Resource Introduction: Actively Learn

Want to add questions, guidance, and multimedia to texts? Check out the smooth interaction of Actively Learn!

What is it?

Designed by teachers, Actively Learn aims to take texts of varying types, from current news articles to public domain novels, and enable teachers to power them up with digital interaction. That could mean adding a question at a point in a novel reading and setting it so that the student cannot proceed until answering. It could mean adding video to a news article to add richness. It could mean annotating any text to provide insight and guidance to students as they read. The goal is to make texts truly interactive for independent student reading.

Actively Learn offers standard and user friendly controls for creating classes, adding students, and managing content and work. The service is freemium, meaning that much of it is free, but complete access to assignment data, class data, and activity reports is only available with an account. Still, at the free level much rich content and functionality is available.

Yes, there is a mobile app for Android.

How can I use it?

Use Actively Learn to enhance reading activities beyond the traditional textbook or news resource. If you like the interaction of a digital textbook for English, for instance, you could use Actively Learn to accomplish the same result, but totally created and controlled by you, not the publisher. In a similar way, you could take current events articles and integrate them into the standards and content you’re already teaching in class, rather than needing to bend to the resource itself. The point is customizability and control, which Actively Learn will put in your hands as you integrate literacy in your curriculum.

Oh, and by the way, Actively Learn does provide world language support, including many texts in Spanish and French.

Who’s using it?

Are you or someone you know using this? Notify us, and we’ll post your or their name here as a building expert! Email to

Check out this teacher introduction to Actively Learn and then watch this student tutorial follow up for more.

Resource Links

Actively Learn Home Page

Edsurge’s Complete Review

Teacher Showcase: Learn the Quadratic Formula Online with Julie Young!

Sure, you know the quadratic formula, but wait till you see how Julie Young is teaching it through Weebly, Google Drive, and more!

If you take math from Julie Young at Arbor Hills, you’re not just in for some of the best math instruction our district has to offer. You’re also in for some pretty cool digital experimentation. Earlier this year, Julie pushed her students not just to learn slope equations, but to demonstrate their learning through digitally-packaged MoveNote lessons, where each student became a teacher. Now, Julie has done it again with the quadratic formula and the web-building platform known as Weebly.

But, before we move to describing what she did, you should know that Julie has not done this alone. This project was developed in close collaboration with Maria Nielsen from Bowling Green. Maria and Julie have developed a powerful partnership, which often includes next-door neighbor Karma Vince. In a further ironic twist, Julie student-taught for Karma in her early days. This little section of hallway at Arbor Hills is a model of collaboration that develops strong teaching and learning, benefiting teachers and students alike.

Now, on to the quadratic formula. What Maria and Julie did is pretty straightforward in concept, even if its implications are impressive. They built a Weebly-based website that collected information on the quadratic formula, provided teaching tutorials, web-based calculators, and other resources, surveyed for formative feedback, and managed a culminating project. That culminating project came from Maria’s work at college, where she and fellow students developed video-based memory aids for learning the quadratic formula, and those videos provided model examples. Students in Algebra 1 developed their own creative ways to learn and remember the quadratic formula, including sock puppets, stories, raps, time-lapse photography, and even a rhetorical channeling of Donald Trump!

Yes, at first the entire sequence seems very traditional, and it is. The teacher has taught a traditional concept in a fairly direct manner. Students are accountable to learn the concept by checking in with learning activities. Then, they complete a multi-factored group project to demonstrate learning. But, the transformation of this process through the Weebly website has a noticeable impact.

First, instead of lecturing the concept, Julie and Maria have curated a selection of text-based and video-based instructional resources. By collecting those and storing them online, students can choose the ones they prefer and consume them at their own pace. The surveys used for formative feedback provide Julie and Maria with easy access to data needed to adjust instruction. And, since the direct instruction is happening online at the student’s pace, they enjoy a much freer hand in modifying class activities to serve the needs identified by the data. These approaches have lead to a delivery of instruction that is more flexible and targeted than the traditional lecture-based or textbook-based approach, and it is more likely to meet the needs of a diverse group of students.

Part Two   Quadratic formula project
Julie and Maria’s Weebly site featuring tutorial videos and surveys for formative feedback.

Second, the design of the culminating project not only takes advantage of student creativity to foster engagement, but it also provides for easier sharing. Part of the project includes students watching each others’ videos and checking out non-video content to provide comments for feedback. The digital management of this process makes it more flexible and portable, while never excluding classroom discussions about the products.

Basically, Julie and Maria have produced a 21st century learning unit that takes the strength of traditional approaches and adds portability, flexibility, and engagement. And, best of all, the approach is so simple that it can be adapted for virtually any unit.

Want to check it out? Go to the Weebly site here and tour through the navigation in the top-right menu. Be sure to visit “Part Five→Comments on Projects” to see student work!

Resource Introduction: TED Ed

The inspiration of TED Talks comes to the classroom. TED Ed offers short, interactive lessons filled with insight, wonder, and collaboration.

What is it?

Nothing short of awesome.  You may have heard of TED Talks, those discussions from intellectual, political, business, artistic leaders about innovation and change.  TED Ed is TED’s education service, which presents digital lessons on a variety of topics as well as providing teachers with the opportunity to create their own.  Each lesson centers on an educational video and asks questions, pushes deeper thinking, and manages discussions. The time investment for students is short (10-30 minutes per lesson), but the payoff can be huge. TED Ed provides a large library of previously created and publically shared lessons to start your work if you wish.  And yes, these lessons can apply to any secondary content area. Try taking a lesson and seeing how it works!

How can I use it?

You can use the service in a basic way by adapting a previously published lesson and assigning it to your students. So, for instance, if you found a sweet lesson on life as a teen in ancient Rome (Yes, they have that), you could assign it as is or take it and modify its questions, extensions, or discussions to suit your purposes. It is your own lesson, but it comes with the super cool TED lesson video and online framework.

If you wanted to create a totally original lesson, you could use the lesson generator to develop your own. Simply link a video and then write questions, post extension links, and/or establish discussion boards. Then, watch the student interaction develop.  The service provides you with the opportunity to manage students, monitor progress, and regulate discussion.

Who’s using it?

Check out these teachers that know and use TED Ed in your school. Ask them for help!

At Arbor Hills, Tony Cutway

At Southview, Melissa Tusing

At Northview, Karolynn Nowak


At Stranahan, Amanda Sanderson

Are you or someone you know using this? Notify us, and we’ll post your or their name here as a building expert! Email to

The video below comes from Mia Nacamulli and serves as the foundation for her lesson entitled, “How Speaking Multiple Language Benefits the Brain.”  Check out the video and then open the lesson in the resource links below!

Resource Links

TED Ed Home Page

TED Ed YouTube Channel


Mia Nacamulli’s Lesson on “How Speaking Multiple Languages Benefits the Brain”

Len Bloch’s Lesson on “How to Make a Mummy”

Alex Clarkson’s Lesson from Neil Harbisson’s TED Talk (developed in ten minutes!)

TED Home Page