Ponder Reading Groups Pilot: Inquiry is finally cool!?

Ponder School Feed

A Ponder feed for the learning community

We are excited to announce a new pilot: Ponder Reading Groups, our first major move outside the boundaries of specific classes! Over the coming school year we will be working closely with a number of pilot schools to iterate on the experience, but we are looking for a few more.

Therefore, I am happy to further announce that in our search for a diverse spread of schools with a basic level of infrastructure and a passion for discussion, we will be giving away a full-year Ponder site license for up to 10 schools selected for the pilot! If you’re interested, read on and then fill out the pilot request form.

That’s right, a free site license for up to 10 selected schools!

Reading Groups were inspired by repeated anecdotes from our Ponder classes about student usage exceeding all expectations, and then students asking their teachers if they could continue using it after the end of the semester. ‘How often do students ask to keep using educational software?’ we thought. With the further encouragement of the preliminary results from the Ponder efficacy study at San Francisco State University, we began bouncing ideas around about other roles Ponder could play while still boosting student engagement, perseverance and educational outcomes.

How do we make research, reading and thinking a fun, social activity for the entire school community?

Or in the words of the College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading, how can Ponder make building “a foundation for college and career readiness” by reading “widely and deeply from among a broad range of high-quality, increasingly challenging literary and informational texts” and acquiring “the habits of reading independently and closely” fun?

We grew even more excited when the Robin Hood College Success Prize was announced early this Spring, with a goal in the same spirit: Allowable solutions for the prize cannot be dependent on instructors or the classroom, but must instead be “student focused.” (See rules Section 5.2.) If you are not already familiar, the goal of the College Success Prize is to create a technology-only tool to dramatically increase the percentage of remedial students across the country who complete their community college degree within a “timely fashion”. So it’s understandable why they structured the rules this way – they don’t want solutions to get blocked on instructor adoption, or institution-specific implementation details which might slow them down – they want something that will help students independent of those variables. For us it was further confirmation that there is a need for what we are working on, and even better that it dovetailed nicely with the efforts already underway here. We just had to wrap up the idea in a two-minute video to enter the competition:



The Robin Hood testing process for solutions is as simple as it is imposing: to run a three-year evaluation of the selected proposals, and simply measure the change in graduation rate between those students randomly assigned to each solution, and the control group of students who are not assigned a solution. This month the judges will be announcing which technologies move to the next phase of the program. Of course, regardless of how the judging cookie crumbles, Ponder will be proceeding with reading groups!

Of course, regardless of how the cookie crumbles, Ponder will proceed with Reading Groups.

So how will they work? As demonstrated by our new interview series, Ponder is used in different ways by almost every instructor who picks it up. There are common themes, of course, but the broad spread of applications is born of the simple fact that students love Ponder. What would you do differently if you knew your students would be debating last night’s reading on the way to class?

Ponder --> Articulate --> Share --> ListenThe goal of Ponder Reading Groups is to support students in their personal reading and research independent of their classes or direct instruction, building the habits they will then employ in class. Here’s how it works:

  1. Deploy Ponder to teachers and students across your school
  2. Students pick reading groups that match their interest areas
  3. Students read, watch and share with micro-responses within the school’s Ponder community
  4. Schools can build upon the online momentum by creating in-person study and discussion periods

Of course, adding students to classes continues to work as it always has – a click creates a private shared space for any class, club, group project, etc that needs one.

Your school may be looking for a similar solution: How do we make research and reading a fun, social activity for the entire school community? How do we better understand student interests to bridge them to the curriculum? How do we expand usage of Ponder beyond the early adopters without gating participation on over-taxed teachers and curricula? How do we let the students run with it?

Over the coming school year we will be working closely with a number of pilot schools to iterate on the experience, but we are looking for a few more. If you’re interested, please tell us a bit more about your school. If you have any questions, contact our support team via chat or ticket.



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