Guest Post: Jeremy Majeski, Principal and Literacy Director (South Berwyn, IL)

South Berwyn School District 100 recently embarked on an initiative to provide all students, kindergarten through 8th grade, with a wireless device for use both at school and at home. Now in our second year of full implementation, our students and teachers are becoming more and more innovative with ways to merge technology with the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Throughout this process, one benefit has become increasingly obvious. Technology expands opportunities for student choice and engagement, allowing them to move into the driver’s seat instead of the teacher–even in reading!

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During a recent walk-through, I stopped into a 5th grade (iPad) classroom during their literacy block and I was blown away by what I saw. Students were sprawled across the room with a number of students lying on the floor and others sitting comfortably at their tables. Anchor charts were posted around the room, serving as reminders of what good readers think and do.

As I leaned in to chat with a few students, I learned that this was their independent reading time when they get to choose any “just right” book. Some choose to have a traditional book in their hands while others choose to access a book through myON or the public library. No matter what text format they chose, students were recording their thinking as they were reading either with pencil/paper or using an app on their iPads.

After a quick glance across the room, it was evident that students were engaged. Students had choice in the text they were reading, how they would access the text, and how they would demonstrate their understanding of the text. As I walked out, I could not help but think about how dramatically different this classroom experience was from classrooms I would have walked through five years ago.

Gone are the days of classrooms full of students reading the same text (regardless of their interest or reading level) with teachers dictating how students must demonstrate their learning. Adding technology to a literacy block has expanded opportunities for student choice and, in turn, fosters student engagement. Our students would not like it any other way. 

It’s Raining Books–Spring Into Reading!

Spring 2

If you haven’t seen our Spring Reading images yet, you’re missing out! One look at myON’s platform tells you that It’s Raining Books in these parts, and one look at the New Year’s Reading Resolutions I penned down for the Celebrate! Reading challenge will urge me to Spring Into Reading.

If neither of those things goads you toward new fiction or checking off old reading resolutions, perhaps an age-old reason to read will do the trick: escapism.

Occasionally throughout history, literature has been branded as a sort of evil. Fiction, in particular, was dubbed an evil for transporting people out of a pragmatic, industrious lifestyle and into the depths of their imagination, where they were free to encounter the mysterious, the fantastical, the occult, and even the horrific—thus escaping their true responsibilities, avoiding a practical application of their time. So some said.

But I’m going to give you a free pass. This escapism—this reason to read amidst an endless, frigid winter—is perfectly legitimate. No more excuses for the winter getting you down. Escape into an upbeat Kylie Jean tale or try the new Disney titles on myON to transport you to a brighter frame of mind.

If you need a travel buddy, I invite you to dive into Nancy Cavanaugh’s This Journal Belongs to Ratchet with me! Let’s escape into this story and see what this Journal is all about. This title comes from Sourcebooks—one of our awesome third-party publishers. I’m so excited to try this new (to me!) title on myON. Spring Into Reading with me and try some new titles on myON!

Guest Post: Interview with 1st Grader Tristan J. from Desoto County!

193In this post, I am thrilled to present an interview with first grader Tristan J. from Desoto County Schools in Hernando, MS. In the fall of 2013, myON was implemented in all elementary and middle schools in Desoto County.

Thank you to Tristan for taking the time to talk about how he reads on myON!

How did they teach you to access myON?

“My teacher taught me how to get on myON. She showed me what the app looked like, and she gave me my password. She put my password in my daily folder so that I could find it when I got home.”

Tristan’s mom notes that there was also family training involved. On literacy night, a team of teachers showed parents how to access and manage the program as well.

Tristan, how do you use myON during the school day? How do you use myON at home?

“I use myON during work stations. There are two computers at the work station, and I read a ton of good books. We also get to use myON in the morning after we are done with our morning work. Mrs. Dawson also uses myON on the Smartboard while we are eating our snacks.”

“At home, my dad has an app on his iPad, and I also have it on my Nook. I use it to just read for fun, and I want my class to be in first place in the competition.”

What is your favorite book that you’ve read on myON?

Triple H: At the Top of his Game. Triple H used to be a wrestler, and I like to read books about wrestling.”

How do you look for specific new books to read?

