Product Index
Curriculum Products
In Summit Reflections, educators review tools that they have seen at an EdSurge Tech for Schools Summit. Summit Reflections can only be completed onsite at the event; reviewers are incentivized to leave reviews.
Instructional Tech Resource Teacher, School Type: Elementary School, Middle School, High School, Other
Feb 24, 2014

full starfull starfull starfull starfull star Advocate

Usage: As a district resource teacher, I would recommend that the English/Language Arts and other humanities teachers in my district use this tool with their students to enhance their understanding of texts. Teachers could assign required texts through Ponder so that students can interact with the text and each other more meaningfully. As students read assigned texts or portions of texts, they can capture their reactions (called sentiments) and identify pre-populated themes. They will also be able to see the sentiments of their peers and add comments, facilitating meaningful discussions and making reading a more social event. Teachers can then view their students' interactions and use them to guide the direction of their lessons in the classroom. Discussions could be encouraged to explore controversial topics and lessons could be designed to address misunderstanding or confusion. I think Ponder is a unique literacy tool that can really improve a teacher's day-to-day practice.

Strengths: 1. The color coding and categorization of sentiments, variable darkness of "extracted" text, and "tick marks" on the side are features that enable effective and efficient assessment of student interactions with the text. These help the teacher quickly determine what topics need to be addressed in class, saving lots of time.
2. The ability for teachers to preset class themes means that the individual educators are in control of what they want to teach in their class, while also continuously exposing students to the overarching essential questions and course objectives.
3. The provided sentiments (as well as the themes) and the limited textual comments field do not overwhelm students or distract them from the purpose of reading. I would imagine that social reading tools that rely primarily on reader comments would not work well in the K-12 environment and might be too open-ended for students to use effectively. Ponder has solved this problem by providing the simple extraction interface of selecting sentiments and themes.
4. I like that the reading list can include electronic documents stored and shared from a Dropbox folder and Google Drive.

Suggestions for Improvement: 1. I would like to see more examples of primary grade use... and also an adaptation in the sentiments for younger students (like simpler vocabulary or a more graphical interface). Maybe there should be two different versions of Ponder available for use; one for secondary schools as well as colleges and universities, and one for elementary schools.
2. The activity monitoring is a little concerning for me. I am not completely clear on how it works, but my understanding is that once the Ponder extension/plugin is installed, it will monitor/track all reading activity from the sites and sources that the teacher selects. But I think it would be better if the end user (the student) could turn Ponder on and off so that even if they are on one of the teacher selected sites, it only tracks their reading activity if the student is accessing it for their school-work.
3. If it isn't already able to, could Ponder create an "app" that integrates with Evernote? It would be magnificent if I could share Evernote documents with students to Ponder.
4. I see that integration with EPUB e-books is in the works... that would be another one of my suggestions for improvement.
5. The browser extension should be available for IE and Safari as well as Firefox and Chrome.

Verdict: I would definitely advocate for this tool because I believe that it provides a useful service that is not currently fulfilled by other tools. Many literacy technologies are built on teachers embedding interventions, scaffolds, and assessments inside of texts. But this tool flips the process by asking students to embed their own reactions within the text. On top of that, I think the structured student comment interface lends itself well to data analysis. Lastly, the social aspect of the tool is an authentic way of leveraging the power of social media to enhance students' experiences in learning.

Resource Teacher, School Type: Elementary School, Middle School, High School, Other
Feb 22, 2014

full starfull starfull starfull starfull star Advocate

Usage: Ponder is a social reading platform that is intended to quickly and easily provide teachers with the feedback and data from their students reading. Teachers share/assign reading items with their classes. Students then read the text and can attach "sentiments" and identify "themes" to parts of the text. The students and teacher can then view all of the sentiments and themes from others in the class. Teachers can use it analyze the interactions of students with texts and also to inform their lesson plans and discussions. I see it as kind of a "flipped" version of Reading, but without teachers having to ready piles of papers.

Strengths: 1. SO MANY THINGS!

2. It is very well thoughtout. All of my questions were answered and even the things that I thought should be added, had been considered already.

