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“You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.” ~Winston Churchill


Learning Ally Users' Confidence Grows

 

Three young school children sit at a table, reading their books using Learning Ally.  While they read, they eat their lunches.

 

When you were a kid, would you give up the freedom of lunchtime and recess...to sit at a table and read?  The students at Nola Dunn have been doing just that, thanks to Learning Ally’s Great Reading Games! These students have grown to love reading so much, they’re willing to make that sacrifice in order to hear what comes next in their books.  Learn more about this change and more by clicking on this link and watching the TV news story that aired the other night: https://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Dyslexic-Students--509331111.html

 

Learning Ally team member Terrie Noland shares from her conversation with teacher Dana Blackaby:  

 

Many of us have heard the name Dana Blackaby, mainly because of the performance of Nola Dunn in the GRG...but until you hear her shaky voice over the phone telling Gavin’s story, you don’t know the depth of belief that Dana has in Learning Ally.  She uses words like life-changing, transformative, and dedicated believer to tell Gavin’s story.  Gavin is one of her 5th graders who has severe discrepancies in phonemic awareness – he can’t tell what sound an “a” makes from one day to the next.  Dana works tirelessly with him on explicit reading instruction, but with his severe dyslexia, it takes time. With the help of Learning Ally, Gavin has blossomed, his self-confidence has grown immeasurably, even to the point of delivering an Edwebinar to thousands of educators around the world!!

 

To hear Gavin talk about Learning Ally during the Edwebinar, click on this link and scroll to about 27:45 (you will have to enter an email address to gain access): https://home.edweb.net/webinar/readers20190416/


 

Anyone recognize the voice reading Al Capone Does My Shirts?  It’s Learning Ally volunteer Mike Klipper!  Mike introduced his fiancée to volunteering, and eventually Sarah Klipper joined our staff!


 

Mike and Sarah beaming at the camera while Sarah holds up two hand-written fortunes:  (1)  You will be hungry later; and (2) Your future will be full of cookies and tacos.


 

Colorful graphic of celebratory confetti and streamers rising up from festive party hat-like cones

 

Metrics Update for this week:

  • Our readers increased to 198,786

 

  • We had 40,747 reading at frequency*

 

  • We had over 121 million pages read!


 

Another great week for Learning Ally!


 

*at frequency = students are reading books multiple times during the school year, with a general target of thirty times (more for lower grades, less for upper grades).  Our data shows that most of these students read for at least 20 minutes each time.


The Volunteer Nation Community Portal: Our Volunteer Nation Home

Home Sweet Home!

The Volunteer Nation Community Portal is so much more than a place to log our volunteer hours. It is our Volunteer Nation Home. We encourage you all to make this your home. A place to visit anytime, it’s also a great place to visit before starting your work. After exploring, there are links out to both the Textbook project sites as well as the Literature Community Portal to find your projects. 

 

Come check out the blogs. You’ll find stories about the students and schools that we are helping. Get to know some of your volunteer peers, learn why they volunteer and what they’re up to outside of Learning Ally. Find statistics about all the students you are helping. Use this information to help spread the word. Remember to brag to your friends and families about the great things you do through volunteering.

 

There is a Resource link that will take you to some great training and support information, including documents and videos. 

 

Visit the Support link to find answers to FAQs. Your question not answered? You’ll find instructions there on how to connect to our Volunteer Support team. They are available to provide one-on-one help with your questions, ideas, and problems.

  

You’ll also find our Recognition page. In addition to the volunteers recognized here, we want you all to know your great generosity has had a profound and lasting impact on our students. Thank you all!


Learning Ally Transforms Lives

 

Eilyn Davis and Mike Freeman have big smiles on their faces as they talk about Learning Ally.  Graphics have been added, making them appear as if they are wearing cartoon-style pink hats with cat and bunny ears, and pink headphones.  Audio-related icons are in front of Mike as if they are his microphone.  Between them are puffy, white, cloud-like words:  GOOD DAY


 

Mike Freeman, Superintendent Principal at Grant Elementary School in Redding, California, and Resource Learning Lab Teacher Eilyn Davis are BIG fans of Learning Ally!  Click on the link to watch this video and find out why:

https://www.facebook.com/grantschoolcougars/videos/2585783788103729/



 

Colorful graphic of celebratory confetti and streamers rising up from festive party hat-like cones

 

Metrics Update for this week:

  • Our readers increased to 196,219

 

  • We had 39,491 reading at frequency*

 

  • We had over 118 million pages read--an increase of 70% over last year for school readers!


