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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!

Welcoming New Students to the Library Mid-Year January 17, 2015

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in PSLA, Tech Tips, What Worked.
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Welcome to Our Library: Introducing New Students to the Library Mid-Year | Mrs. J in the Library at A Wrinkle in TechFor many students, January brings not only a new year, but also a new teacher and a new school.  Lately, I’ve been thinking about how to teach just-moved-in students about our library procedures without interrupting the routine and momentum of the rest of the class.  What I came up with is an Orientation Welcome Center that new students complete before choosing other library centers.

The inspiration for this center came from Judy Moreillon‘s presentation at PSLA 2013.  She suggested that to “flip” the library in a way that is effective and feasible, librarians should create video tutorials that are available 24/7 for students, parents, and community members on the library website.  Of course, video creation and editing is *INCREDIBLY* time-consuming, but once you have a good-quality tutorial, it hopefully won’t need to be updated for a couple of years.

With that idea in mind, I made an orientation video on one of the library Nexus 10 tablets.  It took about 10-12 takes, but I finally managed to create a coherent video touring the library, explaining library policies, and demonstrating how to find books and check out.  One of my next goals is to make a second video showing how to search Destiny Quest, but that will have to wait.

Once I had the video done, it was pretty simple.  I uploaded the video to the library Dropbox account that syncs with the tablets and made the link into a QR code on Kaywa.  At this center, students use a library tablet to watch the video on the Dropbox app or scan a QR code to watch it online via Dropbox or YouTube. If you’d like to make your own orientation center, you can download the free Microsoft Word file below and create your own video for students to get acquainted with the library (or your classroom).

Welcome move-in students to your library or classroom with a video tour to introduce routines | Mrs. J in the Library at A Wrinkle in Tech

Right-click the image and click “Save Link As” to download this FREE center for your library or classroom!

Do you have a technique for introducing move-in students to the library?  Share it in the comments!

Android Lollipop Update and an App Surprise December 5, 2014

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Tablets & Apps, Tech Tips.
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The Nexus 7 and 10 tablets in our library are still some of the most used tools for information literacy, and one of their features that I like best is the automatic updates, direct from Google.  Because they are “native” Google devices, several of them have already updated to the new Android 5.0 operation system, nicknamed “Lollipop.”

After excitedly installing the update, however, I noticed something that I think educators will want to know.  There is no longer a Gallery app for viewing and managing media on the tablet.  Instead, there is a new Photos app with a pin wheel icon, and Google is trying hard to force the user to sign up for and use Google+ in order to use the app.  It’s possible to use it without Google+, but the Photos app also isn’t very intuitive or easy-to-use.  Obviously, this poses a problem for elementary students, who are legally too young to use Google+ and who need an easy way to upload, edit, and delete photos from a device.

Use QuickPic instead of Photos app in Android Lollipop to avoid Google+ | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

The QuickPic photo viewer and manager app for Android tablets and phones offers a nice alternative to the new Photos app that requires Google+ signup.  Image from Google Play Store.

So the solution I found is to disable the Photos app entirely, and use a different photo viewer/manager.  For elementary tablets, and especially ones that are shared in a school library, I recommend QuickPic.  It’s simple, intuitive, has fabulous reviews, and it looks a bit like the old Gallery app I liked so much.  Plus, it’s not automatically hooked up to any social media (unless you want it to be), so it fits our library’s needs perfectly! 

Try it out and let me know what you think in the comments!

Book Tastings: 7 Steps to Promote Your Best Books! October 29, 2014

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Books, Tablets & Apps.
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In light of all the fun that Halloween, *cough* I mean Book Character Dress-up Day brings, I thought I’d share a fun learning experience that I tried last year and have gotten to revisit again this year…Book Tastings!

Book Tastings: 7 Steps to Promote Your Best Books! | Mrs. J in the Library @ A Wrinkle in Tech

My first book tasting set-up; P.S. – This was NOT enough books on each table…not by a long shot!

I’ve written before about how I don’t really do booktalks, at least not very often with such limited time in my schedule. Admittedly, I’m also not very good at “keeping up” with reading new children’s literature and the four-month backlog of School Library Journal that’s currently sitting on my coffee table.  And you can’t recommend what you haven’t read.
In the past 2 years, though, I’ve discovered that book tastings are a more efficient way to introduce students to both new books and some old classics.

