Review by Stephanie Trautman, Common Sense Education | Updated July 2016


Useful Chrome extension lets teachers add interactivity to websites

Subjects & skills
  • English Language Arts

  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: Useful for any classroom where critical reading is key; lets teachers break website reading into manageable sizes.

Cons: Teacher dashboard could give more diagnostics, and feedback from teachers could be strengthened.

Bottom Line: A potential go-to tool for teachers focused on building critical reading skills, especially those in Chromebook classrooms.

The uses are seemingly endless, but one thing InsertLearning lends itself to is vocabulary building. Teachers can click on a vocabulary word, leave a definition or other insight, or add a sticky note where they can embed anything in it (for example, a Quizlet game they created previously). Teachers can also use this tool to help build fluency with their readers by adding an audio clip of the teacher reading the article or create a docent with a Google Doc to explain assignments. Most importantly, teachers can use InsertLearning to question students. Good readers always think about what they've read, and questioning students throughout the reading helps students think more critically about what they've read. Teachers can also hold discussions on any site where students can respond and see other's responses in real time. 

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InsertLearning (formerly DocentEDU) is a Chrome extension (with companion iOS and Android apps) that lets teachers turn any site into an interactive online lesson. There's a free trial available, but extensive use will require the paid version. (That being said, it's one of those tools that some teachers can use every day.) InsertLearning can be loaded quickly by the user clicking on the browser extension icon and opening the toolbar. Once the toolbar pops up, teachers and students can add annotations, embed videos into websites, add maps, quizzes, discussions, and do much more. Ultimately, the goal is that teachers can guide student learning with questions or class discussions online so students can learn outside the classroom and teachers can help the next day in class. 

The toolbar consists of a few features: an assign button, highlight and sticky note buttons, and question, discussion, dashboard, and feedback buttons. All features allow for manipulation of a site, but the amount of manipulation and additional features added to any site is up to the teacher. There is a teacher dashboard where teachers can see their docents, copy others' docents, and assign them to students. Teachers are also able to view student annotations to docents, their answers, and interactions in discussions.

Literacy in all disciplines is a top priority for teachers, and with InsertLearning teachers of all disciplines can help students think more critically about what they read. The most important part of creating a docent is to ask higher-level thinking questions to promote critical thinking and comprehension skills. This responsibility falls on the teacher, and so as long as the teacher is willing to put forth the effort to create meaningful docents, this tool can be very effective in allowing students to think critically about the material they read. It is important to note that there is a notable time investment in creating meaningful, thoughtful, and relevant docents.

The ease of creating a docent will entice teachers. More importantly, InsertLearning's ability to fit so nicely in with Google Classroom and Drive and a plethora of other educational tools and products makes it a great tool. It would be nice if there were more feedback given to students while they're working through a docent or if the teacher could reply to questions students have to help facilitate better understanding while they try to work independently.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Teachers can add interactive components to each docent, stimulating readers to engage with a website. The design is simple yet engaging and fits into any website.

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

To get the most out of the tool, teachers will need to build docents that provoke critical thinking and get students actively engaged with the text (as well as follow up for reflection and accountability).

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

There's thorough support via on-site chat, YouTube tutorials, and examples. InsertLearning lends itself to supporting ESL students. Data for students as they move through a docent could be helpful.

Common Sense Reviewer
Stephanie Trautman Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Hannah R L. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Madison Metropolitan School District
Madison, United States
Good start, needs tweaking
I enjoy the direction that Insert Learning is joining technology and reading but it needs some work. The interface could be improved and needs to be easier to view student work. There should be more options for collaboration and annotation. If this were a free service then I wouldn't expect more from it, but since it is not I am left wanting more.
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