Website Wednesday: Actively Learn

by Kristie Burk, DASD Coordinator of Cyber and Blended Learning

Have you ever assigned your students a text to read, but weren’t sure if they actually read it? If so, you’re going to love today’s website!

Tools like EdPuzzle and PlayPosit allow teachers to make videos more interactive by embedding quiz questions directly into the video. Actively Learn is a website that lets teachers do the same thing with text.

Teachers can import an Internet article, a Google Doc or a PDF.  Once the text is added, the fun begins.  Teachers can add multiple choice questions, short answer questions, notes about the text, links to additional information, images and even video.  Teachers can also choose to “whiteout” certain sections of the text.

When students engage with the text, the questions pop up as they read along in the text, so it forces them to slow down and to engage with the reading. There are so many other things that students can do once they’re in Actively Learn, such as:

  • take their own notes, which the teacher can view
  • highlight and take notes on specific parts of the text
  • hear a part of the text read aloud, speed up or slow down the reading speed, and highlight words as they’re being read
  • translate a part of the text
  • change the font size, color, and spacing

One of the downsides of the website is that you have to create a “class,” have your students create accounts and then join your class. I definitely think these extra steps are worth it!

I think you’re going to really love this website.  Check it out and let us know what you think!



Food for Thought Friday: No Such Thing as a Digital Native?

by Kristie Burk, DASD Coordinator of Blended and Cyber Learning

What if I told you that there was no such thing as a “digital native,” the term coined by Marc Prensky to describe children who grew up in the age of mobile devices, social media, and the Internet? Would you think differently about your students?

A paper published in the journal Teaching and Teacher Education this summer suggests that the idea of a digital native is a myth. Authors Paul Kirschner and Pedro De Bruyckere argue that today’s children are actually not highly tech-literate nor do they inherently understand or use technology better than older adults.

“Research also shows that though learners in this generation have only experienced
a digital connected world, they are not capable of dealing with modern technologies in the way which is often ascribed to them (i.e., that they can navigate that world for effective and efficient learning and knowledge construction).” – Kirschner & De Bruyckere

Educators make a mistake, they say, when they assume that students have the digital skills needed to be successful learners.

For example, researchers from New York Institute of Technology, the University of Connecticut and Utah State University looked at over 1,000 middle schoolers and their teachers and found that the teachers used productivity tools, such as word processing, and search engines more frequently than the middle schoolers. Students, on the other hand, used technology mostly for social connections and interpersonal communications outside of school. Surprisingly, this study found that teachers seemed to have a better grasp of the uses of technology than the digital natives did!

Kirschner and De Bruyckere want to debunk two prevailing myths regarding digital natives:

  1. Students do not “naturally” have the digital skills they need to learn.  Like any other skills, digital skills need to be “properly taught and acquired before they can be applied.”
  2. There is not a generation of digital immigrants that lacks the digital proficiency of younger people. In their research, the authors found that differences between teachers’ and students’ digital skills were more related to their roles than their ages.

I encourage you to read the entire paper when you get a chance.  It just may change your thinking about digital natives!


Website Wednesday: ReadWorks

Image result for readworksby Jackie Longan, DASD K-5 Instructional Coach

I love when I am able to share a website that’s easy-to-navigate with resources that are practical, customizable, and best of all… FREE! is one of my favorite resources for articles that I can use with students to help build background knowledge and enhance content-specific vocabulary about topics across all curricular areas.  It allows me to search and sort by grade level, subject, Lexile level, and genre.  

Additionally, ReadWorks offers article collections in its Article-A-Day” sets.  This suggested approach promotes reading one article from the set, every day, for ten minutes.  It also includes lesson and question ideas to go along with the sets.

I hope you find this resource useful, and if you get to check it out, let your Instructional Coach know what you think!

Monday Mentions: Breakout EDU in 1st Grade at Beaver Creek

by Michelle Curcio, DASD K-5 Instructional Coach

BreakoutEDU is a fun way to engage students in activities that have them thinking critically, problem-solving, troubleshooting and working collaboratively.  BreakEdu games require players to work together to solve a series of puzzles in order to open one or more locked boxes.  Many of the games are complex and are designed for older students and adults.  First-grade teacher Rachel Kass however, after participating in a professional development session on BreakoutEDU,  found a way to use the puzzles with her young students.  By modifying the traditional tasks she created puzzles that are both age-appropriate and that maintain the essential skills we want all of our students to learn.

After spending several days with students on activities such as working collaboratively and learning to open a simple padlock, Rachel created multi-step clues to lead center groups to the combinations needed to open a Breakout Box.  

Watching the first graders enthusiasm as they solve the puzzles and gather to reflect has been exciting. Rachel has clearly demonstrated that our youngest students are able to participate in complex problem solving that is rigorous and at the same time, fun!  


Video of Rachel’s Class During Breakout:


Check out Nearpod’s New +Add Activity Button

nearpodby Jen Hervada, Lionville Middle School Instructional Coach

Nearpod is an interactive presentation tool that allows teachers to easily engage learners through the use of multimedia, collaboration, formative assessment and more.  Teachers can create a lesson, add different types of multimedia or download a lesson from the extensive Nearpod library.  Get feed feedback from students, ask an opinion, take a poll, give a quiz or take a virtual field trip. Nearpod connects seamlessly with Google Docs, Google Slides, and Google Sheets.

The newest Nearpod function is the +Add Activity feature. The +Add Activity Button allows teachers to change a lesson to meet the needs of your students at a moment’s notice.  For example, a group of students may need some extension activities or need to take a step back and practice a skill, the +Add Activity feature can do that and more. With Nearpod, teachers deliver a live lesson or assign a self-paced lesson to students who need them.

If you interested in a sample Virtual Reality experience:

  1. Download the Nearpod iOS app for your iPhone or iPad or go to on a desktop or laptop using Chrome browser.
  2. Open the Nearpod App.  
  3. Click the Join button from the home screen.  
  4. Enter any of these lesson PINs: NRPDDVR, SPACEVIR, TRIPSVR


Tech Tip Tuesday: Scan QR codes with iOS 11

by Kristie Burk, DASD Coordinator of Cyber and Blended Learning

Starting with iOS 11, you can use your iPad’s or iPhone’s camera to scan QR codes so that you no longer need a QR reader.

It’s simple to do.  Open up your camera and point it at the QR code. iOS 11 will automatically read the QR code and a notification will drop down from the top of the screen with a preview of the link.

If your students do not have iOS 11 but they’re using Snapchat, they can also use it as a QR reader.  Once Snapchat is open, students can point the camera at the code and hold their finger over the image to read it!

Thank you to Amanda Friedman, Downingtown East Spanish teacher, for sharing these tips!