Read and Be Free

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

Happy Holidays–Great Gift Ideas at November 23, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — aimeethompson99 @ 6:44 PM

Long time no post, but there are some great gift ideas at  As a big fan of sending photo Christmas cards to friends and family this time of year, I am always on the lookout for unique and well designed photo gifts.  I enjoy designing photo calendars with the best pictures from the previous year, especially showing how fast little Char is growing each month. With the explosion of Facebook, and my eventual reluctance to get on board with social networking, I find that I am now able to share pictures throughout the year.  Uploads from my phone and uploads to Facebook are great ways to share pics of my family and friends…but there are still some relatives who aren’t online and hooked up (Hi Memere!) and never get a chance to see many of my photos.

Christmas is a great time for me to send a favorite holiday photo to all of those who haven’t seen the digital pics I send out.

Here is a link to this year’s choices for Christmas photo cards at Shutterfly:

Christmas Photo Cards

The photo design choices this year are sophisticated yet whimsical.  The photos can be printed in glossy and matte finish.

There are a number of additional items that I have never tried, the photo books look awesome, and of course, a photo mug is always a great gift.

I look forward to getting back in touch with the constant craziness of library work.

See you on the flip side.


Assistive Technology Final Thoughts December 14, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — aimeethompson99 @ 9:09 AM

After spending the last few weeks reading and reviewing many assistive technology websites and articles, I realized just how important web access can be for families dealing with disabilities.  No longer are people shut off from the world around them, most importantly, the world of information.  Of course, getting the wrong or misleading information can definitely be detrimental, but the Web has opened up many options and opportunities for researching about disabilities and finding tools and strategies that can be useful.  Reading blogs written by parents of disabled students brought to light many of the day-to-day living issues that these parents and children face.  The blogs also highlighted some of the success stories of what technology has done to give children greater independence and greater quality of life.

The following websites share some of the tools, resources, and personal stories of the positive impact AT can have:

For schools/individuals using Apple computers and Apple devices, the following website outlines Apple’s AT features

Summary of operating system features for people with disabilities:

Web Resources for AT in the Classroom

Learning Disability Resources

Assistive Technology Blog

No Limits to Learning Blog

This AT project has been an insightful project that touches on a variety of issues in school and public libraries and I think it is critical for librarians to be aware and knowledgeable about the learning, living, and entertainment needs of all patrons, including those with special needs.


AT #5 December 10, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — aimeethompson99 @ 9:33 AM

AT #5 Curriculum Connections

Responses to AT#5 Reflection Questions:

1.  What did I learn about assistive technology? In doing the hardware and software selections, I realized that there are a number of tools to assist students with disabilities and that technology really has expanded the possibilities for students with disabilities to function and excel in the classroom and in their daily lives.  I also learned several useful tips about low/high cost AT technology devices that are available.  I   was reminded of several strategies and tools that can be useful for “universal design” and inclusion of students with disabilities in the library setting.

What will I do differently? As a high school librarian, many of the students I work with have assistive technology in place by the time they reach grade 9.  I jump on board with whatever accommodations are requested.  I would like to be more involved in offering both hardware and software choices and recommendations that could assist these students. I did learn a lot about text-to-audio devices that can be beneficial to a number of students who have reading/writing disabilities or who read below grade level.  I plan on incorporating these selections into my library budget requests over the next few fiscal years.

2.  Do I recommend this tutorial? Yes, this tutorial in a blog format was easily accessible and helpful, but from time to time, the hyperlinks were not active and should be checked and updated.  I do feel that there is a lot more information out there, but these activities provided a solid overview.  I do wish that there was a tutorial directly related to library services and librarians.

