Learnings from the Classroom: The difference between self-directed and assigned reading.

We’ve been iterating on and refining Ponder in the higher ed classroom for two years now and it’s been really interesting to compare that experience to the past two months of watching our K12 classes get going. (Early on, we hit an IT-related snag at the WHEELS Academy. Now we’re getting to the good stuff that has to do with how students are actually using Ponder to do close reading and how a teacher might use it to evaluate their students.

In many respects the K12 classroom is much more demanding than higher ed, though both present the challenge to us of figuring out:

How to make Ponder work for both self-directed *and* assigned reading.

What are the key differences?

One of the features that’s worked out really well for self-directed reading is that unlike most social media feeds which are built around individuals, the Ponder Feed rolls up student responses by article. That means in the feed, you quickly get a sense of where the conversations are happening even if students happen upon the same article independently.

However with assigned readings where even short two page articles can generate over a hundred student responses, rolling up responses by article is just disorienting and overwhelming and fails to provide teachers with a quick way to evaluate each student’s understanding of the reading.

3 classes in particular really helped us understand the problem better: Mr. V’s 9th grade Global Studies class at Stuyvesant H.S., Ms. Perez’s 8th grade English class at xxx in Chicago and Tom Lynch‘s graduate-level Curriculum Development and Instruction Planning with Technology class at the Pace University School of Education.

We knew this was going to be a problem but it wasn’t clear to us how best to address this issue quickly until the first assigned reading responses began to roll in…

As a quick fix we re-collated assigned reading responses around the student. It’s an improvement on what we had before. But it’s not entirely clear this is the best solution. We’ve gained clarity around how each student responded to the text. But we’ve lost the thread of conversation, how are students responding to each other.

The path to supporting assigned reading well is going to be a steep and rocky one, but we know the only way to negotiate it is through trial and error and paying close attention to what’s going on in our classrooms.

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