in the available content in Actively Learn is representative of most of the texts that I taught. Additionally, texts are Lexiled and sorted by grade level and subject. Additionally, teachers can add their own content by going to the “Create Assignments” tab and selecting “Add Content”. They can add from a URL, Google Doc or PDF. So go ahead, add those lyrics from Thunder Road or Don’t Drink the Water, they will work.
- Support - The Actively Learn interface has a ton of support built right into the tool. When teachers log in, the first stop is their “Checklist” which shows them what they need to accomplish to fully leverage all of the features built into Actively Learn. The checklist links to a help video on the topic as well as text instructions with screenshots. Additionally, you will always find a helping hand hanging out in the lower right hand corner of the app. Click on the photo of the support person and you can launch into a live chat.
- Collaboration - My mantra has always been “comprehension is collaborative”. Ok, I don’t think that I came up with that one on my own, but it is true. Comprehension hinges on the student’s ability to build/activate their schema and make connections and the best way to support this in an ELA classroom is to create a collaborative reading experience (my other thoughts on schema building). Kids should be talking about text, they should been sharing what they see in the text, and they should be having debates about the text. Actively Learn allows this to happen at anytime. No longer is a student “alone in the text”. They can post notes for their fellow students to comment on, they can send a private “I don’t understand” flag to their teacher, and they can accommodate for themselves as needed (i.e. have the text read aloud, look up definitions of words, etc.). In short, they have a community of learners to aid in their comprehension. Additionally, teachers can co-author assignments together and they can co-teach classes.
Actively Learn truly puts the student experience at the forefront. Students have great opportunities to collaborate and connect with their classmates and teacher via the text and this helps aid comprehension and the development of schema. So, if you are a literacy teacher (and I know you are) give Actively Learn a look and don’t leave your students “alone in the text”.
- Gina Rogers, Technology Consultant, Grant Wood AEA (@grogers1010)
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