The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) and Gradient Learning, today announced the official launch of Along and its free availability to teachers in the United States. Along is a digital reflection tool designed to help teachers make each of their students feel seen and understood. It lets students send quick video, audio or text directly to their teacher so they can open up about who they are and what’s really on their mind.
“We are committed to partnering with educators and researchers to advance a different vision of the school system – one that can holistically serve all students, especially Black, Brown and Indigenous students,” said Priscilla Chan, co-founder and co-CEO of CZI. “We are excited to launch a research-informed tool to support teacher-student relationships, helping teachers make each student feel seen, understood and valued — which is foundational to learning and wellbeing.”
As the pandemic took hold across the country last year, the CZI and Gradient Learning teams worked with educators around the country to understand their challenges in gauging how students were truly doing and where they most needed help. The responses led to the creation of Along, which is built on the belief that when teachers and students connect one-on-one, students feel seen and understood – and show up differently as a result.
“What I know from my personal experience and what we heard from teachers is that they want to get to know each student and support them individually, but a lot can get in the way of having regular, one-on-one check-ins,” said Andrew Goldin, executive director of Gradient Learning. “We built Along to provide educators with an easier, flexible, and more meaningful way to connect with students, so teachers can spend less time scheduling meetings and more time supporting each student.”
Research shows that strong relationships between students and teachers are associated with stronger academic engagement and achievement, higher attendance, fewer disruptive behaviors and suspensions, and lower school dropout rates. Combining educator expertise with researcher knowledge, Along brings the latest learning science into classrooms.
“At the Search Institute, our studies have shown that teachers want and need more support for building relationships that strengthen students’ academic motivation and their achievement in school and in life,” said Kent Pekel, CEO of Search Institute. “Along is a practical tool that does that in a simple but really powerful way.”
Along is similar to the longstanding educator practice of dialogue journals, in which students and teachers share written communications back and forth. Along also builds on research showing that having at least one supportive and caring adult relationship is one of the strongest predictors of resilience to adverse life experiences for children.
How It Works
An educator selects a reflection question from the library—such as ‘What is something that you really value and why?’ They then record their response on video and send the message to one student, several, or an entire class–but in every case, the video appears as a personal message to each student. Students watch their teacher’s reflection and record their own response–using video, text, or audio—that is sent only to their teacher. Teachers can view all their students’ reflections in one place and follow up to make sure everyone feels seen and heard.
CZI and Gradient Learning are using evidence-based practices from the fields of learning science and human development to build tools, like Along, designed to help educators differentiate learning experiences for every student that meet their individual needs. Before being made widely available today, hundreds of teachers and students across the country have been using Along as part of a pilot program launched in October 2020.
To learn more about Along, visit www.along.org.
High resolution images available for download here.
About the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative was founded in 2015 to help solve some of society’s toughest challenges — from eradicating disease and improving education, to addressing the needs of our local communities. Our mission is to build a more inclusive, just, and healthy future for everyone. For more information, please visit www.chanzuckerberg.com.
About Gradient Learning
As a nonprofit organization led by educators, Gradient Learning is a trusted partner — to communities, schools, educators — that creates captivating solutions to meet the holistic needs of every child while fostering success for all. We are empowering an underpowered educational system to work for students of today and tomorrow. Our offerings include the Summit Learning program — a research-based approach to education designed to drive student engagement, meaningful learning, and strong student-teacher relationships — and Along.