A Five-Step Plan for Integrating Digital Books Into the Classroom

How One District Systematically Integrated Digital Books into Classrooms and Independent Reading edLeader Panel recording screenshot

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In Weber School District (UT), educational technology isn’t a one-time event but a tool to help students reach their learning goals. That means they choose the product and plan the implementation carefully.

Partially spurred by the pandemic but also by a desire to increase equitable access to reading materials, district leaders made a digital library one of the seven essential tools in all of the schools. During the edLeader Panel, “How One District Systematically Integrated Digital Books into Classrooms and Independent Reading,” they explained their five-step plan for its successful integration.

Step 1: Embed Tools

First, they made sure there was one foundation program for digital literacy so that the schools could focus their resources and support without having to worry about which program a teacher is using. Moreover, district personnel could provide more in-depth support because they are able to dive deeper into a single program rather than having to get up to speed with several. Finally, since all teachers are using the same program, they’re able to develop support communities across grades and schools.

Step 2: Increase Funding

Next, they needed to fund the start-up and maintenance of the new program. Prior to the pandemic, each school was required to earmark money for the district digital book budget. Once the pandemic hit, they applied for and used several sources of funding to increase their holdings and capabilities, but they did it strategically. A committee oversees the collections process and makes sure that they have materials to suit all students from reluctant readers to advanced learners.

Step 3: Provide Systemic Training and PD

They also included the program as part of the district’s annual summer LEARN conference, which offers teachers professional learning. Every teacher attended a basic class, which helped to demystify the program and let teachers explore without fear. An additional intermediate class allowed teachers to practice using more advanced features.

And, of course, the learning continues throughout the school year with edtech coaches and fellow teachers providing classroom support. Teacher evangelists are then asked to present at the next summer’s LEARN conference. The idea is to hype up the tech, let teachers play with it, and then give them the resources for a successful implementation.

Step 4: Use Librarians as Support

Weber librarians have been integral to the plan. Not only do they oversee the collection and help students with their classwork, but they find other ways to get the students excited about reading. From book wars to reading challenges, the librarians have created their own activities using the digital library, which has increased use and interest. The librarians are also able to help the classroom teachers understand the different models for acquiring books for their students.

Step 5: Increase Stakeholder Support

Outside of the typical PD, administrators have developed programs to get all teachers—not just the evangelists—excited about the program’s potential. First, they offered teachers mini grants to develop new uses for the tech with their students.

Next, school leaders would talk about the digital library many times throughout the year, showing support that goes beyond money. Finally, they also used the program to give teachers access to a professional library. By having the teachers use the program from the students’ point of view, they gained a better understanding of how it works.

Overall, Weber School District has increased the checkout of materials (96%), the hours that students spend reading (50%), and the number of unique users (120%). One key is that students can access their books anywhere, anytime. The variety—including magazines—also helps make sure that there is something of high interest to all students.

Most important, the presenters said, is to make sure that schools are in touch with the customer support folks from the provider. They can help the schools get the most out of the program.

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Learn more about this edWeb broadcast, “How One District Systematically Integrated Digital Books into Classrooms and Independent Reading,” sponsored by Sora from OverDrive Education.

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Ignite Digital Learning is a free professional learning community where educators, librarians, and administrators can explore strategies and tactics for getting every child to be a better thinker, better reader, and better writer through the use of digital resources.

OverDrive EducationOverDrive Education, a division of OverDrive, offers the industry’s largest catalog of ebooks, audiobooks, digital magazines and other content for over 53,000 K-12 schools and millions of students worldwide. The company’s student reading app, Sora, provides every student with access to the right books. Supporting the need to read required curriculum titles, class sets and pleasure reading digital books, Sora’s powerful learning tools and insights help meet the needs of students and educators. Sora was named one of TIME’s Best Inventions of 2019. Acquired in 2021, TeachingBooks.net complements Sora with one of the largest catalogs of original and curated literary resources. Founded in 1986, OverDrive—the leading digital reading platform for libraries—and OverDrive Education are based in Cleveland, Ohio USA. www.overdrive.com/schools

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Blog post by Stacey Pusey based on this edLeader Panel