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2 posts for January 2012
By Paul Nisbet on Friday 20th January, 2012 at 12:15pm
Yesterday Apple launched iBooks 2, a new version of the iBooks app for iThingys; iBooks Author, a program for the Mac which is for writing and designing iBooks, and a range of interactive textbooks. The video about the interactive textbooks video a well worth a look - very promotional but also inspiring, and particularly relevant for those of us involved in supporting students with print disabilities.
Coincidentally, yesterday we ran a course for the first time on eBooks, Kindles and iPads. Preparing for it was an educational experience for Stuart, Sandra, Craig and I, and we learned a lot about the features and also limitations of Kindles, iPads and commercial eBooks.
A few observations, just from this one course:
- Over half the teachers on the course owned a Kindle.
- A teacher from a Primary unit for pupils with visual impairment has 6 Kindles and she says she's almost stopped using paper large print completely - she emails the materials to the Kindles and the pupils use large font sizes on the devices instead. It saves a lot of paper, printing and therefore money, and the pupils prefer the Kindles to most (not all) of the paper large print books (books with large colour diagrams might not be that good on the Kindle screen). It's also a lot quicker - printing out 800 pages of 36 pt text takes a long time, whereas emailing the file to the Kindles takes seconds.
- Another teacher on the course has a son who is dyslexic. He used to need coloured overlays to read books and was never a great reader, but he can see the Kindle screen display: she says he now spends hours reading books on the Kindle whereas before he never read for pleasure.
- Participants generally felt that the Kindle, iPad, iPod etc have a considerable 'cool' factor, which is of course a big issue. And because they are mainstream devices, you don't look that different if you use one to read books.
- The eBook formats and readers are definitely becoming more accessible - bigger range of fonts, options to change colours and font sizes, better access with text-to-speech software.
- Some public libraries (Edinburgh, Dundee and South Ayrshire, at least) are now offering eBooks on loan. You can borrow a book and read it on your computer, iPod, iPad, Android device etc.
- The most exciting thing, for me, is the huge increase in the availability of books and materials - as well as Kindle, we have iBooks, WH Smith, Google Book store. Although the commercial eBook formats and readers may not give us everything we want in terms of accessibility (yet), they are getting there, and we are already seeing how the technology can give print disabled pupils access to learning materials in a way that is quicker, cheaper, easier and more independent than what we had before.
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By Robert Stewart on Monday 16th January, 2012 at 10:16am
The 2011 Scottish Children's Book Awards is an innovative nationwide reading project in which children and young people from every corner of Scotland read and vote for their favourite Scottish children's books of the year. Votes MUST reach Scottish Book Trust by 5.30pm on Friday 27th January 2012 to be included in the final count.
- over 40,000 children registered and an amazing 17,000 votes were cast;
- children and young people from every local authority in Scotland, from Aberdeen to Dumfries; Shetland to Arran, took part;
- nearly 1,000 accessible copies of the books were provided to young judges by RNIB and CALL.
The awards were originally set up by the Scottish Arts Council in 1999 and are now run by Scottish Book Trust.
Children can vote for their favourite book, from a shortlist in each of three categories, either as individual readers or as part of a reading group in a school, library or bookshop. The shortlisted books are:
Early Years (0 - 7 years)
Younger Readers (8 - 11 years)
- Zac and the Dream Pirates by Ross MacKenzie
- There's a Hamster in my Pocket! by Franzeska G Ewart
- The Case of the London Dragonfish by Joan Lennon
Older Readers (11 - 16 years)
- Wasted by Nicola Morgan
- The Blackhope Enigma by Teresa Flavin
- The Prisoner of the Inquisition by Theresa Breslin
But what about disabled children who can't read the books?
CALL Scotland has worked with the Scottish Book Trust and the authors and publishers to create accessible digital versions of the nine shortlisted books. The idea is that children and young people with physical, visual and reading or dyslexic difficulties, who can't read or access the paper books, can read the digital books instead and take part in the awards. For example:
- children with spinal injury, cerebral palsy or other physical impairments can click a switch or press a key on a computer, to turn pages and read the books by themselves;
- dyslexic readers or children with visual impairments can change the font size and/or colours on screen, or use text-to-speech software to read the books;
- the books can be read out by the computer using "Heather", the high quality Scottish computer voice that is available free for schools and pupils from CALL Scotland's The Scottish Voice web site.