Here’s my basic process:
1. Schedule a time  with the classroom teacher for students to visit the library for about an hour. (This is by far the hardest part.) Consult with the classroom teacher about the range of reading levels in the class and any specific genre he/she would like to highlight.
If at all possible, invite other teachers who work with struggling readers in that class, e.g. reading specialists, learning support teachers.

2. On each library table or area, pile about 30 *attractive-looking* books from one genre or topic. This is not the time to pull out Mr. Popper’s Penguins or A Wrinkle in Time with their original cover art (no matter how much you and I might love them).  Instead, set out the best of your updated-cover classics as well as newer books that you know students will like if they give them a chance.  Have an equal number of fiction and nonfiction genres represented, and mix of various reading levels. Fill the table with two layers if needed! Better to have too many than not enough in this case.

3. Students come with a list (or a blank sheet of paper) or a tablet/laptop if your school has 1:1 devices.  If using devices, show students how to login to Destiny Quest to access their account and add to “My List.”

4. Explain directions and start a timer for 7-8 minutes (can be shortened to 5 if you’re in a hurry).  Each student has 7-8 minutes to “shop” or “taste” the books on that table.  If they are interested in a book and they MAY want to check it out later, they either write it on their paper list, or add it to their “My List” in Destiny Quest.

5. Meanwhile, all the teachers in the room circulate and make sure the books that students choose are ones they can actually read.  If needed, they can recommend an on-the-spot Five-Finger Test or comprehension check.

6. At the end of the 7-8 minutes when the timer buzzes, students rotate tables and you start the timer again.  Repeat until all students have visited all tables.

7. If time and schedule allows, I let students check out 1 or 2 of their favorites now, and save the list for later in the year.

When I did my first book tasting, I bought Carolyn at Risking Failure‘s Book Tasting product on TpT.  It was well worth it to get me started, and now I can do it on my own with just some basic place-cards at each table to label each genre/topic.

Our Fall 2014 tables were: Realistic Fiction, History and Historical Biography (double table), Science & Scientists (double table), Art/Music/Artists/Musicians/Fun/Sports, and Mystery/Adventure.

Of course, I did try to sneak in some fantasy/sci fi books at the mystery/adventure table.  They are my favorite genres after all, but it was just a few!  The double tables were 2 separate stops on the rotation, and consisted of 2 tables pushed together.  Having 2 double tables allowed students to linger a little while longer on the nonfiction, and I could also showcase some of our excellent picture book biographies that our older students usually dismiss as too young or easy for them.

Have you ever done a book tasting in your library or classroom?  If so, I’d love to hear what your “menu” looked like!  List your topics/genres in the comments, and any other ideas you would like to share.

TL Blogging Challenge #4 – Tech That’s Changed My Job February 13, 2014

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Reflections, Tablets & Apps.
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TL Blogging Challenge #4 – How Technology Has Changed My Job

I’m about to admit my age, but I don’t actually remember a time when libraries didn’t have technology.  Though I remember a bulky card catalog in my elementary school library as a child (and I thought I rocked at using it), I’m decently sure we had a computer catalog by the time I was in middle school and an online one by high school.  So reflecting on this topic requires some creativity.

TechEvolution

The Library Tech Evolution – Images from Pixabay

Anyway…I think the most job-altering technologies since I started teaching are mobile devices.  From the now-comically large card catalog, we can now search for anything, print or digital, from a gadget that fits in our palms.  I find myself and my students using tablets and cell phones so much more than I originally thought, and that has *HUGE* ramifications for library services.  That’s why I bought 12 Android tablets and a Google Play gift card, and I jumped right in this year.  That’s also why I made LibGuides our library homepage and why I encourage students to bring their own devices in from home.

Now more than ever, the library can be in a person’s pocket, and I find that exciting as a teacher-librarian.  It also makes our jobs all the more essential, teaching information literacy skills when information is flooding our smartphones and tablets.  If I can reach students and faculty via the device in their hand (and promoting that it’s me that makes the library a technologically vibrant place), I’m doing at least part of my job right.  And personally, that gives me as much job security as an educator can reasonably expect these days.

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