“I use the visual search. I usually look at Sports & Vehicles, Scary & Gross, and Animals. I look at the pictures and titles to find books that I like.”

Do you use the audio or highlighting features? If yes, do you like them? Do they make the reading experience more fun?

“Sometimes I use it, and sometimes I turn it off. I like it when it reads to me because some books are hard and have a lot of words. I like it when the words light up because I can see what they are. Some books I can read by myself.”

Tell us about how myON complements your love of reading: why and how does it allow you to continue to do something you love?

“myON gives me lots of books. I can pick it up everywhere. It is helping me read a ton. I love it because it helps me learn more about nature and the army and Indians and elves and Anacondas and battles. My friends read wrestling books and nature books. It is cool because they tell me about the books, and it lets me search for that book.”

Thanks, Tristan!

Why Webinars?

Well, that’s just a silly question. That’s like asking why iPhones? Why Red Box? Why Uber? (Or, for the truer of my kindred spirits: why chia seeds? Why Jane Austen?)

In our increasingly connected twenty-first century world, the more befuddling question to ask would be: why wouldn’t we use webinars? If you’re on the myON team–or you at least know about the myON team–you know that we’re into community. Webinars are perhaps the most important tool we can leverage to create a community of readers and educators across the country.

We present webinars almost daily in our office: sharing with customers new ways to use myON or delivering virtual professional development sessions to schools that have recently implemented myON. What we’re trying on for size in 2014 is a Quarterly Webinar Series, an idea which, thus far, has proved an invaluable tool to our customers seeking to use myON in different ways and an undeniable testimonial to the ingenuity and compassion of both the myON team and our customer base who have been delivering said webinars.

In January, we hosted our Publishing Acquisitions Manager, Nancy Stetzinger, who presented “Pride in our Publishers: Presenting myON’s Exciting Third-Party Content.” Nancy’s webinar was a fabulous opportunity to discuss not only the variety of our additional content, but also the myriad ways in which to create and utilize unique publisher bundles in your school. Thank you, Nancy!

Last week, amidst a wicked nor’easter, Dr. Beryl Irene Bailey, Director of Literacy for the Bloomfield, Connecticut Public Schools and National Literacy Consultant, presented a webinar entitled “Getting to the Core of Instruction with myON: What’s in Your Library?” to a thrilling 164-person strong audience. It was an astounding success, with a question and answer session that lasted more than thirty minutes after the presentation ended. Dr. Bailey’s rich knowledge of close reading and the Common Core will surely help our customers succeed in using myON in the classroom. Thank you, Dr. Bailey!

We look forward to hosting many more fabulous webinars throughout 2014. We hope you’ll join us for the next webinar in our Quarter 1 series: Principal and Literacy Director Jeremy Majeski (South Berwyn, Illinois) presenting “myON Madness: How to Aim High with 1:1 Implementation.” For more information, please visit our Press Room.

Why wait to join our webinars?

Guest Post: Casimir Pulaski Elementary School, Meriden, CT

Jacqueline Kennedy said: “There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.” Many educators will agree that all students can develop a love for reading; they just need to find a genre that captures their attention. That is the beauty of myON. Students have access to books across many genres and at all different Lexile levels.

At Casimir Elementary School in Meriden, CT, we have a very diverse student population, which brings with it a wide range of reading tastes and abilities.  The students at Pulaski love everything the site has to offer and often beg to log on. I have students who sit next to each other reading the same book and stop every few pages to discuss what they are reading. While it is supposed to be quiet time, I cannot help but quietly listen to their conversations and smile at the common liking they have found for a book.

I also have students who ask for paper and pencils to write down jokes, recipes or fun facts from the books they are reading. These are from books they may not get to read from their classroom libraries because they are not typical books a teacher would think to include. However, no matter what the genre, the students are still reading and learning.

myON’s dictionary and audio integration are also great features that are very beneficial for our students. Pulaski has a population group of ESOL students and these tools help to extend and reinforce their learning of the English language. The audio tool also helps to hold all students’ attention and the on-screen highlighting helps them to track as they read.

myON is still fairly new to our school, but I am looking forward to expanding its uses in the future, beyond just students reading for pleasure. Next month, a group of third graders will begin a “wild weather” research project using books from myON as one of their sources. The myOn library offers a wide selection of non-fiction texts on the topic that students can use to collect information from.

