Student Feedback: “It’s like the enhanced book becomes you.”

Although the enhanced books have only been in place at Perspectives II for three weeks, the students are reporting overall satisfaction with their new reading experiences.  Here is a summary of oral feedback.

Narrated, enhanced e-books:

1) Save time!  This was the most widely reported benefit.   Students appreciate the ability to read much more quickly than they would normally. This helps them to read more books, which builds their exposure to text.  This also helps them to complete assignments on time.  They also reported that the “natural” pace of the narration helps to keep the story/information in their minds as they read.

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Uh oh, the tech.

Anyone who has attempted to use a new technology with students knows the value of patience and determination.  At Perspectives II, we introduced 5 iPads in January 2017. These were to be used to complement the class set of Chromebooks that is housed in the ELA classroom and shared by all students.

Although the students are familiar with using these devices and mastered use of the e-books quickly, we still encountered a few hiccups.

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Making e-books visible

Students often need guidance and easy pathways to access “just right” reading materials. However, one of the unique challenges of connecting students with e-books is finding ways to make them more visible and easier to browse.

The Jukebox and Replicas

To begin, we inventoried all of the enhanced e-books that were available to Perspectives II students (about 250 titles on three separate platforms).  We then organized these titles by genre, theme or series, and created a short book record for each title with a thumbnail of the book, a brief blurb, and a QR code that links directly to the title within each platform. Finally, we formatted the book lists and assembled them in a binder that serves as a catalogue. The school librarian has dubbed this, The Jukebox.

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Good-Fit Books

 

After surveying the Perspectives II students about their interests and habits, and consulting with the teachers about their independent reading levels, we hunted for reading materials that would be a good fit.  Although the students can read widely on the web with the assistance of external text-to-speech (TTS) tools, authentic YA literature is often required to engage students while also meeting ELA competencies.  Unfortunately, most commercially available e-books do not function with TTS due to a protective measure imposed by the publishing industry called Digital Rights Management (DRM).

We sought to find e-books that were either compatible with external TTS tools, or had built-in TTS tools.  However, as reading an entire book with synthetic TTS is not ideal for reluctant readers, we were especially interested in finding series fiction and high-interest non-fiction with professional audio narration and highlighted text, a format we label “enhanced e-books” with the students.

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Stay Gold! Measuring Impact

Are accessible materials as good as gold (for all students)?

During our team planning meetings in September and October, our discussions frequently returned to the question of how we should measure the effect of accessible materials in the classroom. Based on research and initiatives carried out elsewhere across the country, we already knew the critical value of accessible materials in K-12 education.  However, we wanted to document how accessible materials would impact our students (both those with diagnosed learning disabilities, and those without). This, while conscious that we were not conducting a research project. Working with the objective to increase student exposure to and engagement with text, we sought a tool that would measure students’ attitudes toward print, as well as a tool that would measure the amount of time spent (or the “stamina” demonstrated) engaging with print. Continue reading “Stay Gold! Measuring Impact”

“…because every student has the right to access a story.”

 

The premise of The Accessible Reading Project was stated simply and with conviction at our initial pilot project team meeting in September. Ruwani Payoe, a teacher at Perspectives II, reminded us of the lack of literacy-rich experiences of many of her students due to disabilities or unfair social circumstances.  She believes that alternate formats and accessible materials offer pathways that can equalize literacy experiences, “because every student has the right to access a story.”

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