With all of the “buzz’ about e-readers, Kindles, and what not, I’d like to point out that most of us in the field of Special Education have been making text readable for students with disabilities for at least 10 years. Scanning text via flatbead scanner, page by page for hours, then loading it onto Kurzweil, and maybe-just maybe-it will read a text to a student. It may even allow the student to highlight, take notes, and pause the book. Now, the student is learning.Phew!
That’s a lot of work. I’d like to talk about the site of the week that may help a lot of you. It’s called bookshare.org. Bookshare offers more than 60,000 digital books, textbooks, teacher-recommended reading, periodicals and assistive technology tools to students with disabilities for FREE. It is meant to be used specifically with students with learning, visual, or physical disabilities. A student needs to have a 504 plan or IEP that indicates one of the qualifying disabilities.
The other great thing about Bookshare is that it offers a FREE reader from the geniuses at Don Johnston! Read:Out Loud Bookshare Edition is available in both Windows and Mac formats. Once the reader is downloaded, it will act as a web browser, from which you can access bookshare to download books! Once the book is downloaded, the student uses the reader to read the book. Like Kurzweil, it will highlight as text is read. it also has a column for notetaking, and has highlighters and some other cool features for students. It’s like having a Kurzweil, minus the scanner. Aside from being FREE, the best part about Bookshare is that once a student has an account, he/she will have it for life.
RSU 21 currently has an Organizational Account with Bookshare, and is being used primarily at the High School. I hope that this resource will be used across the district for our most struggling readers. The combination of these two resources can transform the life of a non-reader.