The post below was written by Corinne Altham, a technology integrator and librarian in Maine. Thank you for writing this informational post about getting started with Tales2go!
Launching a new initiative in a school always comes with some resistance. “Another new thing?” is the common distress call from overworked teachers. Add technology to that “new thing” and your chance at buy-in can sometimes be lost. It was through trial and error that I launched Tales2Go in my K-5 elementary school three years ago. I have learned a lot about what works, what doesn’t and how you can increase buy-in from students and teachers alike.
SEE IT IN ACTION
I incorporated Tales2Go into my library classes in order to show teachers how quick and easy it is to get kids listening. The technology staff and I loaded the app onto our school set of 24 iPads. We logged each device into the generic building account. Because Tales2Go keeps the user logged in, students were able to listen immediately following a quick, ten minute demonstration. Using my Smartboard and Apple TV, I showed the kids how to run the app, taught them how to look for stories by category and gave them enough time to listen to a good chunk of a story before class ended. In a second lesson I taught them how to add bookmarks using their home account so that they can pick up at home where they left off at school.
In my school, classroom teachers attend library classes with their students so the Tales2Go demonstrations served as mini-PD sessions for staff. I gave practical tips for increasing vocabulary and comprehension (i.e. following along with a copy of the text and doodle drawing) while listening. Because it’s my job to support teachers’ use of technology, I also provided them with a set of their students’ Tales2Go login ID cards to make bookmarking a breeze. Finally, I reminded the classroom teacher how to request the iPad cart through our shared, online calendar so that she could book the iPads for her own Tales2Go sessions in the classroom.
Tales2Go has one of the best customer service teams that I have ever worked with in my seven years as a technology integrator. Taking them up on their offer of professional development is another way to increase teacher buy-in. You can arrange a live training or share taped webinars with your teachers. Any new technology will always have early adopters; share their tips and tricks with teachers who may be slower to adopt audiobooks in the classroom. Share statistics from the Tales2Go website about the proven benefits about audiobooks in the classroom with the building administration; principals love best practices backed by solid data.
DISPLAY, DISPLAY, DISPLAY
One successful strategy for getting Tales2Go into kids’ consciousness is through creation of library displays. I pull dozens of titles that are featured in the Tales2Go library and display them in the library during the first couple months of school. I include pamphlets about the service and information about how kids can start listening at home.
One goal I have for the upcoming school year is to tag the library books that are in Tales2Go with a special sticker. Many kids love following along with the storyteller, so this book labeling project will encourage those readers. This is an especially effective strategy for students who are interested in titles that are above their reading level. We do not not limit students in our library to books at their level; our library is a democratic environment where student choice is always on the menu. Thanks to Tales2Go, those kids can expand their reading choices in our library.
CONNECTING WITH PARENTS
One thing I learned through failure is how to get parents on board with use of Tales2Go at home. During the first year of Tales2Go, I sent home the login information and parent letters via the weekly tote. Filled with community flyers, notes from the teacher and other school information, the weekly tote is a good communication tool between parents and school. But not all parents are waiting at the door at the end of the school day to unpack little Johnny’s tote and relish the news from school. If you’re like me, backpacks get cleaned once a week and fingers crossed you don’t find anything growing in there.
To combat the Tales2Go information getting lost in the shuffle, I devised a new plan to get the information about how to use the service at home to parents. During a staff meeting the week before the first set of parent-teacher conferences, I distributed out every student’s Tales2Go login sheet and parent letter. I asked teachers to tell parents about the service and hand them the paperwork face to face. Parents were able to ask questions on the spot and knew exactly what the paper was for. I used color as a reminder and printed the sheets on neon green paper to highlight their significance. I learned that no email or tote-note has as much impact as putting something in the parents’ hands and telling them it’s free.
HARNESS THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE SCHOOL WEBSITE
Today’s parents expect that a school website will have all the information they are looking for. To that end, I made a Tales2Go page on my school’s website to help parents trying to launch the service on their home devices. The page has the login instructions, the parent letter, and my contact information if they have lost their child’s username and password. Parents can also find information about how listening to audiobooks on a regular basis can improve their child’s reading comprehension, vocabulary and reading fluency. I added links to the Tales2Go website and embedded videos from their YouTube channel. Our school’s Tales2Go page is one-stop shopping for everything you need to know about Tales2Go.
In addition to being the webmaster, I am also the school’s social media director. I post pictures of kids listening in school, tips on how to incorporate it into the family routine and recommendations on stories that I love. I harness the power of hashtags to categorize my postings and connect to the bigger Tales2Go community in Maine, The US and beyond. The school’s PTA page posts Tales2Go stats and encourages listening to its followers. No matter what social media platform you use, include a link back to the school’s Tales2Go website page so that newbies can get all the important info they need to get started.
I just got the number for the June listening minutes and saw a dip in the number of minutes my students were listening at home. Careful attention to the data provided by Tales2Go helps me publish timely encouragement to my families about listening. Summer is a great time to engage with families who have never launched their child’s account; the break from the daily grind of the school year is hopefully respite enough for families to take the time to get their kids set up and listening. Summertime is a great time to promote listening while traveling since so many families take to the highway during June, July and August. Summer is also a great time for me to update my Tales2Go website and other materials and prepare for next year’s listening. Consistency and attention to what really works will help your launch of Tales2Go a success!
Corinne Altham works as a technology integrator and librarian in South Portland, Maine. Over the past 18 years, she has taught in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Florida, New Hampshire and now Maine. She lives in Gorham with her family and a very naughty rescue dog named Dixie. You can follow her musings about kids, technology and books on Twitter @mrsaltham.