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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!

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.

Inching closer to a library ebooks solution August 13, 2013

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Ebooks.
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Nate Hoffelder at the Digital Reader recently posted a blog post about librarians and government officials coming together to call out publishers on their often ridiculous and/or unrealistic library ebook terms.

I especially like that Mr. Hoffelder thinks this is the start of a growing trend.  I think it actually started with Capstone interactive ebooks in the school library market offering unlimited access ebooks for sale, but that’s just my opinion.

Capstone interativeAround the time Capstone did that, I remember attending an ebooks panel session at PSLA Annual Conference and asking Overdrive vendors if they offered or would ever offer that feature.  Their response was dismissive and caustic.  If we wanted ebooks at our library, they told the 60+ librarians present, we would only get them on their terms.  After such a rude response, I decided that Overdrive wouldn’t be getting any of the library budget money from my school if I had anything to say about it.  I bought Capstone web-based ebooks instead, and I’ve never regretted that choice.

After Capstone started offering unlimited, simultaneous access, however, so did Follett through Destiny Titlewave…then Baker and Taylor through Axis360…the Mackin through MackinVIA.  The trend continues.  And while I still don’t like librarians being locked into a proprietary software with pricey annual subscription fees, I think we’re getting somewhere

I think we’re seeing the growing pains of a market that hasn’t yet realized that we can all get what we want from ebooks, if only we’ll listen to each other and learn to compromise a little.

Since Here Be Fiction launched this summer, I think we are now in the middle of a big opportunity.  Librarians, we need to show the publishers that initiatives like this are both profitable for the publishers and vendors, AND can suit our needs as school librarians.  We need to support projects like Here Be Fiction with our time and dollars if we want to have a “seat at the table” of ebook licensing terms.

We’re getting closer to actual, feasible solutions for ebooks in libraries, that much I’m sure of.  My hope is that in 1-2 years, we’ll have some models that will work for most school and public libraries serving children, and that will encourage the majority of librarians to finally take the leap into ebook materials for their collections.

Finally a step in the right direction! July 3, 2013

Posted by Mrs. J in the Library in Ebooks, Reviews, Tech Tips.
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Here Be Fiction

If you follow any ebook, ereader, and/or epublishing news, you know all about the frustratingly slow and downright chilly response of publishers to the whole idea of library ebook lending.  Besides the exorbitantly expensive Overdrive, we don’t really have many other options, particularly when it comes to fiction.

A new website is taking an important step and *gasp* trying something new.  Here Be Fiction will soon offer both a place to identify quality ebooks and to purchase them with mostly-common-sense terms for libraries.  Christopher Harris at The Digital Shift blog summarizes how it will work better than I can.  After checking out the website and signing up for the list to join when they are ready, I’m cautiously optimistic.  I’m annoyed that using a “secured” format (read: proprietary non-transferrable platfrom like Follett Shelf or Mackin VIA) is required to enjoy the library-friendly terms, but I supposed I’m expecting too much of publishers to think they might actually look at the data on DRM use and realize they should drop it entirely.  Maybe someday….

Still, I’m excited to see what this website means for school librarians who can’t justify ebook investment that depends on an expensive yearly subscription and is frustrating to use for patrons.  I’m a big fan of voting with your dollars, personally and professionally, so if Here Be Fiction delivers what it promises, you can be sure that I’ll be voting for them this fall/winter!  I wish them luck and sales, and I hope the Big 6 publishers pay attention.

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