How We Incorporate Teacher Feedback

How We Incorporate Teacher Feedback

Actively Learn offers tips for incorporating teachers into the prototyping process

By Scott Freschet     Mar 31, 2014

How We Incorporate Teacher Feedback

Actively Learn was built with teachers in mind in 2012. And since Day One, we have been completely obsessed with learning how we can make a better tool to improve close reading and student learning from a text.

As a update, Actively Learn has been around for a year now. During this time we have had over 5,000 teachers and 60,000 students sign up and try our product. Yipee! And we are even more excited because 84% of teachers surveyed say students read more, engage more deeply or improve their reading skills with Actively Learn!

Yet, we aren’t satisfied. And that’s why talk with teachers… A LOT!

How do we interact with teachers?

The first thing we learned is that there is no “one-size-fits-all” way to interact with teachers. And that’s okay -- everyone is different, and our interaction with them should be as such.

Over the last three months, we have visited classrooms, talked on the phone, gone on walks, attended conferences, chatted online, tweeted, and been on video calls with hundreds of teachers. Yes, it’s a little exhausting… but so much fun. We love talking with teachers because we want Actively Learn to work for them. This product was built for teachers and they should help shape what it becomes.

To give you an idea of what this looks like, here are a few special stories...

EdSurge Tech for Schools Summit in Baltimore

EdSurge hosts a fantastic series of events (a full list here) for teachers to discover cool new technology for their classrooms. We recently attended the event in Baltimore with hundreds of passionate teachers and administrators.

Talking with Teachers

During the day, educators were given the ability to complete a survey and provide feedback on Actively Learn. Over 100 educators took the time and told us what they thought about our reading tool. We spent an entire day analyzing their feedback. The responses were largely positive reviews -- which we love to hear :) -- but 3 educators shared that they had a little trouble navigating through Actively Learn and creating their first assignment for students.

While it was just a few teachers, we took this feedback VERY seriously. We had been working on a design to improve user navigation, and we incorporated this latest feedback just two weeks before launching our updated user interface for Actively Learn.

Our New User Interface

After tests and feedback with a select group of teachers, we confirmed that Actively Learn is now easier to navigate and use with the new design. So, thank you very much EdSurge for the wonderful event and thank you educators for the valuable feedback!

Tweeting with Teachers

Twitter is a SUPER POPULAR hangout space for our teachers and we communicate with them frequently. We give shout-out tweets to our new users and highlight when certain teachers are becoming “rockstars” with Actively Learn in their classrooms. Below is a recent conversation we had with Lindsey Own (@LindseyOwn).

In the same way we connected with Lindsey, we also developed a close relationship with Noel Drew (@DrewEdu) -- a true Actively Learn rockstar. She embodies everything we love about teachers! She recently told us that she’s at a BYOD school and her students have a wide range of different devices. She likes Actively Learn because we are a browser-based reading tool compatible with multiple devices. She really drove home for us the range of different ways in which teachers use Actively Learn; e.g., students could be using iPads, chromebooks, or laptops from a cart, or even using their phones to read at home. The list goes on and on…and I think you get the idea.

So to ensure Actively Learn is available for every student -- no matter how they connect to the internet -- we made some improvements!

Access Actively Learn from Any Device and Platform

Actively Learn was always available on any device (i.e. laptops, tablets and smartphone) and any browser (i.e. Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Internet explorer), and now we’re also on multiple platforms (i.e. Edmodo and theGoogle Chrome Web Store).

Thanks again Noel for telling us about your BYOD classroom and reminding us that no 2 classrooms are the same. If you want to share cool stories about your classroom, tweet us (@ActivelyLearn)!

Testing New Ideas with Teachers

Every now and then we dream up crazy ideas and test them with our teachers. This last story details an experiment we ran with Claudia Brunot which we called the “Auto-Grading” test.

As everyone knows, teachers are incredibly hard pressed for time. As such, we thought it might be compelling to offer a solution in which we would grade student answers. Claudia volunteered to participate and we had an internal team of teachers grade two Actively Learn assignments for her Pre-AP class.

After the experiment, Claudia shared something very insightful with us. She said,

“Though this is an immense time saver for teachers, seeing firsthand each students’ response gives me valuable insight into where each students’ strengths and weaknesses are and what elements I need to reteach.”

Claudia was very clear in her feedback. While “auto-grading” is a nice way to save some time, what she really needs are better ways to monitor her students and analyze where to intervene. This feedback was so clear… that it accelerated an effort to expand the data and insights tools we provide for teachers.

Better Monitoring Tools for Teachers

And we are happy to let Claudia know that she can now view students’ notes and grade students’ responses much faster than before. She can also see her students’ location in the text and where they have flagged passages as difficult to understand. She will also understand how her students are performing across texts, how much time they spend reading, and where they struggle.

Editor's Note: This was originally posted on the Actively Learn blog.

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