Read and Be Free

A look at libraries, literature, technology and staying sane in an insane world.

Software Selection November 29, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — aimeethompson99 @ 5:18 PM

Software Selections and Needs Assessment for LS 589


Needs Assessment

Current Status of Audiobooks and Formats:


The library currently owns 40 audiobook titles on CD, 32 audiobook titles on cassette, and 3 titles on MP3 CD.  We also have 1 title in a Playaway format, but no device for playing this title to more than one student at a time.  The classroom teachers and students have access to free audiobook sites such as Project Gutenberg and LibriVox but the bulk of titles available are classics and other titles that are in the public domain.  This access is useful for only a small portion of audiobook requests.  The Special Education Department also has access to audiobook downloads via BookShare.  This software is not available to all students, only those receiving Special Education services as directed by their IEPs (Individualized Education Plans).  The Booksahre subscription is utilized by only 1 teacher as this time.  The Librarian has access to the subscription but it is not used in the library by general education students.

Current Status of AT Software:

The library has software and applications loaded onto the MLTI MacBooks and iMacs, but none of the software is directly applicable to providing remedial reading assistance or support, other than using the standard spell-check and thesaurus tools in MS Word.


Student Needs:

Of the students needing reading support via audiobook formats, almost all do not own cassette players at home, and if a title they need is only available from the High School Library on cassette, they are limited to listening during class time, study hall, or lunch time.   A good percentage of these students have their own MP3 devices and prefer to listen to audiobooks on mobile handheld devices rather than on CD or cassette, and would benefit from having the independence and freedom to listen at home and after school hours.


Students requiring contemporary and recently published audiobooks often go without, or are asked to wait while the library staff submits Inter Library Loan requests for audiobook titles from the public library.  The lending period for audiobooks is generally 7-10 days which is not always a sufficient lending time for classroom needs.  Students often follow along with print text while they listen, and this can take several weeks to accomplish, especially for many high school texts, including textbooks.


Software Selection

1st Priority:


Annual subscription to Downloadable Audiobooks via MaineInfoNet Overdrive Service

Price: $100 annual subscription for participating libraries; $300 start up fee


This subscription will provide students and teachers access to downloadable audio books, ebooks, and other digital resources via the Internet utilizing state-of-the-art digital copyright protection technologies, available 24/7, from a statewide collection of audiobooks.  Audiobooks can be downloaded in full or in segments, burned to a CD (where permitted by publisher) and or/transferred to hundreds of supported audio devices such as MP3 players, iPods, or Zune players.


Subscribing to this service will help students increase their access and participation with a variety of literary texts, will help boost their English Language scores, and will encourage students to participate in verbal discussions involving intricate and challenging literary novels in class and in library book discussion groups.


2nd Priority:

Subscription to Recorded Books on CD and MP3 CD.  Titles can be listened to on a CD players, laptops, the Califone Multimedia Player (see hardware write-up), and can be downloaded to iPods and other MP3 players.  Price: TBD based on number of titles requested



Teachers have requested individual titles to add to the library’s audiobook collection that would meet the needs of individual students to increase reading comprehension and accessibility to core reading literature and free-reading literature.  These titles could also be used by general education students in classrooms and would be available for students to check out through the library.  Comparably, to a subscription to MaineInfoNet Overdrive, it will undoubtedly be more cost effective to go with a subscription service for audio rather than purchasing individual titles on CD or MP3 CD from Recorded Books, but for core reading titles, it would be helpful to have discs to circulate.


3rd Priority:

Victor Reader Soft DAISY playback software

Priced from $99.00-$130.00



Software that supports DAISY (Digital Accessibly Information Systems) sometimes comes with a particular hardware device, but occasionally there are add-ons that are more specific to certain functions or users.  The Victor Reader Soft DAISY playback software is a computer application for reading digital audio books.  It “combines the audio and text mode that let you read the text on screen synchronized with audio and is fully accessible to print disabled persons” (


The software allows users to browse through parts of a text such as table of contents and index, book mark sections, skip to a page, and would help students follow along with classroom textbooks and classroom literature titles.  Teachers looking for ways to make book discussion inclusive for all students, even those with print/reading disabilities, one of the challenges has been being able to include students who have trouble keeping up with texts read aloud, or students who have trouble finding their notes from a chapter, etc.  This software would allow students

This software is also customizable for multiple users making an ideal choice for classrooms where more than one student may share the same audio listening device.


