Everywhere you go these days, it seems that educators are talking about personalized learning. Defined loosely, “personalized learning” is instruction that is tailored to meet an individual student’s needs. The instruction is usually delivered via technology that can adapt to each student.

Educators often ask us if our web-based reading intervention program, Read Naturally Live, is considered a personalized learning tool. Our answer is that it’s “personalized learning with a twist.” As we blogged about here, teacher involvement is crucial to the success of the program. Educators who are looking for a program that doesn’t require any teacher interaction whatsoever will not find what they are looking for in Read Naturally Live.

We believe that teachers can adapt to students’ needs better than even the most sophisticated technology. It is true that a student spends most of his or time in Read Naturally Live working independently and at an individual level, but a teacher’s (or trained assistant’s) presence at certain steps is essential. A Read Naturally Live teacher must train students in using the program, place students in an appropriate level, assist with individual goal setting, and evaluate progress and review data with the student after the completion of each story. That teacher involvement is the “twist.” These interactions—which teachers can think of as little nudges of support in a mostly independent program—will optimize progress.

Personalized learning products are currently taking the education market by storm. As you know, the quality of the instruction can vary widely from product to product. Educators are wise to approach all of the offerings with a healthy dose of skepticism to ensure they are making a wise investment. What are the criteria you should look for in a personalized learning tool? We adapted the list below from this Education Week article.* Below each criteria, we explain how Read Naturally Live, our recommendation for a personalized learning (with a twist) reading intervention tool, meets the criteria.

  1. Student Agency
    A program should build in the capacity for students to set goals and track their own progress. These elements are crucial in order for students to take ownership of their learning.

    Each student in Read Naturally Live works toward specific, individual short-term and long-term goals, and progress monitoring is an integral aspect of the strategy. Students also work in individual levels at their own pace.
  2. Adequate Content
    The program needs enough material to meet the needs of students at various levels of skill, for a sustained period of time. That requires a lot of content—much more than most people realize.

    Read Naturally Live can accommodate readers of all ages and at various levels, from beginning reader to adult. The program offers 23 full levels of content. A typical level has 24 stories and several comprehension and vocabulary activities that correspond to each story.
  3. Useful Data
    According to the researchers quoted in the Education Week article, data such as “Johnny completed four percent of the lessons” has no actual meaning. Johnny could have “completed” the lessons by simply clicking through them and getting the answers wrong. By contrast, data that is useful gives relevant information about a student’s progress.

    Read Naturally Live generates sophisticated reports for each student, every step of the way. This data gives teachers specific information about how a student is progressing in fluency, comprehension, progress toward the goal, and more.
  4. Recommendations for Intervention
    Many personalized ed-tech products have not yet mastered a process for educators to make recommendations about instructional interventions based on the data from the product.

    Benchmark Assessor Live** is used specifically for the purpose of determining which students can benefit from a Read Naturally Live intervention. Teachers can use Benchmark Assessor Live with as many students as they wish, and from there, they can determine which students need Read Naturally Live. Benchmark Assessor Live is used three times throughout the year to track progress and guide in this decision-making. The detailed reports generated in Read Naturally Live assist with these decisions as well.
  5. Well-Aligned Assessments
    According to the experts, most ed-tech tools don’t have the resources for rigorous assessment design and validation during the creation process. As a result, the assessments built into the product may not be well aligned with the tests that are ultimately used to measure students’ skills.

    Read Naturally Live is research-based and research-proven. Extensive research was done in the development of Read Naturally Live, and extensive research has been conducted subsequently to ensure its effectiveness. As a result, the methods used in Read Naturally Live are highly aligned with best practices in reading instruction, and the assessments in the program reflect that.
  6. Ease of Classroom Integration
    The product should be specific about how it works in a classroom setting. Many of the products on the market were not developed by teachers and are not as user-friendly as they claim to be.

    Read Naturally Live was designed by teachers who insisted that the program be teacher- and student-friendly in every way. These teachers knew that students needed to be productively reading the entire time they were working in the program. Similarly, the program needed to be easy for teachers to understand and implement. The curriculum experts at Read Naturally worked tirelessly until they were sure they got it right. We offer extensive support to ensure teachers are implementing Read Naturally Live effectively.
  7. Evidence It Works
    Companies should be able to provide hard data, not just testimonials, about how well the product works. Well-designed case studies are a good source of evidence.

    Several well-designed studies and reviews of our programs consistently demonstrate the effectiveness of the Read Naturally Strategy, which is the backbone of Read Naturally Live.
  8. A Personal Perspective
    Every student is unique! Ideally a product would accommodate diverse backgrounds and interests.

    Read Naturally Live incorporates content about hundreds of topics with multicultural and multi-age appeal, with the goal of captivating interests that are as diverse as the students themselves.

So, if you’re looking for an ideal personalized learning solution, and if you’re open to the “twist” of having a teacher be involved at critical steps along the way (a “twist” that we believe is essential to accelerate progress), look no further than Read Naturally Live. Check out this video for more information about it, and be sure to click this link to enjoy a free instant demo.

*The eight criteria were adapted from the Education Week article, ‘Red Flags’ to Look For When Evaluating Personalized Learning Products, by Michele Molnar. Education Week articles are accessed on a tiered subscription model. Nonsubscribers can enjoy three free articles per month.
**Service and support for Benchmark Assessor Live terminated June 30, 2019.