 

Great work, everyone!  Let’s see what next week brings!


 

*at frequency = students are reading books multiple times during the school year, with a general target of thirty times (more for lower grades, less for upper grades).  Our data shows that most of these students read for at least 20 minutes each time.


Great Reading Games 2019 Wrap-Up


Great Reading Games logo: Blue circle around a purple disc, with a traditional loving cup and laurels in its center.  A blue star is on the main body of the cup, and a crown hovers over it.



 

For the expanded report, click here:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-GXMUanzp7IMVCHii1NF74zhv8NAPJx-/view?usp=sharing


 

Highlights:

  • We had a 31% increase in school participation over 2018

 

Excitement is in the air as crowds gather in a school gymnasium, waiting to watch the live-stream event with author Kwame Alexander



 

  • We had a 62% increase in participating students over 2018

 

Resource teacher's classroom door celebrating the GRG achievements of and encouraging students in various grades


 

  • Schools participating in the GRG saw a 27% increase in reading activity compared to only 19% in schools that did not participate

 

Glowing smile on the face of one little girl as she proudly shows off her tablet with the book she is reading loaded onto it.  A little stuffed animal in her arms is listening to the book with her.  Caption:  This little sweetie has been coming to read every morning since the Great Reading Games started!


 

  • Students read nearly TWELVE MILLION pages during GRG19

 

Eyes wide with excitement, a young girl shows off her very full LINK bookshelf.  Caption:  Look at all my books!

 

 

  • Educators are saying: “...this is the ONLY intervention that has made a significant difference to so many kids...These kids FEEL like readers now.”


 

Logo with an open book inside a glowing light bulb; text: Innovations in Reading Prize, National Book Foundation: Honorable Mention


Elementary Students Learn How to Make Audiobooks

Elementary Students Learn How to Make Audiobooks!

We recently had the pleasure of hosting students from two elementary schools in Austin, TX and Princeton, NJ. A great day was had by all.  The excitement was contagious as they entered the building.  You could see the wonder on their faces, as they are so familiar with Learning Ally and how much it impacts their day to day accomplishments at school. Without you volunteers, none of this would be possible!  Here’s a look into each school visit, and what the students were able to experience while they were here. 

Highland Park Elementary Students, Austin TX

On February 27th, 32 students and 6 teachers, parents and school administrators visited the Austin studio to learn about how our audio books get from volunteer’s voices/home studios into the app they use to listen to their books.  

The students listened to the history of Learning Ally, back to 1948 when we were called Recording for the Blind and recorded material onto flexible record albums.  They saw how we have kept up with technology over the years through reel-to-reel, cassettes and CD’s and now to the Learning Ally Link App.  They watched a video showing how our books are chopped and scanned to make the PDF and EasyBooks files our volunteers use to read.  They learned how volunteers can now work anywhere in the world to help record their books thanks to our virtual technology!

Highland Park students are experts at using the Link App, so they enthusiastically helped staff demonstrate how to search for and download books, find chapter headings, page numbers and change the speed of the audio and the color of the text on the screen.  

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/7ih1EQSGpePr_XnYs_V4dVLFHk8pjF0zhzbDGEidQsy8glfQOXH4djdQ0_bQqE3f56NOcrETW6yKmodaVqB1FoNVCOkSZS9wL9FCV2EXwPWjdhxNoluwXLQbgvHqk_RAU7uZkMiP

Students got to step into our old recording booths and make a recording on a Learning Ally Flash Drive to take home to their family.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/MubY8coDJ3e3zFv09_yNqpttWrGgqgw2q5bXjMAtBXaE4_fCE5Mzn9sempqfucp509aJ6h-1GbhtqYASvwssLV8PRsZUy3paMOwP1oD6oKxJvh1lB1m6jF-TgfSzKrf25RAU_UHx

Austin volunteers Kathi Jensen and Robert Miller helped staff members Cheri Nightingale and Gigi Franklin with the tour.  One little girl told us “This is the best field trip we have ever taken!”  Their two hours at the studio flew by, but their enthusiasm for reading will last a lifetime.  They all gathered in the studio conference room before getting back on the bus and yelled “THANK YOU!” to all the volunteers around the world who help brings books to life for them.  

Village Elementary School, Montgomery NJ

On January 24th, we had an amazing group of students from Village Elementary School, visit us and get to experience firsthand how an audio book is made from beginning to end!   They were able to experience LINK and be “testers” with some new advanced features coming up!