4th Priority:

Read & Write GOLD for Mac

Price:  $645.00


This software is designed to provide literacy support for students in all grades who need support in reading and writing.  The purpose of providing this software is that students at the high school level are striving for greater reading and writing independence.


This software will help to improve reading fluency and comprehension; will encourage independence and inclusion in the classroom, and supports RTI (Response to Intervention) strategies (currently mandated by the State of Maine by 2010).



Homophone Support

Word Prediction


Safari Reader

DAISY Reader


Speech Maker

Fact Finder

Study Skills Tool


Text Transfer

Custom natural sounding male/female voices

Screen masking to help students focus on the task at hand

Take Home settings for users to copy their Read Write settings to a USB drive and copy             these settings on another computer

Scan text from a digital camera (useful for chemistry and biology labs, math texts and             equations, word problems, examples on the whiteboard, etc.)

Screenshot reader to read precise areas of a website


Priority 5/Comparison:

Inspiration 8 Software

Price:  Five-license site with free Inspiration 9 upgrade: $310.00

Single license with upgrade: $69.00


Justification: This software would also be a useful tool for classroom use for those students who are visual learners and need to see instructions and content mapped out in diagram form with symbols, maps, and webs.  It would be useful across a number of curriculum areas and would give students an option for mapping concepts, organizing and outlining content for language arts classes and research projects.  It is designed for grades 6 and up.  Although this would be a useful tool, the Read Write Gold software offers a greater number of tools and resources for students with reading disabilities because it helps with intensive reading comprehension and fluency of texts while Inspiration is more of an organizational and visual mapping tool which is important, but not high on the priority list at this time.




(2009).  Downloadable Audio Project: Maine InfoNet.  Retrieved from


The Victor Reader Stream: More than an iPod for the Blind.  Retrieved from


HumanWare USA.  Retrieved from


EnableMart.  Retrieved from


South Carolina Assistive Technology Program.  Retrieved from
















AT #3 Software November 22, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — aimeethompson99 @ 5:10 PM

AT Software Review:

For LS589 Cohort Students, a good software rubric can be found as Figure 4.1 in the text, Technology and the School Library: A Comprehensive Guide for Media Specialists and Other Educators by Odin Jurkowski.

There are  elements of a rubric that I cannot adequately comment on since I have not been able to use these software items in classroom settings (I’ve only done some practice with the trial versions), but some of the software elements to look at and evaluate when making selections include:  Instructional Design, Presentation Design, Ease of Use, Content, Motivation, and Technical Quality.

Review and Rubric for AT Software

Name:  Inspiration 8 for Mac and Windows Grades 6-12

Company: Inspiration Software, Inc.

Price: $69.00 single license/ $310.00 for 5 licenses

Free Trial:  yes, 30 days

Features:  Organizational tools, concept maps, webs, multimedia tools, drag and drop, spell check, comprehensive symbol/graphic library

Pros:  Teacher resources, NCLB integration, Dictionary/Thesaurus, Symbol library, Keyword search feature for symbols

Cons:  Interface can be tedious, toolbars can be confusing


Name: Kurzweil 3000 Mac v. 4

Company: Kurzweil Educational Systems

Price: Kurzweil 3000 Black and White for 1 Teacher License and 4 LearnStations is $1995.00

Free Trial:  yes

Features:  Creation and delivery of electronic documents; documents can be scanned; software uses OCR Technology (optical character recognition)

Pros:  can access virtually any information whether printed, electronic, or web based

Cons:  Price


Name: InfoEyes (iVocalize Software and QuestionPoint Software)

Company: OCLC, Maine State Library is a participating organization

Price: Unknown

Features:  Online chat, virtual reference

Pros:  Available through public libraries

Cons:  Strange and cluttered website


Name: iCommunicator

Company:  PPR

Price: $6,499 for iCommunicator Kit, $4999 for Software Solo

Features:  Communication software for deaf and hearing impaired; provides speech-to-text, Speech/Text to Computer Generated Voice, Speech/Text to Video Sign Language; 30,000 word signing library, Dragon NaturallySpeaking for voice recognition.

