Learning Ally Blog: Access and Achievement

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Now more than ever, people with learning and visual disabilities are flourishing in the classroom, launching productive careers and becoming assets in their communities. This blog spotlights remarkable individuals who demonstrate that having a visual or print disability is no barrier to educational success.


How I Secured Tablets For All My Dyslexic Students
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A Teacher Shares Tips on Writing Technology Grants for the Classroom

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“I think I’ve been a thorn in my IT department’s side because I’ve been so adamant about getting Learning Ally access for all of my dyslexic students,” says Connie Bagley, dyslexia teacher at Crockett Elementary in Texas. (Note: a video of Connie is posted below.)

“I knew I needed more dependable technology for my students, but I had never written a grant before.”

After a year of implementing Learning Ally in the classroom, Connie recognized that the program was having a major impact on her students, so she decided to apply for a grant to obtain more devices for them. Titling her narrative in the grant application, "If I can hear it, I can learn it," she stressed that using audiobooks improves vocabulary and comprehension for her students, allowing them to listen to books on a much higher level than they could read on their own.

Despite her inexperience as a grantwriter, Connie was able to make a successful case to the CenturyLink Clarke M. Williams Foundation, which enabled her to provide a tablet for each of her dyslexic students in Grades 2 through 5 to useat the start of next school year. The results were remarkable.

“All of my 3rd, 4th and 5th graders finished the STAAR reading test, and all of my dyslexic students passed," she says. "Plus, a large portion of my dyslexic students received commended performance - which means they scored in the highest percentile of all the kids in the state. That is including students who don’t have print disabilities, so for these students with dyslexia to achieve those high scores is outstanding. "I attribute the increase in vocabulary and comprehension to Learning Ally. They were listening to books constantly this year, and chose books well above their reading level. It proves the point when the scores come back and they’ve done so well."

boy dyslexic headphones device

“It was easy for me to share the impact, because I’ve seen how audiobooks help my students -- but the grantwriting process was a little time consuming,” Connie confesses. She offers the following suggestions to help other teachers:

  • Keep an eye out for local corporations offering grants. My school sends these opportunities to my email, but you can check your local area.
  • Prepare yourself with all the specifics beforehand.
    • School enrollment
    • Test scores (prior year’s school performance)
    • How many students will the grant impact
    • How will the grant improve academic achievement
    • How long will the funding help - one semester? full school year? more?
  • Write in your own words how important the program is for you and your students. Here are a few key sentences from my narrative:
    • “As a teacher of dyslexic students, who struggle with the printed word, I know all too well how important it is for ALL children to acquire knowledge through print. In the 21st century this will mean becoming digitally literate as well.”
    • “Being able to provide each of my students with a device would change their world.”
    • “Audible books provide dyslexic learners, students with pervasive language difference, to both visually and audibly reinforce word recognition, improve fluency, build vocabulary and develop decoding skills.”
  • Be specific. If the grant is offering $5,000, create a budget with a line item for the cost of each item you will purchase with the funding and make it equal as close to the dollar amount as possible. I got my request right to $4,995.00 with the equipment I chose.
  • Check with your IT department to be sure the funding can go towards a device they will support. The grant I applied for actually required my school IT department to sign off that they will support the specific devices I was requesting.
  • Prepare a contract for students to use equipment at home. I try to be sure all my students are prepared for using Learning Ally at home by incorporating a contract they have to sign so I can loan them the device for the school year.
  • Incorporate an insurance plan in the grant request or that parents can purchase. Our school researched insurance and found a plan that only costs $25 for each device. Almost all parents take advantage of this so they do not have to cover the cost if the new device is damaged. You could also request the insurance amount in the grant application.

“I am so thrilled to have these devices for my students next year," Connie says. "I wasn’t expecting to win so it was a very nice surprise! It’s exciting to see the students walk around with their device and earbuds in their ears, and they have this big thick book in their hands. “One student said he wanted to start a book club next year where the class could download and read the same book, and then meet after school to talk about it. This is a kid who we were lucky if he read five to ten books all year and now he’s read fifty or sixty books this year with Learning Ally."

To learn more about how a Learning Ally membership for your school can help your students, join us for a webinar or sign up for more information. Contact a Learning Ally education specialist at 800.221.1098 or email programs@LearningAlly.org. To mitigate any potential for duplicate submissions bearing the Learning Ally name to corporations and foundations, please email Cindi Walsh to share when you apply for a grant for your school.




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