“Their” book, not “the” book: Meet the IL educator using digital to bring student choice into curriculum [Sora Spotlight]
By: Kristen Hein, Account Manager
Each Sora Spotlight profile showcases educators who’ve become Sora champions at their school, impressing us with their innovative strategies to implement the platform and engage students. We’ve asked them to share their stories so that we can all be inspired to find new ways to reach more students with reading.
Today, we’ll chat with Michael Fumagalli, Assistant Director of Teaching and Learning at Glenbard High School District 87 (IL).
Describe your position and your school.
I am an Assistant Director of Teaching and Learning at Glenbard High School District 87. We are the third largest high school district in Illinois, positioned 22 miles west of Chicago. We have 7,900 students and 550 teachers. We celebrate a diverse student population at Glenbard, with 52% of our students being students of color and 76 different languages spoken at home in our district. The top five languages represented in our district are English, Spanish, Urdu, Gujarati and Vietnamese. An additional 785 students in our district speak a language other than those five.
How many years have you been active with OverDrive?
What are you currently reading?
Michael’s Sora Story
Why do you love Sora?
Sora allows us to deliver a fully digital English curriculum on iPads that prioritizes student choice and diverse authorship. It is important that our students have literary experiences that are both windows into the world and mirrors in which they see themselves. Historically, most English curricula has been predominantly whole-class reads and classic pieces of literature that lacked author diversity. Five years ago, our English department chose to examine this closely and make programmatic changes to increase student engagement and elevate student voice.
As a result, the English department started this endeavor by offering three student-choice units districtwide. These were very successful, and we now offer 34 student-choice units district wide at every level and every grade. Student choice units tend to offer diverse authors and current topics and are a good way to add new voices to the curriculum. Our student choice novels continue to be diverse, with both female authors and authors of color representing over half of all student choice books, by count and by readership.
What unique things have you done to help increase student engagement with Sora?
We utilize the holds manager to purchase digital novels on-demand. Because we have so much student choice and voice represented in our curriculum, the holds manager allows us to deliver all digital novels to students without over-purchasing and being wasteful. We are able to be good stewards of our resources while also delivering a guaranteed and viable curriculum.
In what ways has this been successful?
Students don’t have to read THE book. Students get to read THEIR book. There are still whole-class reads throughout the English curriculum, but each course integrates student choice into novel selection in various ways. Thematic units based around intriguing essential questions target specific skills and then students can select from a menu of high-interest novels to engage in that curriculum.
“Investing time, thought and energy into [the digital experience] will not only help you be a good steward of resources, but your students will be more engaged being able to exercise voice and choice in their learning.”
Over the last few years, schools have been presented a lot of unique challenges. How has Sora helped with this?
We have a strong commitment to opportunity and access for ALL students at Glenbard. Sora allowed us to deliver a digital English curriculum when students were not physically in school during the pandemic. Because this was already an established workflow in our district, we did not have to create a new system to deliver novels to students. Many other challenges were present at that time and we were able to concentrate our efforts on pressing matters because delivering novels to student homes was not a problem we had to solve.
Is there anything you’re planning to do to kick off the school year to introduce Sora to your students?
Utilizing Sora to deliver our digital novels is an established workflow in our district and has been for a number of years. In the summer, I work with our OverDrive rep (Edwin) to identify the most optimal lending model for each of our 300+ novels, based on how we use the novel in the curriculum (whole-class read or student choice). From there, we build a library of digital novels for students to check out throughout the course of the school year. Teachers situate students to the Sora app at the beginning of the school year and students are able to seamlessly access their novels on-demand.
Get to know Michael
What’s the most important thing you hope your students take away from reading/education?
I hope students walk away from their experience at Glenbard demonstrating the Profile of a Graduate competencies (embraces diversity, collaborates, communicates, thinks critically, self-empowered, creates) and having seen themselves within the novels they had an opportunity to read during their coursework.
What advice do you have for new educators/librarians with a digital collection?
Work closely with your rep to develop a plan most useful for your school district. The Sora app and OverDrive platform have much to offer in customizing the end-user experience. Investing time, thought and energy into this will not only help you be a good steward of resources, but your students will be more engaged being able to exercise voice and choice in their learning.
Get featured in the next Sora Spotlight!
It’s easy – simply contact us and briefly explain how you’re making an impact with Sora in your school.
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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