Pros: Customizable settings for users; comprehensive, the “Cadillac” of software for deaf and hearing impaired users.

Cons:  Price


The following suggestion about book clubs came from the LD Online site and I wanted to highlight this for future use:

“Students who have print-related disabilities or special needs may be able to participate more easily in book clubs that include titles which are available in alternate formats. Since the book club facilitator may be unaware of this option, she or he may want to refer to the Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic for a list of age and content appropriate books that are also easily available in an alternate format. Not only will students benefit from enhanced literacy skills, book discussions can help to foster social, communication, and analytical skills.”



Hardware Selection

Filed under: Uncategorized — aimeethompson99 @ 5:00 PM

Below is a  needs assessment write-up for adding hardware devices to the High School Library’s equipment inventory.  This is based on a real need and a real budget scenario.

Needs Assessment for Assistive Technology:  Hardware Selection

As part of the RSU #23 District Technology Plan, the following document provides a needs assessment for assistive technology at Old Orchard Beach High School with a focus on meeting the current needs of students with reading disabilities.


The Old Orchard Beach High School Library currently serves the educational needs of 330 students and 45 staff.  Of those 330, 38 students receive Special Education services and receive academic support as part of their Individualized Education Plans.


The Library is requesting to purchase several hardware and software items to supplement the Special Education Department’s technology resources.  The immediate goal is to provide updated hardware and greater availability to audiobook resources for 4 English classrooms, 3 Special Education Classrooms, and the High School Library.  These hardware devices will improve student access to literature by providing a greater number of available audio book titles that meet their classroom and independent reading needs.  Access to audiobooks will increase reading comprehension for students because they will be learning via auditory input.  Students will also be able to participate in book groups and book discussion in the classroom and library if they have access to audio versions of book being read in class.

Needs Assessment

Disability category:  Learning Disability:  Reading/Writing/Organization


Current Status of Technology Hardware for Audiobook Listening:


  • Each English Classroom has 1 CD/Cassette player
  • Each Special Education Classroom has 1 CD/Cassette player
  • The Library has 4 CD/Cassette players for teacher use (these circulate to all classrooms as needed).
  • The Library has 1 iPod dock for use with iPod digital audio devices
  • The Library has 2 sets of External Speakers for use with teacher laptops
  • Each teacher and the librarian have a MLTI MacBook for classroom use
  • The Library has 6 sets of headphones for classroom and independent listening


Educational/Technology Needs of Teachers and Students


A survey of the Special Education Department faculty found that access to age-appropriate, curriculum connected digital audio is time consuming, expensive and tedious.  Faculty has requested that students have access to a variety of audiobooks in several formats (Cassette, CD, MP3, WAV).  Almost all of the students receiving Special Education instruction rely on audio formats for receiving information, reviewing information, reading comprehension, and free reading.  While the library does have a collection of audiobooks on cassette, CD, MP3 and Playaway, many of the titles are on cassette and are used as part of the core Reading List.  These cassette titles are time consuming and tedious to use as they have to be rewound and forwarded for each class. Many titles are no longer used in the current English curriculum, and the audiovisual budget has not been sufficient to keep up with teacher requests for new audiobook titles, especially titles in CD and MP3 formats.  The Library has not had the money to purchase any free reading or independent reading audiobook titles for the past 2 fiscal years.  If titles are requested, inter-library loan through the public library is utilized, but titles can take up to 2 weeks to arrive.


The second need is for a device for teachers to use to copy lectures or instructions and then have a playback feature for students to adjust to their listening level. This is critical for students with organizational challenges and it is also critical for learning note-taking skills and strategies.


