Ponder could serve as a collaborative reading forum for a history class, especially for current-events discussions or analyses of opinion pieces. Teachers could use the app as a general tool to encourage students to read broadly across various publications and comment on articles of their choice or from a set list. Ponder also works as a browser extension on the Web, where students can use a computer, rather than a phone or tablet, to record micro-responses.Continue reading Show less
Ponder allows teachers to create a class reading list and a space to share reactions as students read. As they read, students can select various passages and provide "micro-reading responses." These very brief responses -- choices include "meh," "wow," and an exclamation point -- are attached to slightly longer sentiment statements ("Sally salutes" or "Pete is heavy-hearted"). The longer statements, along with the selected paragraph, show up in the class "feed," so all class members can see the user-selected text as well as the reactions. There's an option to add brief "elaboration" text to capture additional insights, too.
Ponder's developers have strong opinions about what the app is: It's meant to record data on students' concise reactions to passages in text across the Internet. Unfortunately, that doesn't feel like a rigorous approach to reading. The app favors quick clicks and emotional responses rather than deep thought about the text. It won't be easy for students to use the app to annotate as they read or to capture information much beyond the provided monosyllabic responses. However, it does capture a wealth of data about which articles students read, how long they spend reading, and how they react.
Ponder could be a great student motivator. Student comments precede the article titles as they appear in the feed ("Sally marvels" or "Sam begs to differ"), encouraging others to read the same articles and record their own reactions. The newer "elaboration" feature is nice, too, letting students add their own text. In general, however, the preselected content keeps analysis to a minimum. Ponder may be an effective way to provoke conversation among older students, who've been the app's main audience to this point. It's easy to imagine it in a college humanities seminar ("Several of you marked this section as 'well considered.' Talk a little more about that"). The app's developers say they're committed to making the tool useful and high-impact for students and teachers. It continues to catch up to the more flexible, easier-to-use features of the corresponding website, and some new features are aimed at helping to measure and promote better learning outcomes.
The app's developers are self-proclaimed lovers of data collection and data's implications for education. Indeed, this is one of the app's best features; teachers get extensive data about what students read, how long they read, and what they've tagged. Though this data can be useful, it doesn't necessarily suggest information about learning outcomes or reading comprehension. In a culture in which students habitually fail to read deeply or think critically, introducing a social reading tool that rewards broad reading over deep reading could be a step backward. With carefully curated content and strong expectations set by the teacher, Ponder could be a boon to a class's exploration of current events or opinion pieces. However, without guidance and context, it's a race to click, tag, and fly through as many sources as possible. That might make the class feed longer, but it won't guarantee that learning is any deeper.
Key Standards Supported
Reading Informational Text
Analyze in detail how an author’s ideas or claims are developed and refined by particular sentences, paragraphs, or larger portions of a text (e.g., a section or chapter).
Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.
Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
Analyze and evaluate the effectiveness of the structure an author uses in his or her exposition or argument, including whether the structure makes points clear, convincing, and engaging.
Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content contribute to the power, persuasiveness or beauty of the text.
Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
Determine two or more central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to provide a complex analysis; provide an objective summary of the text.
By the end of grade 11, read and comprehend literary nonfiction in the grades 11–CCR text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.