This article by Marika Lee appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer and on Cincinnati.com on September 25, 2014. It features coverage of the Loveland Ohio School District's use of Learning Ally audiobooks and classroom technology to help students with reading disabilities.
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Through working with a 60-year old nonprofit the Loveland City Schools
has been able to bring more than 80,000 audiobooks to students with reading disabilities.
Loveland City Schools has partnered with Learning Ally, a national nonprofit working to assist children who learn differently.
The nonprofit started after World War II recording books for the blind, but has evolved to a digital format. Loveland uses Learning Ally to provide audiobooks to students with reading disabilities, such as dyslexia.
“It just caught fire with teachers, students, parents have all been really impressed with how easy it is to use and the growth they are starting to really see for their students in core classes,” Director of Students Services Eric Dool.
About 300 Loveland students are using the program.
“I mainly use them for big novels we have to read or I’ll use them for textbooks if I don’t understand something in the textbook,” said Evan Berryman, an eighth-grader at Loveland Middle School.
Dool said other text-to-audio programs the district has used previously has cost the district up to $2,000 per student, while Learning Ally cost only $4,000 for the entire district.
“We have over 300 students access if for that $4,000 and it is much more user friendly and in my opinion more powerful. The software we had been using can’t do half of what Learning Ally is doing for students,” Dool said.
Students can access the program through its website or its iOS or Android app, Loveland Director of Technology David Knapp said.
“Everything is very streamlined. The user interface is very intuitive. If I click on something I know what is going to do. It is a very short learning curve,” Knapp said.
Berryman has the app on his iPad, which he can bring to school through the district’s bring your own device program.
“I can get on. Then I can just go to any chapter and it will highlight where it is and then it will start reading it,” Berryman said as he demonstrated.
Dool said the district got involved with Learning Ally after hearing about it from special education teachers, some of whom were already using it outside of the district. After piloting it with much success, it was expanded to the entire district.
Teachers at Loveland understand that students with dyslexia usually have above average intelligence and that just the reading disability is holding them back.
Learning Ally Vice President of Education Solutions Paul Edelblut said the program usually starts with the special education departments because those teachers are the ones who identify students that could benefit from the program.
“The special education teachers and administrators at Loveland are fantastic and they understand that students with dyslexia are just like other students. They usually have above average intelligence it’s just the reading disability is holding them back,” Edelblut said.
Edelblut said Learning Ally is working with about 10,000 schools throughout the country. It is estimated that about 20 percent of the population has a reading disability but the diagnosis rate is only about 5 percent in schools.
“You see pockets of excellence like Loveland, but you also see a lot of private schools popping up just for kids with dyslexia,” he said.
Knapp said Learning Ally has aligned with the other assistance technology programs the district is using.
“One of the focuses of our bring your own device program is to put the learning in the student’s hand. (Technology) is now putting the teachers in a different role. They are coaching their students through these challenges they are putting in front of them,” Knapp said.
Dool added it has made it easier to accommodate and modify education for all Loveland’s students.
“The way we are able to assess students’ knowledge and skills is so much easier in a digital format. The ways we are able to reach all of our students have broadened tremendously. The resulting growth that we have seen for all of those students is better,” he said.
Read the Cincinnati.com article in its entirety here.