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Promoting Achievement through Technology and INstruction for all Students
Jan
14

Books, yes, real books!

Books, yes, real books!

If anyone has viewed my blogs, you know that my subject matter is family, primarily my grandchildren. Oh, sure I mix relevant content to school and the like, but I have shared a lot on the subject of reading.

My very first blog was “Mimi, would you read me this book?”. That was in April 2018 and it has been almost three years ago since my grandchildren sat on Mimi’s lap as she read to them.

Fast forward and over the past three years my school-age grandchildren have been reading to Mimi. The three oldest grandchildren, Dean, Logan, and Kenzie have found reading to be a window of information, anticipation, and excitement.

Interestingly, all three have access to technology provided by their school and what is available at home. All three however have found that their mode of choice is books, yes, real books! The ones that you hold in your hands.

Technology is amazing when you think that you can have hundreds, if not thousands of books available almost instantaneously. eBooks are readily available at your fingertips, just waiting to be pulled up.

We can change an eBook font, text size, background. We can highlight, bookmark, take notes, and even have it read aloud to us. Can a real book do all that? Or do we want it to?

This blog was inspired by a Facebook post I saw recently. It was an image. The more I looked at it, the more I thought about my grandkids and their choice for a book, yes, a real book!

There are arguments for and against either mode, but in the end, it is a personal choice or preference, call it what you like.

It fills Mimi and me with delight and satisfaction (particularly Mimi) that the simple “Mimi, would you read me this book?” would open a world of information, anticipation, and excitement for three inspired grandchildren.

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Apr
12

Please Don’t Fail Me Now…

I recently had a discussion in a user group I belong to regarding the use of the NIMAS (National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standards) file set established by the federal government for instructional textbook publication for the print disabled. The main question was how do I or our organization use the files.

Let me step back, in 2004 provisions were added to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to help improve the quality and delivery of accessible formats to students with disabilities who need such materials. Among these provisions, states were required to adopt NIMAS.

The NIMAC (National Instructional Materials Access Center) is a federally funded, online file repository of the source files provided by publishers in the NIMAS format. The NIMAC acts as the conduit through which the files are made available to authorized users to convert the files into fully accessible textbooks for students.

NIMAS is a technical standard used by publishers to prepare electronic or digital files that are used to convert instructional materials into accessible formats. The files are known as NIMAS source files. The purpose of NIMAS is to help increase the availability and timely delivery of instructional materials in accessible formats for qualifying students in K-12 and secondary schools.

The key word in the paragraph above is “accessible” format. NIMAS files are used in the production of a range of accessible formats, including braille, large print, digital audio, and a variety of accessible digital text formats, including DAISY and EPUB.

Inherently, there were only a few software programs that were able to use the raw NIMAS files. There are a couple programs that will convert NIMAS files to usable Braille format, but for the ICAM (Indiana Center for Accessible Materials), we use the digital components for student use, primarily EPUB and PDF after NIMAS conversion.

I explained to the group that software for converting NIMAS files to an EPUB and/or PDF is limited, but the support for the software is all but evaporated. The other challenge is that the software is so far removed from support that the hardware used is antiquated by today’s standards.

For example, I am using a NIMAS conversion software from Don Johnston called DaisytoEPUB. It came out in 2010 and ran on both WINDOWS and MAC. My primary use was on a WINDOWS 7 system. As Microsoft moved from Windows 7 to Windows 8, 10 and 11, the operating systems’ architecture changed and would not support DaisytoEPUB, nor would Don Johnston modify the program for the new Windows architecture.

Unfortunately, Microsoft’s end of support for Windows 7 was January 2020. I am still using the Windows 7 system daily and cross my fingers every time I boot it up. Likewise with an iMac I have that has had a similar fate. An old program and old operating system and a daily mantra on booting it as well.

All this to convert a NIMAS file to an EPUB, which has gained the most popularity for student access that is supported by apps and extensions. However, PDFs have also made a significant showing in adding more versatility to what devices and apps/extension support them.

NIMAS files can’t be converted directly to PDFs or at least I haven’t found a program that can, which means EPUBs conversion is needed. I use an open-source program called Calibre which is a multi-file conversion program that converts about anything (except NIMAS files). The ICAM uses Calibre to convert the NIMAS file that was converted using DaisytoEPUB to convert it to a PDF.

I rely on all components to work, OR I need to find an alternative. There are times when DaisytoEPUB fails, and I struggled with how to fix it. One such alternative was an older version of Dolphin’s EasyCreator V.7.0 which converted a NIMAS file to a Daisy format. Once in a Daisy format, it can be converted with Calibre to an EPUB and then a PDF.

Let me be clear that the process from beginning to end is tedious and time consuming. The results are files that are used by students that can access the files in their preferred format, in as timely a manner as possible with content that is the same as their peers.

As long as I have the tools to keep old systems and software usable, the process will continue and if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. However, I know all good things come to an eventual end, and my ongoing search for an updated conversion solution continues. Technology, please don’t fail me now…

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Feb
17

ICAM: Removing Barriers to Reading for Almost Twenty Years

Since 2017 I have been a proud team member of the Indiana Center for Accessible Materials (ICAM). The ICAM team shares information, provides training, and encourages stakeholders to utilize our services for their students. One of the topics we frequently discuss is the NIMAC (National National Instructional Materials Access Center). 

Established by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 2004, the NIMAC is a federally funded, online file repository of source files in the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS) format. Here, authorized users (the ICAM is an authorized user) can access more than 52,000 K-12 NIMAS files for use in the production of accessible formats for students with disabilities. Digital Rights Managers (DRMs) are trained on the process of ordering materials, many of which we obtain from the NIMAC. The NIMAC provides a digital file to the ICAM/IERC (Indiana Educational Resource Center) which allows us to provide accessible formats such as braille, large print, ePubs, and accessible PDFs. All files that are sent by the ICAM to the end user are accessible.

Recently, I was notified that the ICAM is the 4th highest downloader of NIMAS files in the country! Our total unique downloads were surpassed only by Bookshare, American Printing House (APH), and the California Dept of Education. 

I am so proud of this achievement and the ICAM team which includes Jeff Bond, Martha Hammond, and myself. I also want to include the very talented group of Specialists and all of the staff members from the PATINS Project. I also want to thank the entire staff at the Indiana Educational Resource Center (IERC). This accomplishment could not have been achieved without the hard work of our entire staff.  

The students of Indiana are the benefactors of everyone’s hard work. K–12 students with qualifying print disabilities are receiving their accessible formats of textbooks, core curriculum instructional materials, and popular fiction titles in a timely manner.

The benefits for students are explained on the CAST website: “The use of accessible digital materials and technologies strengthens opportunities for all learners to experience independence, participation and progress. Accessible versions of educational materials may mean the difference between learning barriers and learning opportunities.

Increasingly, students with disabilities are spending most or all of the school day in general education classes (NCES, 2019). When students have difficulty using their materials and technologies due to a disability, they are at risk of falling behind their peers. Timely access to accessible digital materials and technologies for students with disabilities results in the same opportunities to fully and independently participate and make progress in the curriculum as students without disabilities.” 

How can we help your qualifying students get started? Please let us know!


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