Teachers Love How This Online Reading Platform Fosters Deeper Learning

April 2, 2019

Like many educators, Christy Stanley wants her students to practice close reading and deep learning. But she is up against a far more seductive habit. “We have a generation of skimmers and scanners because these kids are always on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat,” says Stanley, director of humanities and healthful living for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City school district in North Carolina. “They don’t know how to slow down their reading.”

Three years ago, Stanley’s district discovered a powerful ally in its quest to get kids to pause and really process what they’re reading. After a few of the district’s schools participated in a pilot program with the digital reading platform Actively Learn, Stanley got a look at teacher surveys and other program details. “I was impressed,” says Stanley. “I’ve been in public education for 20 years, and I don’t say that often. What we were hearing from teachers was, ‘I would really hate to be without this next year.’”

Stanley, a former ninth-grade English teacher, often thinks about how different her pedagogy might have been—or, as a student, how much deeper her learning might have gone—with access to Actively Learn’s sequenced sets of texts and other materials designed to provide historical context and achieve depth in a particular topic. When reading Anne Frank’s “Diary of a Young Girl,” for example, students can also explore related material, from the Maya Angelou poem “Caged Bird” to Nazi propaganda posters. “As a student, I’m not just reading the book,” says Stanley. “I’m learning conceptually about how these things fit together.”

Stanley spoke with EdSurge about the features she and the teachers love about their district’s reading platform, including the ability to curate content, build scaffolds, and embed standards-aligned questions throughout a text. She also discussed the importance of deeper learning and the challenges of facilitating it, and the necessity of making learning visible in order to see if and how students are processing information.

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