Loveland’s Learning Ally
Struggling readers have a new companion at the Loveland City School District – Learning Ally – an audio support program that initially began for Loveland Middle School class novels and has expanded across the district.
“In collaboration with Intervention Specialist Kathy Simpson, I noticed a need for audio support for class novels during the 2011-2012 school year, and I began to research options for the district,” said Susan Mechler, Loveland Middle School (LMS) speech language pathologist. “Learning Ally stood out because the program was compatible with existing devices and offered more than 80,000 books that can be downloaded into three different formats.”
Learning Ally is a collaborative effort between staff students and parents. Students and parents are encouraged to explore books available through Learning Ally at home, and download any books students would enjoy reading. It was fully implemented by this past October, and has grown from being used by 25 staff (special educators) and 50 students to 65 staff members (including general education teachers, educational aides and counselors) and 205 students.
Students like Evan Berryman, a seventh-grade student at LMS.
“This program was a game changer for us!” said Evan’s mother, Paula Berryman. “Learning Ally has made reading accessible, fun, and easy to use with the app. We have it loaded on our i-Pod, i-Pad, and i-Phones. My family uses this program when we go for a walk or go to the gym. It’s great to read the same book on multiple devices.”
“Key for me is that the district was able to use this Assistive Technology to support students with educational disabilities (IEPs) in the core curriculum, and that it is also being used to support all students needing audio support as a strategy/intervention to improve their reading fluency and comprehension,” said Eric Dool, director of student services.
“Susan also provided professional development on the use of Learning Ally to Loveland teachers at our annual Technology Integration Professional Development Day,” said Kimberly Pietsch Miller, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning. “The session was attended by teachers from many grade levels. Not only has Susan worked to integrate technology which supports student learning, but she embraces the collaborative nature of Loveland teachers, sharing, teaching, and leading.”
“This is what sets Loveland apart and above other districts,” said Mechler. “Loveland allows staff to take ownership and pride of their own ideas and supports those ideas to become reality.”
Photo caption: LMS Seventh Grade Student Evan Berryman uses Learning Ally.