We’ve been reading Beowulf the past few days, and we’ve been doing it on Actively Learn. Today as everyone was reading, I noticed a few things about the program that make it so good for readers (both those who struggle, and those who don’t…)

Here are some highlights of Actively Learn that is great for students:

  1. Hear It: I noticed one of my students had donned his earbuds and was listening to his Chromebook. When I looked closer, I could see the words highlighting across his screen. This clever reader, on his own, had started using the Read It tool, which allows students to hear it as they follow along. This wouldn’t be ideal for fast readers, but for slower readers or those who struggle with comprehension, this is a perfect tool.

2. Multiple Choice to Check for Understanding: At first, my students worry that their grade goes down if they miss one. I reassure them that it doesn’t. I use multiple choice questions as a way to ensure that they’re understanding the main concepts in the text, or to practice ACT-type questions. Since they immediately see the answer, they can confirm their knowledge, adjust their understanding, or stop and ask me a question if they don’t understand how to reach that answer. I also use short-answer questions, which I can score and give feedback on while students are still reading.

3. Define: This is a tool I’ve grown fond of even in my iPad. If I run across a word I don’t know, I double-click. Same thing in Actively Learn. Students don’t have to leave the app–they only need to click on the word and select “define.” The definition comes up in the right hand margin, courtesy of Merriam Webster.

4. Size and color adjustments. Many of my students change the background color of the page to blue, pink, or even black. While most of them probably do this because it’s “cool,” there are some students who can better discern the words by changing the background color of the page. The settings also allow students to enlarge the wording and change the font. The Open Dyslexic font is also available for students.

Actively Learn is my go-to for student reading. There is a premium version, which does provide some cool data and allows unlimited downloads of websites and Google Docs, but even the free version gives you three uploads/month, plus access to non-fiction articles and lots of literature options.