Note: This post was written by Beth Hughes and Chris Gosselin for their blog, For the Love of Reading. Both teach English in Wakefield Memorial High School in Wakefield, Massachusetts, in addition to writing extensively about incorporating digital learning into the classroom.

Beth Hughes and Chris Gosselin


As English teachers, we’ve noticed that our students have a decreased love of reading. While many observers blame technology for distracting teenagers from books, we choose to explore ways to use digital learning tools to help our students rediscover their love of reading.

But first, some background. As we said, it’s our professional practice goal to foster a love of reading in the classroom. To get started, we ask students where they are with their relationship with reading — in other words, we asked them to share their reading journey. In the past, we used journal entries, class discussions, and conferences to gauge where our students were on their journeys. This year, we asked our students to write their narratives using Animoto, giving them a sample video created by Beth as inspiration.

Style: Back to School
Song: “Coquetry” by McKenzie Stubbert

Animoto allows us to take this conversation to the next level. It’s easy to use. Drag and drop. Write a caption. That’s it.

Animoto provides hundreds of beautiful themes, enabling students to personalize their narrative. Students can upload pictures, video, and music, or use the stock ones provided; after, they write a quick caption for each image and then click PRODUCE. Within minutes, students can create a high-quality video that is easily shared with a link. Within minutes! (And yes, we are just a teensy bit bitter, as we remember schlepping those clunky camcorders around–Adam Goldberg-style– to get the perfect shot and then spending hours mashing it into something that resembled a finished product for our teachers.)

Students are still accomplishing the same objective – sharing their reading journeys – while demonstrating their mastery of even more standards: Speaking & Listening (i.e., strategically using digital media, collaborating with their peers in civil discussions), Writing (i.e., creating narratives), and Language (i.e., demonstrating command of conventions).

But beyond the standards, when students take advantage of digital learning tools, they are activating a set of 21st century skills that are vital to their success.

The best part? Students are fully engaged in the learning process because we are speaking their language — the language of digital natives.

When the projects were finished, we collected our students’ easily-shareable project links. (Chris uses the new “Question” feature in Classroom to garner the links; Beth uses a Google doc.)

Animoto has a slew of uses for English teachers. Teachers could:

  • Provide a glimpse into the 1930s before teaching To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Create an engaging assessment that provides samples of writing that students must then associate with a writing style. Students could create a presentation that answers the age-old “When will I ever need to use this?” question.
  • Have students share their research on an assigned topic.
  • Correct images of real-world typos they notice around town.
  • Assign a book talk, review, or pitch, which could then be saved in one place for future students looking for something to read.
  • Share classroom practices, teaching philosophies, and content updates with parents.

The technology world is your students’ oyster. Now ask them to use video to bring their thoughts to life!


In addition to teaching English, Chris Gosselin is a Digital Learning Specialist and member of the Wakefield Public Schools Technology Leadership team. When she’s not teaching, Beth Hughes is piloting a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) to school initiative. Both Chris and Beth collaborate on their blog, For the Love of Reading.