Jordan Soyka

New Orleans, LA

Jordan Soyka
St. Martin's Episcopal School
New Orleans, LA
How do you use Actively Learn in your classroom? 

In-class reading, assigned reading for homework, and research.

What problems were you experiencing in your classroom or school prior to adopting Actively Learn? 

Students often lost their handouts/books and it was hard to tell who was actually doing their reading.

What solutions did you try to address problems in your school/classroom prior to adopting Actively Learn? 

I often assign annotations to make sure students are reading thoroughly.

How has Actively Learn helped improve your students’ learning and/or your teaching? 

First, it ensures that students have their reading. No one can forget/lose their reading; as long as they have internet access, they can do their reading. Embedded questions help keeps students engaged throughout the text. It also helps me reinforce certain ideas by asking a question in the moment (instead of having to wait until the student has finished the text). The ability to alter font & color (as well as the font for people with dyslexia) also helps to keep students engaged. I also appreciate the ability to insert notes and media to enhance understanding. Finally, I love the meta-data: I can see how long it took a student to read, how many words they looked up, what areas confused them, etc. I get a much fuller picture of each student's comprehension.

How do you use Actively Learn with your students? What type of content do you assign? 

I mostly assign short fiction and nonfiction. I still really value paper books, so I've yet to use Actively Learn for any of our longer texts. I like the ability to ask different questions. Using the multiple choice allows me to assess the students' understanding without actually having to sit down and do the grading. Of course, the ability to ask short answer questions allows me to probe deeper understanding (and allowing students to see their classmates responses after they answer a question allows for instant feedback even for longer questions). Finally, I've tried more creative uses of the program. For instance, instead of assigning questions, I'll sometimes assign annotations (asking students to leave a certain number of notes).

What advice would you have for teachers who are new to Actively Learn? 

Start small. Use a small text with some well-worded short answer questions. Encourage students to take advantage of everything the program has to offer (looking up definitions, marking areas they don't understand, taking notes, etc.).