Leading Personalized Learning Literacy Tools

Emily Kirkpatrick

Personalized learning is steadily revolutionizing teaching and learning, both during the school day and the time students spend outside of the classroom. The proliferation of quality digital tools and platforms that facilitate exciting new ways for students to learn—such as through self-guided or blended learning—has dramatically expanded the possibilities for where and when students can access educational content and what they can do with it.

A key aspect of personalized learning tools is the capacity to engage and inspire students. In particular, digital learning tools facilitate access to an unprecedented number and variety of educational resources that allow students to explore topics that interest them at their own pace and place, as opposed to a limited or prescribed set of topics and predetermined times.

The best online learning platforms do not just provide students access to materials in digital form, they ensure they are high-interest and relevant to students’ lives as well as learning needs. Examples include the provision of high-quality hands-on projects that enable students to extend the learning platform content further; this content is especially applicable and engaging when projects span a range of critical thinking levels and provide offline coupled with additional online experiences and content. The learning materials provided on these platforms are often aligned with the Common Core standards, which enables teachers to direct students to content that will help them develop specific standard-level skills, according to their needs.

Some platforms also connect students with communities of peers with whom they can share what they are learning.  This means that student learning is not restricted to the knowledge and skills they gain interacting with the materials provided through the platform, they also develop valuable digital communications skills in the process.

Below are three of the leading literacy platforms that educators are using to inspire curiosity and help their students develop key skills, all of which have been recognized by the Teaching Channel as one of the Five Sites With High-Quality Informational Text:

  • Wonderopolis is uniquely rooted in the power of learning through curiosity, exploration, and everyday moments, providing thousands of “Wonders of the Day”— fun units of learning and questions such as “What does it mean to stand up for something?” or “Why is the Statue of Liberty green?” Each Wonder of the Day is a launching pad for students reading and learning, maximizing multi-disciplinary content with non-fiction text and multimedia as well as commenting, submit-your-own Wonder, and other features designed to keep students—and entire classrooms—engaged with the site. Wonderopolis facilitate students’ studies in the classroom as well as self-guided learning at home and on the go. 
  • Newsela is an online platform that helps students develop reading comprehension and other literacy skills. It provides a wide array of news and other non-fiction texts that are Common Core aligned and organized by category and reading standard. Students and teachers can track learning progress using built-in quizzes that display students’ reading-levels and standard-specific results. 
  • DOGOnews, like Newsela, is an online news platform tailored for students to enable them to engage with digital media, such as news articles, infographics, videos and online comment boards. The news site features engaging non-fiction texts and multimedia that help students develop literacy and digital skills. The platform also connects students with a large online network of peers around the world.

However, innovative tools alone are not sufficient to improve learning in and out of the classroom. How these tools are used will determine whether or not they are effective. As educators continue to engage with digital learning tools, it is becoming more and more important that they are given the support they need to use these innovative platforms in ways that lead to personalized  learning experiences.

With expanded support for teachers, and the ongoing development of tools, blended learning and other forms of student-centered and self-guided learning are poised to grow significantly. It is an exciting time to be an educator, as these tools continue to help us personalize learning. As we get better and better at engaging student passions and stoking their curiosity, we will continue to open doors to new possibilities for learning and achievement.

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Emily Kirkpatrick is the Vice President of National Center for Families Learning. Follow NCFL on Twitter, @NCFL.

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