The students had an opportunity to meet learn about guide dogs, and how they are trained to lead the blind and visually impaired around obstacles.  Abigail Shaw, a Learning Ally staff member was gracious enough to bring her guide dog Kit, for the students to meet.  This was a huge hit with everyone, and it helped bring an understanding how important these companions are!

We had a great voice over session, where students recorded a clip of a short story of their choice and brought it home on a flash drive for their parents to listen to! They were so proud of themselves and loved hearing their voices on the recordings! 

It was a great day that couldn’t have been possible without the help of our wonderful staff and volunteers that joined us for this impactful event.  A special thank you to Maryfran Annese and Joe Clark for making a special trip to Princeton to join the fun! 


One Mom's Message to You

 

 

 

Learning Ally Mom sits at her computer smiling.  Meanwhile, her teenage daughter has snuck up from behind, throws her arm over her mom's shoulder, and waves happily at the camera.  Both mother and daughter have big smiles on their faces.

 

 

It’s been a great week at Learning Ally!

 

Our readers increased to 191,499, with 37,212 at frequency* and over 111 million pages read!

 

Pages read increased by 74% over last year for school readers.

 

 

It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words….and a video is worth even more!  Check out this video where Learning Ally Mom Karen tells us why our work is so important to her family:

https://youtu.be/7e_bWTHCPc8

 

 

*at frequency = students are reading books multiple times during the school year, with a general target of thirty times (more for lower grades, less for upper grades).  Our data shows that most of these students read for at least 20 minutes each time.


Metrics Update

 

Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani woman, wears a colorful hijab

 

Let us remember: one book, one teacher, one child and one pen can change the world.

--Malala Yousafzai

 

We would add...and one volunteer!

 

Thanks to your hard work, our readers this week increased to 187,261 – with 35,953 at frequency* and over 108 million pages read!

 

Pages read increased by 75% over last year for school readers.


 

Thank you for all your hard work that makes our learners’ successes possible!



 

*at frequency = students are reading books multiple times during the school year, with a general target of thirty times (more for lower grades, less for upper grades).  Our data shows that most of these students read for at least 20 minutes each time.

 

 

 


From the Training Center: What's VHOC?

Hello all! Our Storyteller course has taken off, and more volunteers are donating more hours to our at-home programs than ever before! If you're a Textbook volunteer wishing to show off your performer's voice, or a Storyteller volunteer looking to demonstrate your subject mastery, check out the Textbook or Literature communities on the Volunteer portal to learn more.

  

What is the VHOC?

We mention the Volunteer Hands-On Center at a few points in our training, but we still have questions about how it fits into the training program. The VHOC serves as an apprenticeship. There just isn't enough time (or patience) for us to cover all of the content you'll encounter in book projects, so you need to do some on-the-job learning and the VHOC is where you'll get that exposure but with more supervision.

 

Screen image of Volunteer Hands-On Center welcome page

 

While working in the VHOC you'll be limited to checking the reading of other volunteers. This serves several purposes:

  • More modeling of good and bad reading: The samples and examples in the training program are brief slices, and some errors can only be recognized as a part of larger projects. You'll be the first line of defense against errors in your work, so you need to recognize problems in anyone's work.
  • Broader exposure to reading conventions: Not only are there many more particular rules and standards than we can cover in the brief lessons on reading conventions, the infinite variety of books means we often need to make judgment calls in how we apply them. Seeing more examples of the conventions in the application helps you internalize the lessons. 
  • Building your schedule: The training lessons can be finished in a couple of hours but book production requires dedicating hours of your time on a regular schedule. While working in the VHOC you can make sure you can be available as needed for volunteering.

 

VHOC book projects are the same book projects you'll find in the catalog of the Textbook community. The difference is that you'll use a request form, so the staff knows what work you'll be doing and you'll end each of your volunteer sessions by filling out a form to notify them of your progress. They'll have another volunteer take a QA pass through your work and offer feedback. (Once you graduate from the VHOC and join the Textbook community you'll be allowed to sign up for your own projects and there's no immediate follow-up checking on your checking work.)

 

As you demonstrate your abilities and knowledge, the staff of the VHOC will need to give you less advice and you'll gain more independence. Soon after that, you'll be allowed to train for reading, and maybe even become a peer mentor to other trainees new to volunteering with Learning Ally.

