Saturday, December 6, 2014

Actively Learn

Actively Learn

There are many resources available for educators floating around the net, but the volume can be overwhelming for those interested in implementing the use of technology in the classroom. Shifting through the apps, programs and websites to find activities and curriculum for students that will transform the learning environment can take a tremendous amount of time - time that a busy teacher can't spare.  Yet finding and curating these resources is essential if educators plan to turn the digital learning environment to one of transformation and redefinition.

I recently learned of a new website called Actively Learn.  This site provides a platform for creating rich, critical thinking and cross-curricular activities that can be shared out easily with students.  The real beauty of this site is that, for once, the key to a successful lesson lies in the teacher’s ability to create meaningful discussion questions or connections rather than in the bells and whistles the tech provides.  And….the site is easy to set up and use. 

I was impressed with the amount of materials available on the website, albeit not all are free. They range from grade 2 to grade 12 reading level and include Shakespearean Plays, Poetry Collections, Myths, Current Events, Social Studies, Science and Healthy Living.  Documents scanned as PDFs can be uploaded and URLs to articles on the web can be posted.

Adding Discussion and Comprehension Questions
Educators can easily turn each article or text into a critical thinking activity.  As the students read through the text, they come across short answer and multiple choice questions, notes and links to other media that have been personalized by the teacher. They cannot continue reading the text until the activities are complete. One of my favourite features is the ability to match documents and direct students to other media so that they can compare, contrast and make connections to what they are reading.  It takes the learning experience into a category far beyond that of worksheets and computer-generated quizzes.  There is a grading component that will show individual student and class progress on the assignment.

Another great feature is the ability of students to add comments to the text as they read.  Students can share comments with their classmates or keep them private for the teacher.  I see this is an excellent way to encourage students who are reluctant to ask for clarification or share ideas and give them an opportunity to participate more actively in the process.  Another positive for me is that rather than providing handouts, the students are functioning and learning the paperless environment.

When teaching, I try to focus on skills such as making connections, inferencing and critical thinking.  So how do I plan to use Actively Learn?  Some early uses could be:

• personalizing learning - students can have different articles and activities personalized on an topic

• literature circles - students can add their discussion questions, vocabulary, comprehension and connections to the document itself prior to meeting in groups.  Students can preview the activities, share their thinking and then meet in the literature circle groups for extension and other activities

• poetry unit - pointing out connections to students, comprehension checks, short answer questions all while sharing with the classroom

• students who leave school on extended vacations. They would be able to continue interacting with their peers and would be able to take family visits without missing learning opportunities.

Will students be engaged?  I believe so.