Tar Heel Shared Reader


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I just realized that there was a bug in the Save Draft function when you’re writing a book. I only found out because Paul sent an email telling me about it. I hate it that apparently several of you have had problems with it. It should be fixed now.

When you have a problem, let me know. If you’re having a problem it is almost certain that someone else is suffering too.

Changes at Tar Heel Reader

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Tar Heel Reader has moved to its new home on the web at http://tarheelreader.org. Please make a note of the change and ask those you know who have posted links to update them. The old address will redirect users here.

This new version brings several changes that I hope you will see as improvements.

For readers:

  1. Book pages are visually much simpler and should always fit on your computer screen.
  2. Page controls and text stay in the same place from screen to screen.
  3. Two-switch scanning is now more consistent.
  4. Choices are presented for direct as well as switch access.
  5. Readers can rate books from 1 to 3 stars.
  6. All pictures are served from tarheelreader.org rather than Flickr. This should help those of you whose access was blocked by firewalls.

For teachers:

  1. We now have library-like categories for books. In the coming week my students will be making a pass through the collection of assign books to categories (i.e. Animals, Health, etc.). You can optionally assign categories when you write or edit your books.
  2. We have setup two categories Rated: E for everyone and Rated: C for caution. These may be helpful when choosing books.
  3. We also have categories from the Beginning Literacy Framework. These are Type: Conventional, Type: Transitional, and Type: Other.
  4. Finally, we have added a Reviewed flag that will be set by the professionals at the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies after books are reviewed for educational quality. A small badge icon will appear on these books.

Coming soon: TarHeelReader.org

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Soon we’ll be moving to a new URL; http://tarheelreader.org/. It is online now, feel free to check it out and give us some feedback on the changes we’ve made. Don’t do anything there you want saved because it will all be overwritten when we transition.

I hope the cut over will happen in the next few days. Your login and all your books will be moved to the new site.

New features include:

  • All images are served from the site rather than from Flickr. This should eliminate the problems with firewalls that some of you experienced.
  • Switch access is more consistent with 2-switch scanning as used in other applications.
  • Book and Favorites pages are more consistently formatted. For example the Next and Previous links should be in the same place on every page. Also space available for picture and text has been increased.
  • We now have support for translating or re-writing books with the same pictures and new text.
  • We now have traditional library categorization for books (Animals and Nature, Art and Music, etc.)
  • Books in the Reviewed category have been checked for educational quality by a professional with the center.
  • We also have categories from the Beginning Literacy Framework so that you can easily identify books that are Transitional, Conventional, or Other.
  • Readers will be able to rate books as Great, Good, or OK by awarding 3, 2, or 1 stars.
  • Books that are appropriate for all readers will be in the Rated: E for everyone category, those that are a bit more edgy will be in Rated: C for caution.

Why use PowerPoint?

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I’ve gotten several requests for speech in the PowerPoint downloads from Tar Heel Reader. I think I know how to do it but it will be a ton of work that will take time from other projects.

I’m wondering why folks feel they need PowerPoint? If I can figure out what we’re missing in the online version, perhaps I can enhance the site so that you don’ t need expensive commercial software.

I know some of you were having problems accessing the site from your schools. That should be fixed now.

Are their other features of PowerPoint that you need?

Firewalls are no match for the power of literacy!

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I have heard from many users who love Tar Heel Reader but are unable to use it because access to Flickr is blocked at your schools. No more! I have updated the site so that it should work even in places where Flickr is blocked.

Please let me know if you’re still having problems.

Seeking your advice

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I’m thinking about enabling readers to give some simple feedback on the books they read. Maybe we could have 3 ratings with text and graphics such as smiley faces. I want this to be optional for readers and it should not complicate the book reading experience too much. I’ve also had requests for a The End page so I’m thinking of combining these things.

When you come to the end of a book, your choices would be:

  1. Read this book again.
  2. Go back to Favorites.
  3. Rate this book.

The choice mechanism would like the Favorites page. What sort of graphics should each of these have?

If you select Rate this book you’re presented with a second page that has these choices:

  1. OK.
  2. Liked it.
  3. Loved it.

Again, can you recommend some graphics for each of these?

