How I Use It
Ponder has a variety of uses in my class. For the first few weeks we used it, I went through a few articles as a class on the screen up front, adding group responses via class discussion, basically to familiarize the students with the concept. Now, it is a regular homework assignment to add a certain number of comments to any article students wish. I browse the comments and choose one article a week to bring to the whole class for discussion. We always start by showing the comments on the screen, then reading and discussing the article. While it can be challenging for some students to find access to Ponder since it is web or smart phone based, I give them enough time to find access via the library or a friend's house. As the year goes on, I push the students for concise elaboration on their original ponders, not just the one or two word answers the program allows. A note on ELLs and low-literacy students: There are some supports on Ponder to help students define words, but overall, the level of reading is quite high, and I don't see students who need a lot of support being really successful with this on their own. Maybe teachers could try a partner experience with those kinds of populations. I have only AP so I don't worry about it as much, but some of the articles are even challenging for my lower level students.
This website and app are going to help me serve the new requirements of the common core in a creative way. Even as a Lit teacher, I will have to engage my students in a lot more non-fiction reading, which is sometimes hard to fit into the curriculum, not to mention the time it takes to bring together relevant articles. This website and app are basically interactive news and feature article feeds that students can respond to quickly, then browse to see others thoughts, or "ponders." The feed pulls from greats like The Atlantic and The New York Times. I like the way it gives so many options, so students can authentically interact with information that appeals to them for some reason. They are also, then, drawn to other articles based on what comments other students are adding to them. On the app, students can tap a button and the feed shows only the articles students have responded to. I like how the comments are provided to the student in a simple format. They simply have to click on the comment that best describes their initial reaction to the article, or a portion of the article they highlighted. While this could seem stifling to students initially, I think it stirs up conversation.