I am also planning to start a class blog for fourth graders to post reviews about the books that they have read on myON. This will allow students to gain practice writing book summaries, as well as persuasive pieces about the books. It will also give students the opportunity to comment on others’ posts and agree or disagree with their classmates’ reviews.

I am enthusiastic about using myOn as a part of lessons and projects in the future, and I know students will continue to enjoy reading the many books the myOn library has to offer as well.

-Stephanie Timek, Literacy Tutor

Casimir Pulaski Elementary School, Meriden, Connecticut

Thank you, Stephanie! 


TCEA: Everything’s Bigger in Texas…

TCEA Partners Celebrate Reading!

Everything’s bigger in Texas—and so we’ve all heard.

Now, I don’t know whether this colloquialism was born in reference to hair or to a long-lost plate of Texan nachos that I never did manage to track down in Austin last week. I do know that one thing for sure is pretty big in Texas: the hearts of all of those Texan teachers with whom we communicated last week during the TCEA conference.

Our time at TCEA—the Texas Computer Education Association—in Austin from February 5-7 was big and it was brilliant. The teachers, librarians and administrators with whom we connected were motivated and motivating. We met people from Weslaco, Austin, McAllen, Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, and many other districts in Texas, and we enjoyed sharing the myON vision with them.

Perhaps what’s better is that they shared their myriad and diverse visions with us. We have so much to learn from these conversations with inspired teachers. We learned about what they truly need in their classrooms to meet all of their students’ needs; we learned about challenges they face on a day-to-day basis in teaching literacy to struggling readers, ELL students, special needs students—or simply teaching literacy to a whole class of unique personalities and reading levels. And we learned about their goals for meeting these challenges head on.

Perhaps the best thing we learned from these teachers is that, for many of them, myON has been and will be a means to those literary ends.

We are happy to furnish three lucky TCEA attendees with a free myON pilot subscription. Congratulations to:

  • Kathy C., Principal, Pasadena ISD
  • Joseph T., Director of Instructional Technology, San Antonio ISD
  • Careli G., Assistant Principal, Brownsville ISD

Thank you to TCEA for hosting us this year. We left with full hearts and big goals.


Celebrate! Reading in the New Year

As the second month of the new year unfolds, what better way to celebrate our new blog than to celebrate the devoted readers who make myON possible?

We are pleased and proud to announce the winner and finalists of the 2013-2014 winter reading challenge: Celebrate! Reading in the New Year. From December 16th through January 10th, we saw incredible usage on myON.

In just three short weeks, the students of Norman A. Bridge Elementary School (Chicago Public Schools) read 694 hours on myON and read 5,929 books! This reading activity is outstanding and belies the myriad ways in which myON promotes student engagement with reading both inside and outside of regular school hours. We look forward to celebrating Norman A. Bridge Elementary’s success with a special myON mystery party!

In addition to Norman A. Bridge Elementary, many of our schools saw amazing reading results during the Celebrate! Reading initiative:

  • Central Middle School (Weslaco Independent School District) read 533 hours and finished 2,590 books.
  • James J. Flynn School (Perth Amboy School District) read 415 hours and finished 3,210 books.
  • Komensky Elementary School (Berwyn South School District 100) read 403 hours and finished 3,019 books.
  • McNair Elementary School (Fairfax County) read 364 hours and finished 2,080 books.
  • Rio Rancho Elementary School (Rio Rancho Public School District) read 362 hours and finished 2,337 books.
  • Mead Elementary School (St. Vrain Valley School District) read 349 hours and finished 2,829 books.
  • Dr. R.E. Margo Elementary (Weslaco Independent School District) read 346 hours and finished 4,050 books.
  • Haycock Elementary School (Fairfax County) read 308 hours and finished 1,790 books.
  • Heritage Middle School (Berwyn South School District 100) read 300 hours and finished 1,366 books.

I think I can safely speak for the company when I say that we are humbled to host such motivated students and teachers on our platform.  A sincere thank you to all who participated in myON’s Celebrate! Reading in the New Year winter reading challenge. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: let’s challenge each other to read more, read differently, and read inspired

*Note: The contest was based on which school spent the most time reading in hours/minutes.