A few years ago I stumbled upon Actively Learn while walking through the ISTE conference. I was immediately impressed by what they were developing. At that time it was just getting started as a new platform through which teachers can create, distribute, and assess ELA activities. Since then Actively Learn has expanded to offer a catalog of thousands of free assignments with embedded media, standards-aligned questions, scaffolding notes, and teaching ideas for science, ELA, and social studies.
There are three key elements of Actively Learn that I really appreciate. First, it’s easy to locate interesting and engaging articles, videos, and simulations to share with your students. You can locate resources in the Actively Learn catalog by searching according to subject, topic, grade level, standard, or Lexile level. Second, unlike some other services, Actively Learn doesn’t limit you using their pre-made questions. You can easily add your own questions to the materials that you distribute to your students as assignments. Third, Actively Learn can save you time by automatically grading any multiple choice questions that you include in your assignments.
Here’s an example of how you could use Actively Learn in a science class. Open the Actively Learn catalog and find the Cells Topic page, which includes a variety of assignments related to cells. Some of the assignments are based on excerpts from textbooks, high-interest news or journal articles, videos, and PhET simulations. All of the assignments and articles have notes in the margins to describe concepts that may be challenging to students and standards-aligned embedded questions. Additionally, you can add your own notes into the margins for your students.
You can distribute an assignment to your students through Actively Learn’s classroom environment or distribute it through Google Classroom or Canvas. Throughout the assigned reading there are questions that your students should answer. You can edit or remove the pre-made questions. You can also add your own questions for students to answer. Take a look at the screenshot below to see the students’ view of an article. Watch this video for an overview of what a student sees in Actively Learn.
One of the options that I appreciate about Actively Learn’s online assignments is that students can flag sections of an article with "I don't understand" comments.
Actively Learn offers free and paid plans. The free plan includes all of the core features of Actively Learn including:
- Locate materials according to subject, grade, standard, or Lexile level.
- Customization of any of the instruction in Actively Learn (edit questions or notes).
- Upload any Google doc, website, video, or PDF and turn it into an interactive assignment with your own embedded questions and notes.
- Give feedback to students as they read and get real-time data on student reading progress.
- Automatic grading of multiple choice questions.