Here at Actively Learn, we encourage students to take into account the author's bias when analyzing a text. In weighing ourselves against Achieve3000, we are obviously not an impartial jury. That said, our view is that Actively Learn and Achieve3000 differ fundamentally in terms of their pedagogical focus and functionality.
Achieve3000 asks students to read nonfiction articles daily, at their Lexile level, to accelerate reading. Every lesson is designed in the exact same way: read a two page article, answer a multiple choice assessment and answer a thought question. The learning process is limited to the interaction between the student and software, and Achieve hopes students do over 80 of these lessons in a school year. Additionally, students are supposed to be motivated to improve Lexile scores in order to reach certain careers (e.g. Achieve3000 claims an auto mechanic needs a 1405 Lexile while a judge needs a 1580 Lexile level).
Actively Learn takes a fundamentally different approach. It is designed as a way for teachers to implement best pedagogical practices that are otherwise cumbersome or impossible to implement with paper texts. Actively Learn is a platform, which means it can accommodate various types of texts (novels, current events, science textbooks, etc.). We also know that students are motivated by reading that is purposeful and meaningful, which is why we support the deep reading that students are doing for their classes and that connects to ideas that are relevant to their learning.
Here at Actively Learn, we don't believe that a focus on assessment and Lexile measures encourages lifelong reading. We want students to read because they see value in the text, discover new ideas, and have the opportunity to share their insights with their classmates. This is why our focus is on collaboration and learning as opposed to mere assessment.
Students who use Actively Learn look forward to class reading because they can interact with their teacher and classmates. They can debate, ask questions, offer insights, and engage with their scholarly community.
Achieve3000 motivates students through ongoing assessment. This sort of extrinsic motivation gets students to read, but it misses the purpose and pleasure of reading. Furthermore, points-based rewards have been shown to produce only temporary results: in the absence of assessment, students conditioned to read for a Lexile grade see no reason to engage in a text.
Teaching great content depends on a teacher's ability to engage students in discussion, make connections across ideas that are meaningful to them, and provide effective feedback. The research shows that the role of the teacher is essential to student learning. This is why we give teachers the option to create their own instruction within Actively Learn, use our pre-created content, or modify anything they like to suit their instructional goals.
In fact, we created Actively Learn to enable teachers to implement best teaching practices in their classroom. Our platform makes it easy for teachers to give immediate feedback to their students, respond to questions and annotations, model effective reading practices, and differentiate instruction. We not only acknowledge the importance of teachers, we amplify what they're able to do for students' learning.
With Achieve3000, teachers are limited to the instruction created by the application. Instead of teachers interacting meaningfully with students and assigning contextually relevant assignments, the learning done through Achieve3000 is based on the repetition of automatically generated exercises. Rather than engaging in dialogue with their teachers, students who use Achieve3000 select pieces of text to satisfy the software. The teacher is effectively sidelined in this instructional model.
Students consistently report in our product surveys that their favorite part of reading for class is discussion; they are driven to read when the ideas in the text spark conversation and debate. This is why we've designed our platform to incorporate discussion between the student, his or her peers, and the teacher right inside the text. We want students to share ideas, respond to each other's thoughts, and participate in rich debate while they read. This also holds students accountable for their reading and promotes higher-quality work.
With Achieve3000, the focus of learning is automated assessments. The social dynamic that leads to deeper learning and greater engagement is missing.
Achieve3000 claims to prepare all learners for "the challenges of college and career." However, being prepared for college and 21st-century careers means much more than being able to do the same assignments over and over again. We need students to be able to write, think critically, and engage in meaningful dialogue and debate. Colleges don't ask students for their Lexile scores; they want to know if students are able to take on challenging academic work and be independent, critical thinkers. This is not a skill that automated software can teach.
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