Read and Be Free

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

Hardware Selection November 22, 2009

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.


Week 9 #23 Summary November 5, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — aimeethompson99 @ 4:30 PM

Summary of 23 Things

As of today, this blog is a useful resource for reviewing applications and reminding myself to revisit a particular site or application.  By hyperlinking and bookmarking my sites, I can stay better organized in terms of prioritizing the huge amount of information I’m accumulating over the course of this semester.  I am also hoping to share this blog with my colleagues, or link it to my library’s website….so far, I’m running up against some firewall issues.  I also want to use my blog as a show-and-tell feature for staff or may have not done any blog writing before.

I’m trying to be more fluid and free with my blog writing.  Since blogs can be shared with everyone, I tend to get a type of writer’s block about writing for a particular audience.

Some of the highlights of the 23 Things tasks include:

* Learning about LibraryThing

* Browsing and searching LibriVox

* Learning about RSS feeds

* The test trial of using Rollyo–great concept, incredibly slow site

* Reviewing a variety of Web 2.0 Award Winners including Flickr and Google Docs

The concept of 23 Things is incredibly useful for lifelong learning and it will be interesting to see what I actually end up using and teaching on a regular basis.

This blog will continue with a different focus, based on what is next on the horizon in my Clarion Library Science coursework.

From 23 Things, over and out.

November 5, 2009


Week 9 #22 Audiobooks/e-books

Filed under: Uncategorized — aimeethompson99 @ 4:24 PM


Project Gutenberg provides a tremendous learning resource for a variety of users.  I wish I had access to this resource when I was in college.  The search feature of this site is not as comprehensive as a subscription database, especially when needing to refine a search.  Users are able to search by title, author, subject, language, and category (audio, music, picture, text), and recently posted.

Some of the resources I chose to download included:

Bartlett’s Quotations

Edward Bloom’s Critical Readings and Literary Analysis

Aesop’s Fables

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Gettsyburg Address

Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

I browsed the sheet music and recorded music as well.  I checked the FAQs of the Project Gutenberg site and browsed the options for volunteering and editing.

The LibriVox site is one that I had visited a few times, but just recently spent some time browsing.  What an awesome resource!

Some of the audiobooks I chose to listen to included:

Uncle Remus stories: Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby

Twas the Night Before Christmas

Anthem by Ayn Rand

The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe

Shakespeare Sonnets

The Birds’ Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin

I sent out a link with the Project Gutenberg site and the LibriVox site to my faculty and got some good feedback such as:

“Holy Cow…how did I not know about these sites?”

“I can’t believe this is available for free.”

“I am bookmarking this site right now.”

“Wow, thanks for sending this.”


I have met with a Follett e-book vendor several times in the last year to talk about the possibilities of including e-books in the High School Library’s Collection.  So far, I haven’t had a significant increase in budget that would allow for these purchases and I still consider e-books too expensive.  I may decide to try some reference titles or history titles as e-book titles, but so far, my faculty hasn’t made any requests for me to include them in the library collection.  I like to stay ahead of demand, so I will most likely initiate any e-book purchases in my district.  I do think that e-books have a definite appeal as classroom textbooks.  This is most likely where money will be sent for this type of resource.