3. I really like the interface with all the sentiments and themes on the right.

Suggestions for Improvement: 1. The sentiments need to be adjusted to include options for younger students (like simplified verbiage and possibly pictures).

2. It would be nice to include a read aloud option, even just for the sentiments/themes.

3. I would like to see the ability for classes to see each others annotations if teachers choose to share.

Verdict: I think this is a unique product that we don't currently offer in our district and doesn't seem to be included in the BCPS One system. Students can react in an authentic way to the text and teachers can quickly use the information to inform class instruction.

Marie, English Teacher. School Type: High School, Low Income Population, College Prep School
Feb 22, 2014

full starfull starfull starfull starfull star Advocate

Usage: As a high school English teacher it would be amazing to have instant understanding of how my students engage with a text. Their responses and questions would allow me to tailor my classroom discussions to their specific interests and needs (as well as allowing me to introduce discussion on things that might have been missed. There is also the ability to see how much reading each student is doing. The circles of reading that allow other students to see how much reading is being done by their peers is also fantastic.

Strengths: 1. Interaction between the students for conversation about texts they are reading.

2. Teachers' ability to see the responses in order to tailor class discussion.

3. The levels of responses built into the student' response selection area.

Suggestions for Improvement: 1. Correct the student name capitalization at the bottom of the screen.

2. Correct the student punctuation at the bottom of the screen.

(i.e. Alex says, "Of course.")

Alex is capitalized. What he says is properly punctuated.

3. Allow a blending of this site with others like Alchemy in order to have a more fully interactive tool for teachers.

Verdict: BCPS plans to implement the use of handheld devices in all of its classrooms. When this happens, having a tool like this would make life simpler. I will be able to upload and/or access the specific texts that I want the students to read, and students will be able to interact with each other.

Bobbi, Teacher. School Type: Middle School, BYOD Devices
Apr 25, 2015

full starfull starfull starfull starfull star Advocate

Usage: I would use this product in tandem with curriculet so that students can see feedback from their peers on reading selections. The data will allow me to make instructional decisions and customize passages for students with different reading levels.

Strengths: I love the ability for students to look back on what they have read. The history feature is very useful for students to evaluate their own progress. The fact that this product can be used across multiple platforms makes it perfect for the non-techie teacher. Students can use their own devices.

Suggestions for Improvement: This product should be able to do the following:
Interface with gradebook or allow teacher to grade the assignment
Give the teacher some type of feedback on the amount of time a students spends reading a particular passage.
Include a text to voice feature and vice versa so that students with disabilities do not have to add another layer to the product.

Verdict: This product gives instant feedback for teachers to make instructional decisions. It allows for personalized learning because students can be grouped by reading levels and given a variety of texts. It works within the browser so it is not platform dependent. Also, this product can be used to satisfy literacy standards in all curriculum areas.

Deborah, English/Language Arts Teacher. School Type: High School, Low Income Population, College Prep School
Feb 21, 2014

full starfull starfull starfull starfull star Advocate

Usage: Ponder supplies the forum for making our students 21st century learners. We emphasize communicating with countries around the world but that is an empty act if we have not emphasized awareness of socio -political-economic factors in these countries. The New York Times is my primary source for domestic and foreign news and I cringe when I think of how stagnant our English curriculum guides are. We need to encourage our students to READ for knowledge and for enjoyment in a real world - a magazine, the newspaper- is a lively way to engage our kids everyday. We do a disservice to them when we don't encourage them to be citizens of the world.

I would have 30 minutes twice a week devoted to Ponder. I would say I would dump benchmark exams in their place, but the fact that BCPS has already dumped benchmarks this year after years of pushing them should tell you to go with your gut; focus on teaching, not testing. Since Common Core came to town tedious Performance Based Assessments have replaced those

Benchmark exams.

Strengths: See previous posts

Suggestions for Improvement: Not able to respond

Verdict: High quality journalism is a logical extension of the power of English class.

