It’s hard to get kids to read sometimes. Let’s face it, sometimes you have to struggle. However, I think using active reading strategies and close reading strategies really helps. But, once again, it can be a struggle (time-wise for sure) to make high-quality lessons where this is done in a high-quality way.
I gave a webinar last night that detailed my active reading and close reading strategies using technology.
Check it out!
So, maybe you’ve heard, but the company Curriculet went out of business. You can read about Curriculet going out of business and why on Edsurge.
Anyway, although it pains me to see a company go out of business (that was someone’s dream!) I am not sad since I have DocentEDU. DocentEDU really outshines Curriculet in every single way for reading and literacy instruction and general lesson creation.
The problems (as I see it) with Curriculet were:
- It was a closed system. You could only use the books that they already had (that you then had to buy expensive class sets for). Or, you had to import in texts from other websites which made it seem very closed. In addition, you were only able to use the questions that Curriculet provided on these texts. Students are different, classes are different, and they deserve different questions, authenticity, and books and texts that interest them and are as current as possible!
- It was expensive. You had to purchase class sets of books. I don’t know about you, but in addition to paying for the actual service, having to pay for class sets of books seems pretty out of reach for my budget.
- It was based on static questions. The main way that Curriculet had students interact with a text was simply through questions. Questions are great and they are the backbone of any class, but questions are very static. No student I know gets excited about reading yet another text with questions sprinkled in. Borrring….and pretty much the exact opposite of how we can get students engaged in and excited about school.
- It was hard to differentiate. Since all you could embed in texts were pretty much questions, you couldn’t really differentiate for any different styles of learning or gaps or advantages in background knowledge. Any teacher worth their salt knows that Student A and Student B are going to know different amounts about whatever subject they are studying. Adding a great YouTube video or presentation or vocabulary set in the lesson is what can make a huge difference for these students. Curriculet didn’t allow for this.
- It was focused only on reading and mostly English/language arts classes. I love reading-focused programs obviously as a language arts teacher. However, I don’t like that Curriculet only seemed to focus on these types of classrooms. It was very inflexible and hard to use in any other sort of curriculum area. Creating a blended science lab was impossible with this program.
- It had no collaboration/interaction between students. Students sat, read, and answered questions. Unless prompted by a teacher in the classroom, students were simply by themselves. How boring and how horrible.
- It was very teacher-centered. Teachers chose the content, teachers assigned content. Students were only the people who absorbed the content.
All of these problems led to Curriculet’s downfall. And, what I’d like to shout from the rooftops is that DocentEDU solves all of these problems!
- DocentEDU is an open system. You can go to any website and use on any published Google doc. That means you can create a lesson literally out of any text or image you have on the web. You can take an article you find 5 minutes before or hear from a student’s own interest and have them go to that actual article as a lesson.
- DocentEDU is a dang cheap system. Since you can use DocentEDU on any online text (you can even scan in paper texts you have and make them compatible with just a few simple steps), it’s not forcing you to buy books. Also, a subscription is very cheap, coming out at just $40 a year for unlimited students for one teacher. If I have 140 students, that’s 28 cents a student.
- DocentEDU is dynamic and flexible. It’s not just questions. It’s highlights, comments, open-ended questions, multiple choice questions, live student discussions (yes, live!), and literally anything with an embed code including movies, Google Maps that are explorable, vocabulary, science interactives, zooming presentations, live drawings, real calculators, and anything you can find an embed code for. The possibilities are endless for how interactive and dynamic you can make a text with DocentEDU. What’s even more amazing is that the teacher can add these things to a lesson live as students work on the lesson! If you find that your students are struggling at a certain spot, add in some insight and your students will see it immediately.
- DocentEDU makes differentiation simple. You have students who need fluency modeling while they read (audio)? Embed an audio book or even your own voice reading! Have students who don’t know the basic background knowledge needed for the lesson? Embed a YouTube video or a presentation! Have students who don’t know the vocabulary? Embed an interactive vocabulary tutorial! It’s super amazing. As with the point above, you can change the lesson live as students are doing it, so differentiation is easy in an just-as-needed manner.
- DocentEDU makes lessons awesome in any curriculum area. It works on any webpage. You can have it be text based, or not. Make an science lab or a novel study or read the Declaration of Independence or a math lesson. It is such a simple tool that it can be used in any classroom. Check out the example lessons for all curriculum areas here.
- DocentEDU has live discussions for students to interact while reading. You can embed a live discussion for students to talk to each other and reflect on what they are doing anywhere in your lesson. As I mentioned earlier, since the lessons live update, you could embed a discussion at any time before or during students completing the lesson. Unlike other discussion boards, these discussions live update as well.
- DocentEDU lessons can be focused on students. Students can create docents (lessons) themselves. Just ask a student to find a text that they want to read, and have them use the DocentEDU toolbar to create a lesson for other students! Or, assign them a text that they’re interested in, and they can mark up the text with their own insight, including their own embeds and even emojis!
In summary, although it is sad that Curriculet is dead, I highly urge all teachers who were using the program to head on over to DocentEDU. It’s better in every single way!
I really believe (as I’m sure you do as well) that the more students read, the more successful they will be. However, one of the things I always struggle with is how to get tangible evidence of my students actually interacting and thinking about text while they are reading it, not just afterwards. We all know we can put a book or an article or a poem in front of a kid, and it can look like they are reading. Heck, maybe we even made sure it was at their reading level and in their area of interest. However, I’m sure you’ve been there when after they’ve read you ask them a question about the text and you get a deer in headlights look back.
In order to comprehend text, students must be thinking and analyzing the text during reading. There are many different active reading strategies-you should find one that’s right for you and your students. However, once you find one, how can you effectively integrate it with technology? My solution for that is DocentEDU.
DocentEDU allows teachers to include open-answer questions, multiple-choice questions, highlights, comments, their own text, videos, interactive vocabulary, and an ever-expanding list of awesome interactive tools into almost anything online. This includes articles from newspapers, short stories you might find, any website with primary source information, and even published Google Docs for those oldie but goodie PDFs you have lying around. Then, DocentEDU allows students to then read that text you’ve assigned and follow your active reading instructions. Students can annotate the text (once again, pretty much anything on the internet) by leaving highlights, comments on the highlights, emoji responses, longer texts of their own, and even embed their own interactive content which they make/find. What’s even more amazing is that the teacher can see what the students have annotated LIVE as the students do it.
DocentEDU is also very flexible, so you can adapt its usage to any type of curricular area or pedagogical reading concept that you may already know and use!
This is such a great tool that really allows my students to dive deep into whatever they are reading. I recommend you try it today. Below are a couple of videos that show the ins and outs of this web tool.