Newsela flips the script on classroom approach in new campaign

The mini-doc follows an experiment to evaluate student engagement.

As schools reopen, edtech company Newsela is asking teachers to reevaluate the impact that the past year of “lost learning” has had on students — and rethink the way they go back to the classroom. 

The campaign, called “Learning Found,” features a mini-documentary about a classroom experiment that places middle and high school students in different learning situations. One class adopts the “skill and drill” method, a more typical, test-driven approach to learning, while the other class is encouraged to have open debate discussions, using the Newsela platform to support their arguments. 

In the seven-minute film, produced by Neighborhood Film Company, students in the “skill and drill” classrooms were given a task to complete on their computers based on the teacher’s instructions. Many were disengaged and unaware of the purpose for the task.

But the classroom that used Newsela, which adapts news articles to learning-level for different classroom age groups, were passionate and engaged in their debates.

The campaign, led by brand experience agency Episode Four, aims to challenge the idea that there is a “learning loss” as a result of COVID and reframe the impacts of remote learning around student engagement, said Adriel Sanchez, CMO of Newsela. 

“When you think about the trauma that students have been through and all of the social and emotional issues that they're returning to physical classrooms with, the last thing that we want to do is adopt a deficit-oriented mindset to greet those students with,” he said.

In an effort to revitalize learning and get students back to school, federal legislation has granted over $190.5 billion of emergency education relief in 2020 and 2021. But students still need more support to transition back into the classroom, Sanchez said. 

“We should be thinking about moving forward, accelerating learning, teaching grade-level skills, so that students can regain the confidence that they need to pick up all of the stuff that they may have missed,” he said. 

Research conducted by the EdWeek Research Center in April, commissioned by Newsela, shows 95% of U.S. educators believe student engagement is an important component of their recovery plans, and interactions among students and teachers are two of the top three indicators of meaningful engagement. 

But many educators fear spending too much time on getting students “back on track” because of the pressure of state assessments, Sanchez said. 

Eighty percent of educators say state assessments play a role in their approach to addressing learning loss, and over half said they would change their recovery plan approach if their state assessments were waived this year.

In addition to the film, which will run on YouTube and other social media channels, Newsela will collaborate with Episode Four and communications firm Global Strategy Group to send merch to teachers and administrators that encourage fluid teaching styles, with slogans including “Life isn’t multiple choice” and “In my class, learning isn’t lost, it’s found.” 

Newsela raised over $100 million in funding in February and services over 2.5 million teachers and 37 million students in K-12 classrooms. 


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