3.  Recommended reading list:  I was happy to see a number of titles on the recommended reading list that I have read.  Some of the titles that I am familiar with that I readily recommend for YA readers include:

A Book of a Thousand Days

Al Capone Does My Shirts

A Child Called It

The Crazy Horse

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Flowers for Algernon

Freak the Mighty

The Giver


So Be It


Whale Talk


Readings Post December 8, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — aimeethompson99 @ 2:55 PM

Reading Reflection

Shelly Ch. 7

Evaluating Technology

One of the best resources I’ve found for providing useful evaluations of technology is through conferences and workshops.  Having the opportunity to trial technology tools and have colleagues provide personal accounts of the pros and cons if much more helpful than reading FAQs on a website or browsing catalogs.  Practical experience with technology in a classroom or library setting is exceptionally helpful in providing important feedback and perspective.

The listserve, MELIBS, that I subscribe to is also a helpful avenue for asking questions and opinions about technology in libraries.  The Shelly text recommends the EDTECH discussion list, which I haven’t tried before, but plan to.

The Shelly text (Ch. 7) lists several avenues for getting help with evaluating technology:

Professional organizations (state, local, regional, national, international)


Colleague recommendations

Published reviews


The Web

School districts and State departments

The Shelly text also highlights several sample rubrics for evaluation software as well as rubrics and checklists for both students and teachers to use in their lesson plans.  There are so many useful resources in this textbook that I wish we’d had more time to devote to some of these curriculum connections.

Shelly p. 444 also provides an Assistive Technology Tip sheet that is a good starting point for some of the content we’ve covered in the AT blog.


AT #4 Etiquette and Awareness December 2, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — aimeethompson99 @ 4:50 PM

AT #4 Etiquette and Awareness

Etiquette for working with people with disabilities:  One of the major points I want to remember and incorporate into my psyche is that “language should emphasize the person first, not the disability.”  I think that actual practice or simulations using this type of language would be helpful for educators.

The Etiquette Quiz brought to light quite a few scenarios that I have personally experienced, such as working with Deaf students and how to get their attention, or asking if a Deaf student understood something.

Tip of the day:  Don’t be embarrassed, just ask!

I found a number of useful references at the Maine Cite website, including links to demonstrations, local agencies, and assistive technology that is available for purchase, rental, or even available free in some cases.  One of the resources that was interesting included several articles and links to web accessibility: sites that are accessible, readable, and browse-able for people with disabilities as well as tips for web design that incorporates “universal design” models.

Annotation of Etiquette and Awareness Sites–I found these sites useful and informative:

1.  Teaching Students with Disabilities

Offers a succinct overview of types odisabilities and the types of accommodations a teacher can make to provide an inclusive and productive environment for all students.  Many of the accommodations are simple solutions that can have profound impact on a classroom environment.

2.  Ultimate Guide to Special Needs Teaching: 100+ Resources and Links

This site has a wealth of resources for working with students in a variety of settings.  The way the site is organized by type of disability is exceptionally useful.  There is information and resources on Social Interactions, Appropriate Language in the Classroom, Safety, the Importance of Life Skills, and tips and resources for Inviting Special Needs Students Into a Traditional Classroom.

3.  The Core Rules of Netiquette

This site offers detailed practical advice for a general audience on the core rules of online etiquette.  The concept of “remember the human” is especially important in an online environment.  The tips for using proper grammar and spelling, avoiding vulgar and obscene language, and the use of emoticons is covered in more detail, and examples are provided.  This is an excellent tool for use with students.

4.  RFC 1855: Netiquette Guidelines

This site offers detailed and comprehensive information about Internet etiquette and is a useful resource for Internet-savvy people who want to brush up on their own etiquette, in case they’ve been writing in ALL CAPS for their entire life.  Waiting overnight to reply to an e-mail is also an insightful reminder.

5.  Social Netiquette for Social Networking

This site offers good suggestions for using a variety of social networking tools including Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, Ning, and more.  Some of the general rules of Internet etiquette are the same, but there are some rules for social networking that are unique to certain applications:  the “poke,” “friend requests,” “tags,” “twittering,” “shouts,” and more.  A good rule of thumb is to lurk and see what a particular site is doing before jumping in.

As a high school librarian, I need to do more to instruct students in social networking etiquette.  These sites offer some great starting points for ideas for future information literacy lessons.


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.”