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New Software Aims To Build Literacy Skills Through Collaboration

While collaborative learning in courses like science and social studies has grown exponentially in recent years, literature still remains predominantly a solo pursuit. However, online educational community BookheadEd Learning is about to take the next leap. At this week's 2011 Florida Education Technology Conference (FETC) in Orlando, the company debuted StudySync, a Web-based community, built around a library of standards-aligned classic and modern texts, that gives students a new environment in which to build their reading and critical thinking skills, both individually and in groups.

"For any teacher struggling to engage today's ever-wired students in conversations about literature, StudySync is the perfect product," said Carol Jago, past president of the National Council of Teachers of English, noting that it gives students the chance to apply an avid interest in social networking directly to their reading and writing skills. "[It] is a stimulus package for provocative thinking."

Features of StudySync include:

  • Sync-Library--more than 300 classic and modern texts (and growing), many of which appear in Appendix B of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), addressing a broad range of topics and concepts across multiple disciplines;
  • Sync-TV: Users can watch videos of college students applying critical thinking to a selection of the same texts/excerpts with which they are currently working, which provides broad but applicable guidance to correctly and effectively analyzing meaning, theme, context, subtext, etc.;
  • Sync-Review: Students post their writing assignments and critique one another's work, using both a rating scale and in-depth written critiques, following guidelines set by their own teachers, as well as a rubric provided by StudySync, a built-in tool allows the teacher to monitor the process;
  • Sync-Binder--a portfolio of each student's work that allows the student to manage, edit, and share essays, preparatory work, and critiques of other students' work and to maintain critiques received from fellow students;
  • Sync-Blasts--allows teachers to send brief prompts to student e-mail accounts and mobile devices to provoke thought and discussion by asking questions or proposing topics or ideas for consideration;
  • Sync-Assessment--provides tools for teachers to monitor and assess a student's body of work and provide useful feedback for progressive improvement; and
  • Sync-Management--provides tools for teachers to plan and manage assignments, customize lessons, and integrate StudySync content into the existing curriculum.

Subscription rates start at $175 per teacher per year for up to three classrooms. Volume discounts are also available for entire school buildings and for districts. For a detailed overview of StudySync, its features, and uses, visit the overview page. Further subscription information and registration for a free 60-day trial are available here.

About the Author

Scott Aronowitz is a freelance writer based in Las Vegas. He has covered the technology, advertising, and entertainment sectors for seven years. He can be reached here.