By: Diane Stirling

A grant for a new course that uses technology to virtually connect School of Information Studies (iSchool) distance students with classes of Syracuse City School students with disabilities, so they can convey study plans and carry out hands-on projects, has been awarded to an iSchool faculty member.

Assistant Professor Renee Franklin Hill has received a grant of $2,673 to cover a semester’s worth of course costs and materials for a course she devised, “Library and Information Services to K-12 Students with Disabilities.” The course will be offered for the first time in the fall of 2012 to students who are working toward school library certification. The funds were awarded by Imagining America, a consortium of universities and organizations dedicated to advancing the public and civic purposes of humanities, arts, and design. 

The course is designed to provide strategies related to the ability to develop programs and services, find adequate facilities, and select appropriate resources and technologies to meet the needs of K-12 students with disabilities, according to Dr. Franklin Hill.  Its central activity provides six classes of public school students with disabilities the opportunity to write, illustrate and publish a hard-copy book, guided throughout the project by iSchool Student Library Services (SLS) students. The SLS students and the Syracuse City Schools students will work together virtually via Skype technology, and they will create their books through online publishing systems. Grant funds will underwrite technology fees, small stipends for guest teaching experts and the costs of publishing the books.  Each SLS student and each K-12 student will receive a finished book, and the libraries or classrooms of each school will receive a legacy copy of the published work.

Entitled “Distance Learning, Local Outcomes,” the grant project helps form a virtual community of practice, Dr. Franklin Hill said.  Since the SLS distance students are from other parts of New York State and other states, they might not expect to truly connect to the community where their university is located. Nevertheless, the use of technology creates “a live model of the situations being talked about in class” and allows the SLS students to have an impact at the local level, despite the geographical distance factor, Dr. Franklin Hill said. Given that, the course is another example of the Syracuse University mission of “Scholarship in Action,” providing positive outcomes and interactions between SU students and the Syracuse community, she added.

What types of topics might the K-12 students be expected to write about and illustrate?

Dr. Franklin Hill is “looking forward to seeing really innovative ideas. I’ve been amazed at how creative K-12 students are. They have such great ideas – I cannot imagine what they are going to come up with.”

Throughout the course, iSchool SLS students will use technology to collaborate with school district teachers and librarians and to guide the six classes of K-12 students in writing and illustrating a book on a topic of their choosing; the books will be published through

Five individuals from schools and organizations within Syracuse with expertise in school librarianship and special education will lead asynchronous discussions during the semester.

SLS students will keep in communication with program participants throughout the term, through Skype sessions. Also planned are Skype-hosted “book release parties,” attended virtually by SLS distance students and local program participants.