Common Sense Review
Updated May 2016


Substantial all-in-one tool scaffolds the research and writing process
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Common Sense Rating 4
  • In Outline mode, students can access Encyclopedia Britannica within the platform.
  • Students can access rubrics to see how an assignment will be assessed.
  • After highlighting text, students can add it to their outlines.
  • Teachers can manage student work, view writing time, and monitor possible plagiarism.
  • Teachers can build their own lessons tailored specifically to the needs of their students.
It's like a one-stop shop for research and writing, from gathering sources to organizing research and outlining a workable draft.
The automatically compiled bibliography could potentially encourage student passivity rather than inquiry into why citation is important.
Bottom Line
This smart, intuitive system supports students in every step of the writing process.
Stephanie Trautman
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

Students will find the toolbar's highlight-and-capture process intuitive. Teachers will appreciate the research navigation tool that capitalizes on students' media-intake instincts.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

Research and writing tasks are broken down into manageable pieces, scaffolding the whole process. The toolbar follows writers as they read, creating a bibliography citation for each selection highlighted. 

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 3

Video tutorials and articles offer support and the site is image-rich. Students can chat with their teacher, but ELLs and other struggling readers may need more explicit help in finding and using credible sources.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

To make the most of Citelighter, use it as an all-in-one writing and research tool. In doing this, you'll be able to break down writing tasks into manageable pieces so students aren't overwhelmed. You can also help students outline their ideas, view your rubric ahead of time, and observe their progress along the way. Access to Encyclopedia Britannica is included with the program, but keep in mind that you can also upload any text or like you'd like students to view. Teacher tools include ready-made standards-based writing scaffolds, formative assessment tools with "cognitive prints" of student work (essentially a visual assessment of each student's use of sources, citations, and time), a grading platform, writing analytics, and a plagiarism-checking tool. Also, for help with problematic grammar or spelling, you can consider having students use a tool like Grammarly in conjunction with the platform.

In the teacher dashboard, metrics allow the site to aggregate scores so teachers can see where individual students, and the whole class, are doing well and where they need work. Teachers are also able to see student engagement, how many pieces of text they captured, how much they organized, and how much students commented on each other's work.

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What's It Like?

Citelighter is an engaging online platform designed to support students and teachers as they tackle the intricacies of the writing process. Students simply sign up and download the Citelighter toolbar or work on the Citelighter website (or Chrome app). Students can work on Citelighter's platform to research topics and construct their own written work or use the Citelighter toolbar to search and cite from the open Web. On the platform, students follow a series of scaffolded steps predetermined by their teacher; they'll explore leveled articles and various multimedia content (videos and images) before they begin writing a paper. As students find useful excerpts, capturing and organizing is as simple as highlighting, clicking, and dragging. Citations are automatically saved and referenced in a bibliography.

Further, students can include accompanying notes for any excerpt they select. At any time, students can click View and see their list of excerpts, notes, and citations. They can also reorder their excerpts as they read or place them in the outline for their assignment. Also, at any time students can view a rubric to get a better understanding of how the assignment will be assessed. If students need assistance, Citelighter offers video tutorials and a thorough FAQ, and they have the option chat with their teacher within the platform.

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Is It Good For Learning?

Citelighter touts itself as a "21st Century Critical Thinking Platform," capable of breaking down complicated writing tasks into manageable parts, and rightfully so. By gathering research, whether in Citelighter's Web-based platform or by using the downloadable toolbar, it's easier for students to assess the value of their collected excerpts and organize them in a way that makes the most sense. It's great that teachers get the option to provide outlines for students' writing assignments. Students then sift through articles, while the tool automatically compiles bibliographic references and tracks students' progress while also discouraging plagiarism. Of note is the fact that students are required to look at and verify bibliographic information before adding an excerpt into a draft.

Overall, in using Citelighter, students should feel a satisfying balance of support and autonomy. That said, the video tutorials -- and even chats with teachers -- likely won't be enough to help some struggling readers in locating and selecting credible sources.

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Lesson Plans