 

Congratulations Training Grads

Textbook Course: Thomas S., John G., Jane S., John K., Jaime H., Nicole M., Clara H., Suchetas B., Donna L-J., Qamara B., T.A. N., Leslie G., Cindy S., Christina J., Lorraine L.
Storyteller Course: Sayafiq B., Demetrius M., Alice C., Terri B., Angela J., Suzanna L., Lakshmi B., Natalia E., Erica H., Kenye A., Debbie R., Christine D., Carman W., Mary B., Elizabeth B., John T. T., Victoria S., Rowena P., Grace I., Nichalia S., Mak S., Nicole C., Stephanie S., Maria D., Elizabeth VK., Heidi B., Janet S., Sarah F., Brendan S., Ryan K., Jonathan M., Marion H., Mike Patrick M., Doug B., Christina J., J.K. M., Wallis T., Maggie, Sarah L., Rebecca U.
 


Great Reading Games: The Olympians of Nola Dunn

Tim Wilson, Learning Ally's Chief Financial Officer, sent out this message over the weekend:  

 

Forget March Madness, we’re celebrating Olympians today! Terrie Noland spent the day at Nola Dunn videoing their Great Reading Games awards ceremony. Terrie’s video is attached, along with her comments below about the ceremony.

Image of the front of Academy at Nola Dunn; traditional brick building with flags of USA and Texas flying in front a clear blue sky

 

 

Terrie, Learning Ally's Vice-President for Educator Initiatives, says: 

 

The students refer to themselves as “Olympians” at Nola Dunn Academy in Burleson, Texas.  They placed #1 in the GRG in the Orange Bracket.  When you are in 2nd grade, are diagnosed with dyslexia, have struggled to read, and accomplish amazing things in the GRG with Learning Ally, you give the District Superintendent a BIG high five in front of an entire audience of students and family.

 

 

To watch video of some of the award winners receiving their prizes, click here: 

 https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3Svvfqr67MaY3I0VVdVXzVnSTBwT0lqcnJLRnhtSDBjbFRr/view?usp=sharing

 

 

Congratulations to ALL the students who participated in the Great Reading Games, and our deepest thanks to the parents, teachers, and administrators who supported them throughout this event!  Together it's possible...to transform the lives of struggling learners!

 


Tech Talk - How Do We Read Computer and Programming Books?

Learning Ally provides audio for a wide range of textbooks - from Music History to Economics to French Grammar to Geometry to Biochemistry! We have several specialized sub-fields within our Instructional Textbooks. Today, we’ll be taking an inside look at our Science & Technology Community, with our small but powerful Computer and Programming group.

 

What are these computer books all about?
Our Computer Science projects can be broken down into three main categories. The most common books are those that teach students how to use computer programs like Microsoft Word, Excel, AutoCAD, and more. Every now and then, we’ll get one or two books dealing with IT or computer service and repair. Finally, some of our more challenging projects are books on programming and markup languages like HTML, Java, and C++.

 

Help! How do I read  “⌘”?*

Sarah is confused by something on her Macbook. What is a Windows Key anyway?These Computer Skills and Programming books come with their own special challenges. How do we read a page full of program code? When do we use “hashtag” versus “pound”? You might be surprised to learn that there is actually a lot we don’t read in these projects. Most of our members are fully sighted, and many more have some usable vision. We don’t describe computer screenshots or read all of the punctuation in code. Our job is to focus on the textual detail, so that the students can focus on what they’re good at - thinking through code structure and building their tech skills.With our updated Computer and Code Guidelines, this Programming text isn't quite as difficult as it looks.

 

Our staff members can answer many questions, but we often rely on our expert volunteers as much as our own specialized knowledge and research skills. I’m Sarah Klipper, our Computer and Programming Text Lead. I work with our Science & Technology  Lead, Christine Hoffman, on everyday problems and tricky questions in our Science & Tech projects. To better deal with quirky computer lingo, I developed our Computer and Code Guidelines following Christine’s and the Science volunteers’ work on the Science Terms and Conventions as a guide. I’m grateful to have plenty of help with these Guidelines from our programmer volunteers, who know how some of these arcane terms are used in the classroom and in professional circles.

 

Google Hangouts are a big help with this kind of group collaboration; our Computer/Code Chat Group has been absolutely invaluable as we help each other figure out pronunciations and usage of coding syntax. Many thanks go to Ev Tate, Joseph “Old Joe” Clark, Ann Bouchard, and Kim Dauber for their contributions in this chat and various project Hangouts. Many thanks also to volunteer alumnus (and Staff husband) Michael Klipper for his help with Computer Science concepts.

 

A stick figure hero swoops in over a computer. Stand back, he knows regular expressions!Want to learn more about computers but too scared to try? We’re here to help…  and if we don’t have the answer, we can help you find one. ;-) 

 

*That ⌘ symbol is the Command key on a Macintosh computer.