Sora Spotlight: Get to know Michelle Lombardi, Library Media Specialist (OH)
In this recurring Sora Spotlight series, we feature a wide range of educators who’ve become Sora champions at their school, impressing us with their innovative methods for implementing the reading app and engaging with their students. Here, we ask them to share their insights and ideas so that we can all be inspired to find new ways to reach students with reading.
Today, we’ll get to know Michelle Lombardi, a Library Media Specialist from Upper Arlington, OH.
Describe your position and your school.
I am the library media specialist at Jones Middle School in Upper Arlington, Ohio. Upper Arlington is a suburb of Columbus. At Jones, we serve grades 6-8, with about 750 students total. As a media specialist, I work with students in all grades and all content areas. I develop and teach collaborative lessons involving information literacy, technology and media literacy. I work with students on everything ranging from research projects and evaluating credibility of sources, to creating multimedia presentations and virtual reality experiences. In addition to teaching, I manage the library, including collection development, budgeting, managing resources and circulation. I also advise several student clubs, including the school book club and Battle Over Books team, and I produce a weekly news show with students that airs at school each Friday. I am also the district iCoach at my building, which means I facilitate technology integration for students and staff.
I have a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science, as well as a Master in Education with a certification in Library Media. I have worked as a library media specialist for the past 12 years, at elementary, middle, and high schools. I have been in my current position for eight years. I am fortunate to work in a district that employs a full-time certified library media specialist in every school building. My library colleagues inspire me to do my job with passion, creativity, and integrity. I could not ask for a better team to be a part of. I also love working with the students and staff at Jones Middle School. We are lucky to have amazing resources, and my students motivate me to create new things every day.
How many years have you been active with OverDrive?
What are you currently reading?
The Midnighters by Hana Tooke.
Michelle’s Sora Story
What do you love most about Sora?
I love the flexibility that Sora offers my students. With Sora, students can read in any format they prefer, and they can access accommodations to make their reading experience better from within the app. Sora gives my students the ability to access a whole library of books from any location and at any time. This is a game changer, especially when we transitioned to virtual learning during the pandemic. Anything that gives my students more access to books and improves their reading experience is a huge win in my book!
What unique things have you done to help increase student engagement with Sora?
At the beginning of each school year, I give all reading classes in-depth Sora instruction so that I can be sure every student knows how to use the app. I also instruct all 6th grade students in a “Library Orientation” at the start of the school year. For this lesson, groups of students create videos about one aspect of the library that they then share with the rest of the class. I always make sure to include Sora as one of the topics for their videos. Students have a great time making screen recordings and recordings of themselves exploring Sora and demonstrating its features.
As a school, we have 10 minutes of free reading time incorporated into every day. Sora has enabled us to offer this time to students by giving them immediate access to a library of books without having to leave their classroom. This allows us to maximize the time students spend reading, rather than searching for a book.
In what ways has this been successful?
This has been successful in increasing the amount of time my students spend reading. Not only is my Sora usage data through the roof, but my physical book circulation numbers have increased as well. When students are provided time to read and access to books (thanks to Sora!), they are so much more inspired to read and continue finding great books. An important lesson I’ve learned is that Sora is only the gateway to great books for many students. Once they read a book on Sora and love it, they are more likely to visit the library and find many more great options.
Are there any other strategies that you’ve used to promote Sora that have particularly resonated with your students?
One way I reach my students is through our weekly news show, Jones Weekend Update. On every episode, I include a segment that spotlights a book or multiple books. Often these books are available on Sora. Every week the book(s) that I promote are checked out shortly after the episode airs to students. This promotion has been a great way to get students interested in books they might not otherwise notice.
Is there anything else you want readers to know about your implementation of Sora or your library?
One of my favorite features of Sora is the ability to link a public library account with a school account. I always encourage my students to apply for a public library card and link their account to Sora, explaining that this gives them access to thousands of additional books that we do not own as a school. This gives me the ability to vastly expand my collection within a limited budget, thereby increasing my students’ access to great books.
Get to know Michelle
What is your favorite “reading” moment with a student? (One of those memorable teaching moments that has stuck with you)
My favorite reading moment with a student took place several years ago. I had a student who was an extremely reluctant reader. She usually refused to check out books, and when she did check something out, she would often return it unread. One day, after doing some reader’s advisory with her, I encouraged her to check out Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage. She came into the library the next day and said that she had stayed up all night long the previous night because she could not stop reading the book. I would never advocate for my students to not sleep, but I was so excited that she finally found a book she loved! From that day on, she was a frequent library visitor and found many more books that sparked her interest. That was one of the first times when I really noticed the difference that I could make in a student’s life by pairing them with the right book.
What advice do you have for new educators/librarians with a digital collection?
Don’t be afraid to jump in and get started! Focus on building a collection your students will love, and they will explore and learn as they go. Share a few key features with staff, such as definitions, highlights, and notes, and they will all be on board. Have fun!
Want to be featured in our next Sora Spotlight? Reach out to us with a brief explanation of what you’re doing in your school and how you’re making an impact with Sora!
Want to learn more about Sora? Check out a live product walk-through to see it in action!
About the Author:
Kristen Hein is an Account Manager working with schools to integrate digital into their libraries and classrooms. She herself has experience as a history teacher working with students grades 8-12 focusing on U.S. history and government. She generally spends most of her free time chasing around her hyper-active pup Romeo, hiking, practicing yoga and trying out the best Cleveland restaurants.
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