The 2017 New Media Consortium Higher Education Horizon report is out and here at Read Ahead, we feel validated.
We have retooled literacy intervention and are well-suited for the future imagined in this report. Here’s our top 5 summary of how Read Ahead aligns with the findings of the Horizon Report:
1) Advancing progressive learning approaches requires cultural transformation.
Read Ahead offers schools the opportunity to transform the school reading experience to really prepare students for the 21st century skill set as critical thinkers, communicators, collaborators, and creators. Instead of doing all of the work for them, censoring all the content, packaging it up just right, then asking them to lock step through highly structured programs, Read Ahead empowers teachers and students to choose their own content and adapt guidance for multiple literacy purposes.
Read Ahead is content agnostic and as such can be applied to any digital text. Instructors, and indeed students themselves can select reading materials that are appropriate to students’ reading level and interest. Students can attempt more or less difficult material based on the ease or difficulty with which they are able to navigate teacher suggested or grade-level recommended reading.
Read Ahead also offers a social sharing forum for communities of learners to construct and experience meaning together across geographic and socioeconomic distances.
2) Collaboration is key for scaling effective solutions.
Read Ahead invites students and teachers to critically engage with any digital text they want to read and share their reading experiences with others.
It’s been difficult to simulate interpretation, visually, with just text.
Interpretation is a pretty abstract concept that some teenage students just can’t see.
“What do you mean read between the lines?”
You just want to help them see how to move through the words in just the right way to pick up on the meaning. See- this right here. But that hasn’t been possible with paper and ink.
Now it is. That’s what Read Ahead does.
It let’s every reader say- here’s how I read it. And instantly SHOW that- simulate that reading experience for another reader.
With Read Ahead, teachers and learners create communities to share and collaborate with personal creations for the purposes of critical thinking, communication and creativity.
3) Despite the proliferation of technology and online learning materials, access is still unequal.
Read Ahead is not like other tools for literacy intervention. Read Ahead was first created by two teachers on our team who were committed to helping students improve their reading skills by requiring them to read for 50 minutes each week in class. Research showed that independent, sustained silent reading was a promising method for adolescent readers. But students who were used to watching screens couldn’t stick to this task even while in class.
As reading fanatics, we were fascinated by this problem and how to solve it in new ways for the digital generation. So we began to work on building a tool to create reading presentations that would highlight key words with motion and increase students’ chances to interact with the text by adding annotated definitions. Our next step was to see if students reading with these presentations improved their reading comprehension skills and motivation to read. They did!
Read Ahead was tested with adolescent readers in a rigorous year-long, experimental study. The study was conducted at a large urban public high school of approximately 2,200 students located near Atlanta, Georgia. The school serves students in 9th through 12th grade and qualifies as a Title I school. The vast majority of students come from working class and lower middle class socioeconomic backgrounds, with 60 % of the school’s students qualifying for free or reduced meals (The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement 2010). The year prior to the study, the school had a graduation rate of 78.6 %, slightly lower than the state average of 78.9 %. It had met AYP requirements for two of the previous 4 years. The racial demographics of the school were as follows: 73 % African American, 19 % Caucasian, with 8 % comprised of other minorities.
The students using our reading presentations achieved twice the gains in reading motivation and reading comprehension than those who did not.
4) Processes for assessing nuanced skills at a personal level are needed.
Current approaches to literacy aren’t working, but instead of moving away from them, other tools are doubling down on how it has always been done. Other tools want to sort students better and measure them more instead of moving past assessment approaches that are not proving to be very effective. Globally, educational leaders, like Finland, have done away with multiple choice assessments, standardized testing and homework. Read Ahead provides a flexible, innovative approach that can serve both the purposes of current approaches to standardized assessment (the efficacy study results of twice the gains were using standardized assessments), while also helping schools who want to reform and move away from this model dispense with lock step pre-packaged content and multiple choice quizzes.
Read Ahead dispenses with traditional multiple choice assessments by asking students to make choices about key ideas and compare those choices with our Smart Skimmer, expert choices and peer choices. This process requires reflection and metacognition.
5) Learning ecosystems must be agile enough to support the practices of the future.
Read Ahead is the first literacy intervention platform to adaptively facilitate the convergence of student practice, teacher expertise, and machine learning.
- With Read Ahead, students can interact with guided reading activities in multiple ways:
- Students can create Read Ahead presentations themselves on the fly for any digital content they wish to read or that has been assigned to them to read based on diagnosed need.
- Students can use our Smart Skimmer to choose key ideas and modify those choices as they wish.
- Students can customize their settings to apply vocabulary lists based on diagnosed need.
- Students can choose key ideas themselves and share and compare those choices with choices by the Smart Skimmer, their teachers or their peers in shared forums.
- With Read Ahead, teachers can create guided reading activities in seconds that are customized to individual student’s needs.
- Teachers can use our Smart Skimmer to choose key ideas and modify those choices as needed.
- Teachers can customize which vocabulary lists to apply for individual students based on diagnosed need.
- Teachers can choose key ideas based on learning objectives and take advantage of choices made by other teachers in shared forums.
- With Read Ahead, the Smart Skimmer creates guided reading activities from any digital reading content by choosing key ideas to highlight with motion before each paragraph.
- Our Smart Skimmer chooses key ideas based on semantic filters from broad use of language.
- Our Smart Skimmer can respond to student assessments in order to apply vocabulary lists based on diagnosed needs.
- Our Smart Skimmer can customize vocabulary choices based on domain training from custom content, student practice and teacher choices.