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Making Reading Accessible for Learners with Dyslexia June 22, 2017

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Ebooks, Online Teaching, Reflections, Tech Tips.
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Though my sabbatical classes are over for the semester, I still have a lot of information to process and apply to our library program.  I hope to post some of my presentations and other resources over the next couple months leading up to the back-to-school season.

Online Teaching Program, Spring 2017, Week 15 - Reflections, Thoughts, and Questions

My second class was called “Responding to Individual Learners,” and it was about personalizing online and face-to-face instruction for students, particularly students with special needs.  The culminating project was to choose a characteristic/disability/trait to study, write a paper on a peer-reviewed research article, and then present the research findings to the class.

I chose to research how different online reading experiences affect learners with dyslexia.  Through my research, I learned that it’s relatively easy and not very time-consuming to modify documents to make them easier to read.  Furthermore, offering modified reading materials can help not only students with dyslexia, but also students with other reading disabilities or challenges.

From my research and the many resources I came across, The British Dyslexia Association’s Style Guide and other resources for educators was especially helpful, and they are worth checking out.

You can read my paper on Google Docs, and view my screencasted video presentation on YouTube.  The Google Slides presentation is also embedded below.

One of my takeaways from the research article was that I think more teachers would take the time to modify their reading assignments to make them more readable if they had a template to use.  So I created one on Google Docs so teachers can copy and paste a text into it and share it with students as one reading option.  You get your own template by clicking the image below, going to “File” then “Make a copy” in the Google Docs menu.Dyslexia-friendly Google Doc | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

Another takeaway from this project was that the technology we have today, even very simple PDF readers and ebook apps, often have some accessibility tools built-in.  For instance, the apps I highlighted in my presentation allow student to change the background and text color of reading documents.  As part of reading instruction at the beginning of the year, I think we should be teaching all students, not just our students with special needs, how to customize these tools to what works for them.  Knowing how to “hack” their tech tools empowers students to take a more active role in their own education.

If you have a tip for accommodating reading assignments for students, or if you have a recommended app or program for online reading, please share it with us in the comments!  And stay tuned for more research-based ideas and reflections from my Online Teaching classes.  Happy summer!

A Freebie for Your Patience May 7, 2016

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Books, Ebooks, Reflections.
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I know it’s been over 5 months since my last post, and well…life got in the way.  In the past few months, my husband and I became (very happily) pregnant, and it seems like everything just went crazy from there.  I know this will probably come as no surprise to the parents reading this, but things just…change.  There’s a gradual, but very noticeable, shift that I wasn’t expecting.

I don’t have the same drive to blog, or tweet, or create, or innovate.  To be fair, my body’s a little busy doing plenty of creating, however, I don’t feel the same ambitious desire to do anything innovative or new in my library.  It’s disconcerting, but I’m emotionally and professionally fine with it.  It’s been easier than I expected to just let it go.

Andy Woodworth at Agnostic, Maybe has an excellent blog post on how first-time fatherhood affects his professional life.  I read it last summer, and it came to mind again a couple of weeks ago.  It captures rather well how I’ve been feeling (except for the partner judging/shaming…my hubby has taken over all the cooking and most of the cleaning, so I blessedly can’t relate to that part).  I admire his ability and willingness to write about how his personal and professional lives interact.  And I wish more librarians and educators would be so honest about the realities of the elusive work-life balance.

A Freebie for Your Patience: Independent Reading Library Center | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

So for my readers’ patience, here’s a freebie of one of my library centers that I’ve used for a couple of years.  A commonly used center is the “reading independently” or “book buddies reading” center, and some other versions are available from my teacher-librarian PLN.  I made my own version for two reasons:

  1. I color-coded my library centers based on my 3 types of centers: Research Skills, Reading & Language, and Makerspace.  I assigned the color red to all the Reading & Language centers, so I wanted my Independent Reading Center to be red.
  2. I wanted to add options for reading material to include magazines and ebooks, as well as whisper-reading to a beanbag buddy or “book buddy.”

So if you’d like to try my version of this popular center, click on the image below or on THIS LINK to download it.  The zip file download contains the center sign below in PDF and Microsoft Word file formats, and an editable lesson plan in Microsoft Word file.  The clipart is from Glitter Meets Glue Designs and Empty Jar Illustrations.

Thank you for staying tuned during my temporary hiatus.  Enjoy!

Independent Reading Center FREEBIE! | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

Doctor Who and the Power of Stories April 14, 2014

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Books, Ebooks, Fun Stuff, Reflections.
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Fair warning: This post contains spoilers for Doctor Who seasons 4 and 7. I take no responsibility for disappointed fans who read past this line.  😀

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TL Blogging Challenge #2 – Ebooks February 4, 2014

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Books, Ebooks, Reflections, Reviews.
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Challenge #2 – Your Library and eBooks/Audiobooks

Disclaimer: I did not make any money from this post, and I received no compensation for writing it.  There are also no affiliate links in this post.  See Disclosures & Disclaimers for more information.

