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Interactive Annual 20:
Tablets/Handheld Devices

Actively Learn

Launch Movie

“I wish textbooks were like this when I was in school.”
—Sean Klassen

“A really inventive evolution on learning to read. It’s crowd-sourced education.”
—Dustin Callif

Overview: Actively Learn wants students to love reading. With the help of Seattle-based studio Schema Design, the company set out to build a flexible classroom alternative to paper that makes reading as educational and rewarding as it should be. The e-reader app aims to improve students’ comprehension and critical thinking by drawing them into a digital text through personalized instruction, timely feedback and peer collaboration. Each digital text includes embedded questions that stop students from reading further until they answer. Students can also take notes and respond to each other’s ideas and questions directly in the text. For teachers, Actively Learn offers over 150 instructional layers for commonly taught texts that teachers are free to modify however they like. The app also gives teachers tools for grading and feedback, sharing and collaborative lesson planning with colleagues, as well as access to student notes and reading data for assessing student performance.

  • • The core team’s combined expertise in education, engineering, design and business resulted in a highly collaborative and multi-disciplinary design process.
  • • Actively Learn’s entirely web-based, responsive design ensures an optimal presentation on all platforms and devices, and all information is stored securely in the cloud.
  • • The e-reader uses Microsoft SQL Server and Windows Azure, along with C# Web APIs for the back end. The front end is mostly written in Javascript, leveraging a variety of web frameworks such as jQuery and Backbone.js.

Comments by Christian Marc Schmidt, Jay Goyal and Anish Mehta:

From concept to completion, what was the production process? “We started by creating a minimum viable product that was deployed to students at a partner school. The testing showed a 23 percent increase in comprehension, and provided valuable feedback for the design of the beta software. Working with a small team of educators and developers, Schema helped Actively Learn create and refine the user experience by eliciting continued feedback from teachers and students using the software in the classroom.”

What was the response? “Less than a year since the application’s official launch, Actively Learn is already in use by more than 3,500 teachers and 35,000 students in classrooms across the United States. There’s been a tremendously positive reception by students, educators and parents alike. Educators are seeing an increase in students’ response rates and excitement about the embedded questions, among other features, which make reading more engaging.”


Christian Marc Schmidt, creative director
Schema Design, LLC (Seattle, WA), project design and development
Jay Goyal/Anish Mehta/Deep Sran, Actively Learn, Inc., clients

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