Tech Coordinator, School Type: Elementary School
Feb 22, 2014

full starfull starfull starfull starfull star Advocate

Usage: This tool looks like a good way for a teacher to generate class discussion around current events and webpages containing content the teacher wants kids to read. it allows users to respond to certain aspects of the 250 char. they act as peers in the student choices for how to respond and then elaborate.

Strengths: good way to have student learn how to res pond and think more critically about what they are reading. nice statistics on student reading.and responses.

Suggestions for Improvement: maybe some more assessment tools integrated so that its clearer that the kids are actually doing what you asked. insightful comments are good to see, but worry about kids clicking on sentiment that 'sounds' ok..but maybe once I see it it will be clearer that they are getting it.

Verdict: our school has a limited budget but I think the free version already has good tools to generate discussion. peer based collaboration is good and 21st century. gets put into activity feed across documents.

Science Teacher, School Type: High School, Low Income Population
Oct 25, 2014

full starfull starfull starfull starfull star Advocate

Usage: I would use it to assist students in research for student/pairs/group presentations on topics ranging from ancient astronomers to all areas of physical and biological science - 9 to 12th grade.

Strengths: I have 11-12th graders who do not have a broad enough vocabulary base to get started in science research with common core. gives in the moment differentiation feedback choices that students can choose to push themselves forward.

Suggestions for Improvement: 1) more room to write in the title and theme indicators for students 2) maybe a way for teachers to give written feedback in a cycle of student writing 3) a bit more scaffolding so that students will know they need to have a certain number of words or a way to determine the range of writing and research that is required in the assignment

Verdict: Students are given valuable word tools from which to form their own ideas, sentences and critical analysis of big ideas in academic disciplines.

Educational Technology Coordinator, School Type: Middle School, High School, College Prep School, BYOD Devices
Oct 25, 2014

full starfull starfull starfull starfull star Advocate

Usage: I would use this product to help prepare students for discussion sections in our humanities courses. Student could have "pre-discussions" before coming to a F2F discussion and I'd be able to tell that they were prepared. Also, it has potential as a tool for discussing video with a class.

Strengths: It creates a platform for engaging more students in conversations about text or videos. It helps draw out reluctant students and gives students time to reflect and work at their own pace. It would really be nice in larger classes or in partially flipped or blended scenarios.

Suggestions for Improvement: It would be great if I could embed questions into videos/text before-hand, then it would be nice to track students' responses individually or on the whole. I know that is only two things, but I can't think of a third.

Verdict: It would allow for my faculty to track student reactions to text or videos, and have meaningful conversations outside of class.

Director Of Technology, School Type: Middle School, High School
Feb 22, 2014

full starfull starfull starfull starfull star Advocate

Usage: Use it to see how my students are reading, what they are finding interesting, what is fostering conversations and discussions. The functionality for students to highlight and comment with preset reactions is beneficial and really make it easy for students to see others opinions and contribute to the conversation.

Strengths: It gives feedback on what students are thinking about very well. I can easily see where my students and interested or what is confusing them in the article and reading. It provides encouragement for students to strengthen their own depth and breadth by comparing themselves to their classmates.

Suggestions for Improvement: I would change very much, but I would incorporate more data into the application as I would want to gain the most feedback from the app. I would love to see examples of it being used to increase literacy in mathematics!

Verdict: I think the

Is will help all of students interact and engage with reading!

Teacher, School Type: High School, High ELL Population
Jun 13, 2015

full starfull starfull starfull starfull star Advocate

Usage: I would use this tool for reading and doing research. This would be a tool that I could use with the class or school wide. This would work great for all ELA and HIstory classes.

Strengths: This product would allow students to conduct research in an interactive way, prompting them to write more as they go along. The availability of tags allows the students to engage with the content.

Suggestions for Improvement: I would love for this product to allow a whole classroom collaboration. This would allow different students from each classroom to comment on what other students commented and discussed. I would also love to see more teacher tracking and analytical tools.

Verdict: I would recommend it because I believe it would engage the students by providing tags that are interactive and allow the students to get started in their reading. It would also be a tool that could be used on various devices and allow for all types of research.

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