Immediate Goal

Provide 4 Multimedia Players for classrooms to share that can play a variety of audio formats including cassette, CD, MP3, and digital audio files.

Provide a technology tool that teachers can use to scan notes, lectures, instructions, and articles and then convert these scanned print items into audio files.

Long term Goals

Provide a Multimedia Player for all classrooms in the building.


Hardware selection


Califone Music Maker SD Multimedia Players (Model 2396)

Pulse Smart Pen by Livescribe

Victor Reader Stream


1st Priority:




Califone Music Maker SD Multimedia Player (Model 2396):


Powerful 6 Watt RMS for large group listening

Built in microphone records student progress

CD player with CD/CD-R/CD-RW, MP3 capability

512 MB internal memory with 18-hour recording capacity

Mini-USB port for quick downloading

Records and plays to/from SD card slot

Records from any source to any digital audio storage device (USB, SD, Internal Flash)

Variable speed playback for digital audio files

Records from the CD player, radio and mic inputs

Headphone jack

PC and Mac compatible


FCC and CE approved safe for use in schools

Price:  $300.00


This device has the digital recording and playing options to provide a variety of classroom and independent listening opportunities in a single hardware device.  Teachers can play all current formats of audiobooks that the library currently owns, but also provides access to MP3s and digital audio.  This is a portable device that can be moved from room to room, it is powerful enough for whole-class listening, and can be used by individual students with headphones.


This device will help improve reading performance and reading comprehension for students with reading disabilities who will be able to listen and follow along with classroom texts and independent reading texts.

2nd Priority:



Livescribe Pulse Smartpen


2GB of Memory to capture over 200 hours of recorded audio

100 Sheet dot matrix college-ruled notebook

USB mobile charging cradle

Smartpen case

3 ink cartridges

Price:  $170.00 (2GB)



This device is a computer within a pen that records and links what a user hears to what they write.  Students can listen to lectures or recordings by tapping their notes.  All notes and recordings are captured in the Smartpen, so there is no need to take a laptop from class to class.  Notes can be transferred to a computer and notes can be shared and searched.


This technology device is useful for helping students with reading/writing/organizational disabilities and challenges because it assists with note taking, writing and remembering instructions, lectures, and classroom notes.  The device records and links audio to what a person writes using this pen and special paper.  It enables the user to take notes while simultaneously recording someone (teacher or classmate) speaking.  The user can later listen to any section of his/her notes by touching the pen to his/her corresponding handwriting or diagrams.  This device may benefit any student who struggles with writing, listening, memory, and reading.

3rd Priority:





Victor Reader Stream (for use with Bookshare as well as other audio software).


State-of-the-art Daisy, MP3 and NISO player

SD card for storing books, e-text, music, voice and audio recordings

Portable and lightweight

Voice recording capability via built in microphone or external mic

Playback through stereo headphones or small speaker

USB port to transfer books and music to your computer

Text-to-Speech allows access to electronic text

Variable speed playback

Where Am I key for information on reading position

Announcement of MP3 folder and file names

Audio tone control

Price: $360.00


Students and teachers can use this device to download textbook articles, novels, and magazine articles to their computers.  It also offers a built in microphone for recording teacher lectures and has a text-to-speech function for use with Bookshare audiobook downloads that will read back text to students at their chosen speed playback.  This device is small, discreet, and portable and will help special needs students blend in with other students who use MP3 players.


This device can be used in the library setting for scanning book club discussions and book club texts for students with reading disabilities who choose to participate in our monthly after school book clubs.  Inclusion and provide access to a variety of printed materials from the library make this device useful and effective for reading, listening, and participating activities.


(1998, December). Evaluating the use of technology: What questions should I ask?.

Retrieved from

Dubbels, K. (1998). Assistive technology in the individual education plan outline.

Retrieved from

(2009, November). Enablemart: technology for everyone. Retrieved from

(1998, December). Evaluating the use of technology: What questions should I ask?.

