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Wait, What is Sora?

By Joe Skelley | Apr 21, 2020

Wait, What is Sora?

Hi everyone – Joe here! For one of our blogs this month, we wanted to have one of the amazing school partners we’ve visited write a blog post about their experiences using our student reading app, Sora. The blog you’re about to read is from Mr. Shawn Maas, an exceptional Media Specialist and English Language Instructor at Cypress Bay High School, near Miami, Florida.

Cypress Bay High School always stands out to me when I think of school events, which is why I reached out to Shawn to share his story. Last year, we spent two days at this monster-sized high school working with students to get them excited about Sora. During these two days, every student truly was excited to be borrowing ebooks and audiobooks. Aside from the eager faces, I was also impressed by the faculty- they were as eager to learn more and incorporate into their curriculum as the students were. I always remember the teacher who wanted us to talk about audiobooks to every class so that no matter what format, a student was reading.

While Shawn will talk more about his unique media center situation, I wanted to mention, that if you’re a teacher who hasn’t heard of Sora yet, make sure you check out for more information on how your school can get started. Now, on with the blog.

Cypress Bay High School is home to the WAVE; a Media Center that includes 20,000 OverDrive ebooks and audiobooks. Last month our school was closed due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Our students and teachers have since transitioned to distance learning.

During an online meeting, it was suggested that we try to promote reading in the school district. A slogan, a Million Minutes in May, was discussed. I jumped onto Sora and took a screenshot of our school’s logged reading minutes for March and shared it with the meeting members. Two weeks in and we already had 47,000 minutes logged in March. A participant in the meeting asked a question, “Wait, what is Sora?”

Five years ago, a County bond provided each school with funds for renovations. Some schools focused the funds on auditoriums and gyms; Cypress Bay decided to focus on the school media center. As the largest public high school in the state of Florida, there was a need to free up physical space. OverDrive was contacted by administration with the idea of a digital media center; at that moment, the WAVE was born.

In August of 2016, I took over the WAVE as Media Specialist. New furniture had been purchased with a focus on power and connectivity. Our print collection, now weeded to 5,000 books, was moved out to the walls, freeing up space for collaboration stations. Students had access to Wi-Fi, laptops and an OverDrive Library of 10,000 digital books.

At the end of our first year, checkouts increased 1000%. At the same time we were only reaching about half of our student body.

In January of 2019, our OverDrive collection had grown to 20,000 copies. The WAVE transitioned to Sora, a new app for students. It was a game-changer for the WAVE. Students now had access to our ebooks and audiobooks in a student-friendly app.

Since Sora was linked to our single sign-on (SSO), students enjoyed one click access; not only to our library but the neighboring public library as well. Students could change their reading settings, define and translate words within their text and save annotations for future use. Teachers could title assign books and monitor student reading times. Sora was simple and smart.

In 2019, our annual checkouts doubled, and with almost 5,000 users we reached the entire student body.

The WAVE had about as smooth of a transition to a distance learning platform as possible. Honestly, thanks to early planning and administrative support, our school was ahead of the digital learning curve. I was asked by a friend, “What do you do now with a closed library?” I smiled knowing The WAVE is never closed. We have always been open 24/7, 365 days a year, thanks to Sora and OverDrive.

OverDrive has recently featured Shawn in the Sora Spotlight. If you’d like to check that out, click here!