I’ve talked about how I love Capstone Interactive eBooks before.  The parts I love the most, however, aren’t really exclusive to Capstone: the web-hosting, device neutrality, and unlimited simultaneous access.  Capstone is one publisher who is executing the idea the best though.  There’s no DRM, no downloads, no logging into an account, and no lockdown to buy from one vendor.  All of the those barriers are reasons I don’t buy eBooks from Overdrive, Follett, or Mackin.

Bird-ereader

Image from Pixabay

I’ve looked into other publishers that offer web-hosted eBooks like Lerner, Rosen, and Bearport, but I haven’t been impressed by the quality of the content.  Even Capstone isn’t always a home run on quality.  Also, most of the other web-hosted eBooks I’ve investigated lack any interactive functions, which I find ridiculous.  If I’m going to pay a premium price for eBooks, they need have more features and not look like a scanned PDF with Flash-animated page turns!  Interactive features like audio by a real person and embedded definitions of vocabulary should be standard, not extras, if publishers are going to charge extra for a digital copy of a book.

As an educational publisher and vendor, Capstone truly “gets” what school libraries need and have found a way to make it work for both libraries and authors.  The Big 5 and Overdrive should take notes!  Students just click a link, and the book opens!  There’s very little coming between the reader and the book.  All educational tech solutions should look and work like this…Simple and effective.

So my ranting about the dismal state of library eBooks aside, I’ve bought just under 100 Capstone eBooks.  I’ve promoted them to students this year as part of orientation, and my usage stats have definitely gone up from last year.  I’ve told teachers about them as the opportunity arises, but I haven’t had a chance to present to the whole faculty yet.  So far, the teachers that try them, LOVE it!  They use them as centers, or curriculum supplements.  I’ve had a few topic suggestions for nonfiction eBooks to buy, and my only complaint is that Capstone’s offerings can’t meet all of those needs.  They also could offer more and better quality fiction titles.

In my library class instruction, I’m using some pet informational eBooks to do a research unit in kindergarten in the next few weeks…we’ll see how that works out, but even with the challenges of getting a 5-year-old to focus and comprehend what they hear/read, I’m optimistic.

The blogging challenge is from Cybrarian Jen at Where Books and Technology Meet.  I’m going to try it out, but instead of daily posts, I’m going to try for 1-2 posts a week.  Follow and learn with us!  The participating blogs are listed in the comments of her post.

A Wrinkle in Tech is not affiliated with or otherwise sponsored by Capstone or any other publisher.

Nexus Tablets in School Libraries Update January 8, 2014

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Ebooks, Reflections, Tablets & Apps, Tech Tips.
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AppLock! Mild tablet app controls for a 21st century library!

I have a new stress-reducing trick for managing Android tablets: AppLock!  This ingenious app is minimal, fast to set up, and effective! It lets you lock specific apps so that they can’t be used without a password, thus ensuring students won’t uninstall or download apps OR cause any mischief in the Settings menus.

Update on Nexus Tablets & Why I Needed AppLock
Students have been using the Nexus tablets pretty much “out of the box” for catalog searching, reading/listening to interactive ebooks, on-demand research…It’s all been great!  Though I’ve downloaded a couple apps, I haven’t done any major customizing.  Thankfully, students have mostly left the settings and home screen configuration alone.  A few intrepid students, however, have figured out how to re-arrange the home screen, add widgets, change the sound settings, and search the Google Play Store.  Not the end of the world, but a hassle to fix.  I was particularly impressed with the student who wanted to check out “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck” when all copies were already out.  He proceeded to find the ebook on Google Books (the preview I think) to read online.  Nothing stops these kids when they *really* want something.  🙂

Still, after I had to re-do a homescreen following the above “makeovers,” I decided to look into some kind of parental control app that could prevent students from accessing the tablet settings and other apps that are not for student use.  10 minutes of research later, I found that I could set up a new profile with it’s own apps.  (Note: That only works on tablets with Jelly Bean Android operating systems or higher.)  Doing that would require reconstructing my home screens on each tablet…again.  Nope, not going to happen.

So I went with an app, and found AppLock.  Installing was FAST, and the download is small.  Just type in a code, add an e-mail, and you are set to start locking or unlocking apps.  The apps are still visible (unless you disable them), but when opened, the user is prompted for a password or pattern.  It’s not foolproof, of course, but nothing is.  My favorite part was that in 15 minutes, I had all 12 of the tablets set up with the Play Store, Settings, Google Settings, Meraki Systems Manager, People, and Calendar apps locked down.

It’s so beautiful when technology works effectively and simply!

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