Retrieved from

(2009). Illinois assistive technology program. Retrieved from

Stanberry, K. & Raskind, M. (2009). Great schools: assistive technology tools. Retrieved


(2002, July 26). Technology planning guidelines. Retrieved from



AT Module #2 Hardware Part 3 November 18, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — aimeethompson99 @ 5:05 PM

My Thoughts on Hardware

Money…money is always the issue.  Students with documented disabilities who qualify for Special Education services in my district often have 1 to 1 hardware and software to use on a daily basis which is an incredibly costly.  The library has not been on the receiving end of AT monies.  This money comes from Special Education and Federal funding.  Historically, the library budget for equipment is for the general classroom, but each year, teachers need more specialized equipment and a greater variety of hardware to meet their general classroom needs, especially when inclusion practices are front and center.  TVs and VCRs don’t cut it in today’s digital media learning environment, but unfortunately, my school’s budget has not kept up with purchasing and replacing hardware, other than computers and laptops.   Some schools in my county have SmartBoard’s or at least LCD projectors and printers in every classroom, and many schools in the state are part of the Maine Learning Technology Initiative which is a contract with Apple to provide MacBooks to students, 1 to 1, for grades 7-12.  Other schools, including mine, opted out as the contract proved too costly.  So again, money, and big issue.

After visiting EnableMart, I am thrilled with the variety of tech options.  While some of them seem more like “toys” than tools, if money was no object, I would be happy to purchase as many of these items as possible.  Because technology changes so rapidly, I would be concerned about longevity.  How much use would a Bookworm pen get if it wasn’t designated for use by an individual student?  How long would it last?  When would it be obsolete?  How many items could a school library purchase for individuals while meeting the needs of the global population?  How can I meet the needs of the many?

I’ve been waiting for Califone to make a CD Player/Cassette Player/Radio/with MP3 dock or USB port for a couple of years.  This type of device is necessary for classroom use because the library has audiobooks in a variety of formats and teachers get frustrated when they have to switch devices or players or have to learn how to operate a number of different devices.

Recorded Books on Playaway format is a great 1 to 1 device, but has some policy and procedure issues:  ear buds, batteries, theft, and you need a Playaway Player to play content to more than one student at a time.

I found some helpful and informative websites on assistive technology:

“Reading to Go” link:

Tech and Learning article:

My hardware selection and needs assessment document will follow in the next post.


AT Module #2 Hardware Part 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — aimeethompson99 @ 4:54 PM

3 Simple Accommodations in a School Library

I am always looking for simple and quick ways to accommodate a variety of student learners in the library.

Here are 3 Simple Situations and Hardware Accommodations:

Need 1: A student with a reading disability needs an audio version of a text for English class.

Accommodation:  Provide student access to a school laptop with headphones and provide link to free audiobook resources via LibriVox.  Bookmark the link to the story, chapter, or novel for easy access.

Need 2:  Student has organizational disability

Accommodation:  Use a photo copier to copy class notes and instructions that student can take with him/her; print copies from the lecture or demonstration from the SmartBoard using SmartBoard tools (can also use highlight tool)

Need 3:  Student has print/low vision disability

Accommodation:  Enlarge notes or instructions on photocopier or print copies from teacher computer in large, bold font.



AT Module #2 Hardware Part 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — aimeethompson99 @ 4:49 PM

This week’s focus is assistive technology hardware.  Since I got a little long with this entry, I’ve divided into several posts.

Hardware Review:

The EnableMart website is a great resource for school librarians looking for quality and school appropriate hardware and software.  The search feature that allows shoppers to narrow their search by type of disability or type of accommodation is highly useful.  Some of the hardware items that I considered to be useful to my current school library equipment situation include:

  • Bookworm:  turns virtually any book into a talking book; text is recorded into the Bookworm
  • Pulse SmartPen from LiveScribe (photo at left):  a computer within a pen that records and links what you hear to what you write (useful for students on a 1 to 1 basis)
  • BookSense Digital Audio Book Player (photo below):  plays audiobooks, music, iTunes, DAISY content, and reads documents.
  • Victor Reader ClassicX Digital/Audiobook Player: Reader/player device
  • Califone Performer Plus Boombox and Califone MusicMaker Mulitmedia player: offers options for a variety of audio formats and would be useful for general classroom use and individual use.

