Notre Dame professor records podcast in Studio 304

By: Marenda Escobar

“People have learned and do learn without grades, so they may not be necessary. So then the question is, are they harmful?” – Dr. Susan Blum on The Higher Ed Spotlight Podcast

Dr. Susan Blum is a professor of Anthropology at Notre Dame who has, in the last 15-20 years, shifted her research to focus on education, higher education, and a movement called ungrading. She describes ungrading as a practice that shifts the focus from grading, evaluation, and metrics, to learning. Blum edited Ungrading: Why Rating Students Undermines Learning (and What to Do Instead), which covers the experiences of fifteen educators who practice this new pedagogy. She believes the movement has taken off partly due to the book Ungrading, and the pandemic, which caused people to reevaluate whether conventional pedagogical practices help or hurt learning.

Blum’s work has led her to record several podcasts. When asked to record an episode for The Higher Ed Spotlight in April, Blum was in search of a studio that would provide high production value. Blum’s friend suggested checking out Studio 304 at the St. Joe County Public Library. Once she reached out, staff promptly helped her reserve a studio full of state-of-the-art equipment for free. Blum is a big advocate for public libraries, and calls the St. Joe County Public Library one of her favorite places. Reflecting on Main Library’s renovation, Blum recalls, “the new library is really magnificent. When I came to the opening, I was so excited, but I had no idea that there was also all of this really great stuff.”

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Storytime critical for developing early literacy skills

By: Brianna Knisley

Do you ever wonder how much your young toddler is truly absorbing from the story you read? Do you ever think that reading a short story to them doesn’t make an impact on their learning? The truth is it actually does. The younger you begin reading to a child, the more beneficial it is for their early language and literacy development. A child starts to learn language before their first year of life, and learning continues to build from there through the support of their family or caretakers (ASHA, 2022). One of the easiest things that a parent can do to promote early literacy and language development is to engage in storytime with their child. Language and literacy go hand-in-hand; with a strong language foundation, literacy skills can develop earlier and enhance school readiness.

Early literacy skills begin to develop between the ages of 3 to 5 years, which is known as the preschool period. Children develop three important literacy skills during this time: phonological awareness, print awareness, and alphabet knowledge (Pence & Justice, 2017). These three skills are heavily dependent on the child’s early language that they have developed during their first three years of life.  Early literacy skills are a predictor of later school performance for the child; the stronger their skills are when they begin school, the better for their overall development (Shahaeian et al., 2018). Reading to children at an early age can give them a head start in literacy and have a positive effect on their future academic achievements as well. 

Storytime has many benefits for children other than promoting early literacy and language development. It can help develop their concentration, social skills, communication skills, and encourages their imagination and creativity (Kids Kingdom Early Learning Center, 2022). Also, taking the time to read together can promote bonding between you and your child. It is never too early to start reading to your child, nor is it ever too late to begin! 

Storytime is offered at St. Joseph County Public Library locations. Designed for families with preschool children ages 3 to 5, Storytimes promote early literacy skills through books, rhymes and songs.

Mondays – 10:30 a.m.
German Branch

Tuesdays – 10:30 a.m.
Francis Branch
Tutt Branch

Wednesdays – 10:30 a.m.
Centre Branch
Francis Branch
Western Branch

Thursdays – 10:30 a.m.
Main Library
River Park Branch
Lakeville Branch (alternating)
North Liberty Branch (alternating)


American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2022). Reading and Writing (Literacy). American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Kids Kingdom Early Learning Center. (2022). Benefits of storytime for a child’s development.

Pence, K. & Justice, L. (2017). Language development from theory to practice. Pearson.

Shahaeian, A., Wang, C., Tucker-Drob, E., Geiger, V., Bus, A., & Harrison, L. (2018). Early shared reading, socioeconomic status, and children’s cognitive and school competencies: six years of longitudinal evidence. Sci Stud Read, 22(6), 485–502. doi:10.1080/10888438.2018.1482901.

Written by Brianna Knisley
Graduate Student in IUSB’s Speech-Language Pathology program
Expected graduation: May 2023

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Learning is a lifelong process that everyone can engage in. With Bendable, learners can explore languages, find resources to continue their education, and explore topics for fun. Thanks to Bendable, learners of all ages can learn online or in-person, all for free with their library card! Bendable is host to a variety of resources, like edX for those looking to learn from some of the top universities in the world, or Brainfuse for those looking for some hands-on live support for everything from math and English homework to career support, as well as familiar local providers like Notre Dame, Indiana University South Bend, or South Bend’s very own Venues, Parks & Arts. Along with learning from local organizations, you can also pick up a new skill from a friend or a neighbor using Bendable’s Community Collections. Community Collections are playlists of resources curated by local experts and hobbyists on a variety of topics such as Staying fit at home, Starting your houseplant collection, and How to start playing chess.

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What’s great about the platform is that it gives learners the ability to learn on their own time, at their own pace, and access resources that are interesting and relevant to them. The following learners have used Bendable to do just that:

  • Nikki Morris is a full-time mother and professional, and she has gained skills to support her and her family’s personal well-being. Nikki participated in a learning circle at the Library that met each week to complete the Pathways to Happiness edX course on Bendable. Morris can apply what she’s learned with her family and also her personal life.
  • Viri Zamarripa is committed to caring for children as a mother and her career. She is earning her child development associate credential through a collaboration with Bendable, the Library, and United Way of St. Joseph County. What’s more, she loves that this opportunity lets her manage her own time.

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We all continue learning well beyond school, and with Bendable you can now learn for fun, to improve your everyday life, or to grow your career, all for free with your library card. With Bendable’s new and refreshed website you can now search for courses that interest you, filtering for courses that fit your schedule or that offer college credit or industry certifications. If you’re thinking of going back to school as an adult, whether it’s to get your high school diploma, switch your career path, or to pursue a bachelors or graduate degree, Bendable has resources for you under this spotlight

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