Sep 6, 2023 · 5 min read

Educators Turn Student Insights Into Action Using the Expanded Along Teacher-Student Connection Builder

Updated tool remains free to all K-12 educators.

Girl in purple sweater smiles in classroom with other students
The Along teacher-student connection builder tool now integrates student voice for inclusive and engaging classrooms. | Photograph by Foxes and Wolves
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Along — a free teacher-student connection builder created by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and Gradient Learning — has introduced expanded features for the 2023-2024 school year to integrate student voice for inclusive and engaging classrooms. The updated Along — named a 2023 Fast Company “World Changing Idea” finalist and recipient of a Special Mention on TIME Best Inventions 2022 — provides educators with a solution to strengthen connections with their students and to create and maintain trust year-round. The tool now offers educators ways to capture and integrate student input, as well as suggests actionable next steps on how to follow up. Educators can tailor their instruction based on student voices to impact academic outcomes and create a more inclusive classroom.

“We know from continually talking to educators that they are looking for a solution to keep students motivated in the classroom. Along already offers a way for educators to build trust with their students, but we recognize that they also need to efficiently integrate these student insights into their classroom instruction,” said Samia Zaidi, managing director of programs for Along. “So for this new school year, we expanded Along’s product features and content to help educators better understand how their students learn and experience academic material and how to process and use these inputs — all to help teachers be more impactful.”

The updated Along now offers these new features:

  • New content and question types: The addition of multiple choice questions makes it easier for students to respond and for teachers to interpret their input. New research-informed questions also help explore how students learn and experience academic material.
  • Insights and suggested next steps: Educators can view a summary of students’ inputs, and access guided prompts to help determine how to respond to individual students or the full class.
  • Easier onboarding and integration: A new class by class rostering option and sync with Clever makes Along integrate with educators’ other classroom technology tools.
Screenshot of Along tool shows summary of students’ answers to a question about learning preferences.
New features make it even easier to explore how students learn and experience academic material. | Photo via Along.org

Along was designed based on decades of research showing that when students have positive relationships with their teachers, they are more likely to feel motivated and engaged in school, develop positive social and emotional competencies, and perform better academically [Cornelius-White, 2007; Gelbach et al., 2016; Osher et al., 2018; Wentzel, 2012]. And in fact, according to a spring 2023 survey of teachers and students who used Along, a large majority — 84% of teachers and 75% of students — agreed that Along helped build these critical relationships. The survey also revealed that 81% of teachers agreed that Along fit into their classroom practice.

Along is an example of CZI’s active partnership with educators and experts to build tools that integrate high-quality research, practices, and content to help address chronic educator challenges and unlock the full potential of every student, no matter who they are or where they live. Through continued partnership with Gradient Learning, CZI is co-designing new tools grounded in, and responsive to, real educator and student needs.

“Working alongside partners, we can help important research-based practices and resources more consistently reach students and educators,” said Sandra Liu Huang, CZI’s head of education. “One of our closest partners in this work is Gradient Learning, an organization that shares our commitment to designing with and for educators.”

Using Along, educators are empowered to drive student motivation and engagement. They can choose from the mix of open-response and scaffolded questions pre-written by researchers, experts in the field, teachers, and students through our partnership with organizations including Character Lab, Search Institute, and Transcend. Once students respond, sharing about themselves and their classroom experiences, educators can review individual responses as well as class-wide data. Using that information, educators can make adjustments to instruction to cultivate an inclusive environment showing that student voices are valued.

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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 communities. Through collaboration, providing resources and building technology, our mission is to help build a more inclusive, just and healthy future for everyone. For more information, please visit chanzuckerberg.com.

About Along
Along is a teacher-student connection builder provided at no cost by Gradient Learning, a nonprofit organization founded and led by educators who are driven to bring communities, schools, and families together in pursuit of meeting the needs of every student. Using simple, yet powerful, reflection questions, Along helps to solve the connection gap between teachers and their students by fostering authentic conversations. It has earned the iKeepSafe FERPA and COPPA privacy badges in recognition of its alignment with privacy, safety, and security best practice guidelines, and was a Common Sense Best Tools for Back to School 2022, one of “6 Ed Tech Tools to Try in 2023” by Cult of Pedagogy, and a finalist for a 2023 CODiE Award for Best Student Experience. With the support of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Gradient Learning partners with communities, schools, and educators to create solutions—such as the Summit Learning program and Along—to meet the holistic needs of every student while fostering success for all.

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