There are so many options that I decided to focus on Learning Disabilities involving reading/print disabilities.  I’m also looking for ways to meet the needs of several students as opposed to individuals.  I’m also looking for options that could possibility meet the needs of students who do not fall under services for Special Education.  For example, there are students in this school who do not qualify for Special Ed. Services or do not have a 504 plan, but continue to need support for reading/literacy and could greatly benefit from these resources in a library setting.


Week 10 AT Intro & Module 1 November 14, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — aimeethompson99 @ 5:08 PM

The focus of the next several posts will be on assistive technology and I will consider how a library environment can be modified to accommodate students with a variety of disabilities.

After spending some time reading the articles and links from the National Federation of the Blind‘s website, I highlighted a few key points to include when preparing a group of sighted students and myself for sharing and working with a visually impaired student.

  • Introduce Braille writing and reading to sighted students using “Braille is Beautiful” or other program for teaching sighted students the basics of Braille.  It could be a type of “code breaking” activity or students could help prepare the library space by writing the Dewey Decimal posters in Braille that show what the number ranges are on each shelf.  This could give sighted students a practical way to demonstrate their knowledge and could be a big time saver for the librarian.
  • Label parts of the room in Braille.
  • Invite a guest speaker in to talk about expectations and help sighted students and teachers become familiar with auditory and verbal cues to allow for maximum inclusion in all activities.
  • Do a “blindfold” game where sighted students practice using their other senses to determine what is going on around them.  This can also be good practice for noticing where furniture and shelving might be better placed to accommodate visually impaired students.
  • Practice auditory and verbal cues with sighted students to help students become acclimated to using certain phrases and descriptive vocabulary.
  • Look at what is currently available for curriculum supplements that would be helpful for learning about a school library.  Find copies of videos or audiobooks/ebooks that talk about library catalogs, genres, Dewey Decimal, etc.


The Job Accommodation Network website is an exceptional tool for reviewing and researching the types of learning disabilities that affect people and the types of accommodations that can be helpful and useful for each specific disability.  As a high school librarian, I see a number of students on a daily basis who are diagnosed with learning disabilities.  Reading disabilities and ADD/ADHD are two of the most prevalent types of disabilities that I am aware of.  The school library is a truly challenging environment for students with these particular disabilities, first, because the library is a quiet, study space filled with a variety of materials that require users to read.  Also, the library is also a busy place, with students coming and going, working on a variety of tasks, and sometimes the openness and bustling that takes place can be highly challenging to students who have trouble focusing and who are easily distracted.  The JAN website suggests the following accommodations for ADD/ADHD:

  • To reduce auditory distractions:
    • Purchase a noise canceling headset
    • Hang sound absorption panels
    • Provide a white noise machine
    • Relocate employee’s office space away from audible distractions
    • Redesign employee’s office space to minimize audible distractions
  • To reduce visual distractions:
    • Install space enclosures (cubicle walls)
    • Reduce clutter in the employee’s work environment
    • Redesign employee’s office space to minimize visual distractions
    • Relocate employee’s office space away from visual distractions

While this site is specific to employees in a work environment, several of the suggestions would be helpful in a school setting:  headphones, study cubicles, computers set up cubicle walls,  good organization set-ups in circulation areas, study areas, etc.  Some additional, more school specific accommodations include:

  • Having copies of textbooks and other school supplies ready and accessibly so that students do not have to leave the library to complete tasks
  • Provide verbal/visual cues
  • Give a “5 minute” warning before the end of a class
  • Provide regular check-ins to see how students are doing.
  • Ask students to show any work completed during library time.

For students with reading disabilities, libraries can be overwhelming, but can also provide a variety of resources including: Magazines, books with a lot of graphics or pictures, audiobooks, OPACs with visual search features (icons), and low-level/high interest books on display.

In future blog posts, I will be researching and commenting on  a particular disability will be designing an assistive technology plan.