Helping Students Become Thinking Readers

Actively Learn

Overview

Reading is the bedrock of education. However, two-thirds of eighth graders have difficulty understanding what they read. Actively Learn worked with Schema on the design of an e-reading platform to improve student's reading comprehension, enabling teachers to reach students directly by using the text as a platform for personalized instruction, timely feedback, and peer collaboration. Students are motivated by filling in gaps in their background knowledge and through interacting with peers. Teachers are provided with robust data metrics to monitor student progress.

Actively Learn Product Vision
Schema designed the application to build reading comprehension
Teachers can embed media into the digital text
Answering questions in Actively Learn
Students see questions that act as gates, embedded media, and the ability to see what other students have responded
The whiteboard is a data visualization of the tags students add to a text
Zooming out reveals the clusters of tags students have entered
The whiteboard lets students view their own collective annotations in both a single text and across a set of assignments
Teachers get robust analytics on individual students and the entire classroom
Digital texts become social environments for dialog and exchange
Teachers can view metrics on how their students are performing

Process

Schema collaborated with Actively Learn throughout the platform’s various phases of development, from the initial pilot to the current incarnation. The initial pilot was an opportunity to test the value proposition in the classroom, the results of which guided our design process, and it continues to be informed by feedback from both students and educators. The design of the platform has evolved accordingly, and continues to get more refined in response to the evolving needs in the classroom.

Schema redesigned the platform to focus on clear navigation
Space for teachers to create assignments
Grading happens adjacent to the text
Teachers can track student progress directly in the text itself
Teachers can see more detailed metrics of their classroom's progress
Individual student reports use the common core standard
A simple color-coding system makes evaluation easier
Version 2 of the platform for teachers
Schema designed a clean user interface focused on the reading experience
Questions interrupt the text and encourage students to pause and think
Students can see eachother's responses to questions
Version 2 of the platform for students

Outcome

In use by almost half-a-million students at last count, Actively Learn is making an impact in K-12 education across the US and in countries around the world, enabling new interactions between teachers, students and texts that help develop active, thinking readers in every subject. Actively Learn’s user interface has won numerous design awards, from a Gold Medal at the User Experience Awards to Communication Art’s Award of Excellence, and the organization has received support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as well as the National Science Foundation.

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