Tech Tool of the Month: Read to Lead – Part 1

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Read to Lead offers a collection of lessons, projects, and online learning games that align to College and Career Readiness standards and CASEL’s Social-Emotional Framework. Students can build literacy and social-emotional skills using the immersive stories presented as a “day at work” at various locations. At the time of this blog post, there were nearly 30 interactives ready to go! The career worlds include the Public Sector, Medical, and Journalism. For example, one interactive (in the medical career) is about a worker at the medical center mixing up a patient’s blood test results. This mixup leads to a misdiagnosis. The director has to decide if they should suspend the employee or update the clinic’s system that may have caused the error. Students click to read details about the story, gather facts, and decide what to do next. 

The SEL (social-emotional) competencies include Social Awareness, Self-Management, Relationship Skills, Flexibility & Adaptation, Productivity & Accountability, and Social & Cross-Cultural Skills. Stories include Lexile levels and reading standards (College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards in Reading). There are also educator resources with mini-lessons, assessments, educator guides, and discussion questions. Educators can create customized playlists for students based on individual needs. Each game includes various ELA formative assessments and SEL questions for decision-making, with student performance reports available, so teachers know what skills need more work. There is an option to click to listen to the text (audio), and you can also click to translate the text to countless world languages (over 100). And finally,  build friendly competition among your students by using the national leaderboard that includes all of the country and counts every word read in every classroom using Read to Lead. This resource is the perfect tool for blended, flipped, or distance learning. Additionally, in-class Read to Lead activities work well with partners or individually.

Applying the Triple E Framework

The Triple E Framework, created by Dr. Liz Kolb, is built on the belief that “effective technology integration begins with good instructional strategies and not fancy tools” ( Dr. Kolb wrote a book on the topic, Learning First, Technology Second (ISTE, 2017), that lays out the three main uses for technology in education: to Engage, Enhance, or Extend learning goals. We can use this framework to decipher why we are using specific tools in the classroom. Here is a rubric based on the Triple E Framework you can use to evaluate whether Read to Lead (or any other technology) is a good fit with your learning goals and whether you should use it in your lesson.

  • Engage in learning goals: The students are more focused on the task because they are engaged in online activities and work at their own pace at Read to Lead. There are no badges, games, advertisements, or other extras to distract from the process of learning. The students are active social learners, rather than just passively reading the story. Students get to make choices at the site that illuminate the options that ordinary people would make working in similar careers. The students are motivated to begin the learning process since they make decisions and are active participants in the stories and activities. 
  • Enhance learning goals: Read to Lead allows students to use technology to make connections to understand concepts and ideas. Activities are not isolated in workbooks or stand-alone; they are connected to the stories from the various careers and situations. Students are using problem-solving and higher-order thinking skills to organize their thoughts and complete the activities. This resource scaffolds the learning through the stories and activities. Read to Lead takes the students and puts them into the story, taking on the role of the person (usually the boss at the workplace). Students get to make decisions that they feel will yield the best results. Students can use the audio (and rewind to relisten) to gain a deeper understanding. Non-English speakers can translate the text into many world languages. All of this enhances students’ learning and offers a more sophisticated and deeper understanding of careers and social-emotional learning goals. 
  • Extend learning goals: Dr. Kolb describes extended learning as an opportunity for students to learn, connect, and collaborate outside of the regular school day and as a bridge between the school day and real-life experiences. Completing the Read to Lead activities outside the classroom would fit in with flipped, remote, or blended learning. Depending on the activities you are using, students can collaborate outside of the school day. Students could also work cooperatively in class; working in small groups would be a purposeful choice, as fewer devices would be required, and students could help each other through the steps of the assignment. The independent learning and activities required when using Read to Lead can help students build skills used in everyday lives outside of the classroom environment. We are preparing our students for a world that doesn’t exist yet, but most jobs require independent motivation and knowledge of technology. The activities at Read to Lead will also help prepare students for learning beyond the classroom and career exploration. This tool also asks students to problem-solve and choose the best possible answer through the interactives; this will also help students in their future decisions. 

SAMR Connection

The SAMR Model, by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, suggests that technology implementation has four levels. We can use this model as a guideline to analyze how we’re using technology tools in the classroom. At the level of substitution, the technology offers a direct substitution with no functional change. Since Read to Lead offers so many additional features than reading text in a book, this tool would not be at the lowest level of SAMR (substitution). Instead, Read to Lead would be at the levels of Augmentation and Modification.

  • Augmentation: At the level of augmentation, the technology acts as a direct substitute and includes some functional improvements. A lesson using Read to Lead could be at the augmentation level since the audio and stories are based on students’ decisions and not something that could be read in a textbook without the technology. These improvements allow students a deeper understanding of the content. 
  • Modification: The level of modification allows us to make the activity more integrated with technology, meaning the activity could not even be done without technology. For example, a lesson plan using Read to Lead allows students to virtually step into the roles of various community leaders or medical professionals. Students are immersed in these roles using audio, images, translatable text, and exploration. This “choose your own adventure” style activity that includes the audio, rewind button, animation, and translation options would not be possible without technology.  

Don’t miss Part 2 of the Tech Tool of the Month: Read to Lead, where we’ll discuss using the tool and classroom use ideas. In the meantime, let us know how you have used Read to Lead in your education setting in the comment section below.

About the author: Melissa Henning

Melissa Henning is the Educational Content Manager for Source for Learning, the non-profit parent company of TeachersFirst. She has over 16 years of experience in education. Melissa is a frequent presenter at national and regional conferences.

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