After making a selection you’re taken back to The End page with only 2 choices:

  1. Read this book again.
  2. Go back to Favorites.

What do you think?

More changes to Favorites

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To select Favorites, simply click the check box that you’ll see in the upper right of each book when browsing the Books category, or next to the title in the Title Index. Then click the Update Favorites button.

Favorites and more

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I’ve updated Tar Heel Reader with several changes.

The most important new feature is the new Favorites page. You can make a switch-accessible collection of your reader’s favorite books for independent reading. Simply click the tiny green + in the upper right corner of a book on the Find A Book To Read page. The + will disappear to let you know you have added that book to your Favorites. Add up to 8 books to your favorites. Then go to the Favorites page. You’ll see your selections listed along the top of the page.

Using the Mover key (space, right arrow, down arrow, page down, or N) you can move from book to book. Using Chooser key (backspace, left arrow, up arrow, page up, or P) you can read a book. When reading a book, the Mover goes forward one page and the Chooser goes back one page. On the first page of a book the Chooser goes back to the Favorites. In this way your reader can choose a book, read it, and then return to choose another.

If you enable speech on the Favorites page the book titles will be read as you move from book to book. You can control the page and text colors from the Favorites page as well.

If you set up the Favorites page the way your reader likes it and then bookmark that page (Control-D in many browsers), when you return to that bookmark, the page will be just the same. You can share the Favorites page with others by emailing the link. You can save as many different bookmarks as you need, one for each student for example.

I’ve made several other small changes in hopes of improving the site.. The heading is smaller when reading a book and on the Favorites page, I wanted to make as much space for the picture and the text as possible. The navigation symbols should be positioned a little better. Search will find author names, tags, and just about anything else now.

As always, please tell me if you see problems with the site.

Site down briefly on Monday

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I’ve got to move my computer to the central computer room so that it can stay on Monday night while the rest of our building has the electricity turned off. I plan to move it sometime Monday morning.

I’ll post a warning on the Welcome page. Be sure to check and save your books often if your are writing on Monday morning.

Improved speech

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I think I’ve fixed the problems with text to speech. Please let me know if you hear problems.

As part of the extensive modifications required to fix the problems with speech it has become really easy for me to enable either a female or male voice. Would this be useful? I could make either the default or I could make it an option when you enable speech.

Please let me know if your students would benefit from one gender or another.

Draft books

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I decided it was a bit unfriendly to plop you down at the Welcome page when you save your book as a draft. Now you’ll be directed to the Your Unpublished Books page. It assures you that your book has been saved and provides a link to return to editing it.

New Features

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I updated the site today with several new features for your book making and reading enjoyment.

  1. Switch access when reading a book uses the same keys as PowerPoint. Go to the next page with space, right arrow, down arrow, page down, or the letter N. Go back a page with backspace, left arrow, up arrow, page up, or the letter P.
  2. You can set the background and font color on books you read.
  3. Adding the tag Spanish to a book causes it to be read with a Spanish voice.
  4. Books now have page numbers
  5. Red arrows on the next and previous page links provide a bigger target for readers using touch screens
  6. The title index lists all books alphabetically by title.
  7. You can save a book as a draft so you can work on it in multiple sessions. If you have any drafts you’ll see them on the front page, on the right, under the heading “Unpublished books”.

I hope you enjoying using Tar Heel Reader. Keep those suggestions for improvements coming.

Editing your books

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If you make a mistake in your book, or simply have a better idea after reviewing it, you can edit your book using the same wizard you used to make it. On the Find a book to read page look just below the picture on the title page of your book. You should see an Edit link. Click there and it will take you back to the wizard with all pages loaded. Make whatever changes you want and then click Update my book.

I have attached an image with the Edit link shown circled in red. I’m logged in here as the user who created the Testing story so it is the only one I’m allowed to edit.

Self Registration Enabled

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I’ve enabled self registration so you won’t have to wait for me to do it. Just click on the Register link on the lower right side of the front page. All the fields are required.

Choose an ID, I prefer FirstnameLastinitial like most of the ids you see. Enter your first and last name along with your email address (must be valid). And tell us a bit about yourself and your interest in Tar Heel Reader.

The Registration Code is a special secret to keep the bad spammers and bots out. You’ll have to get that from someone who knows. Feel free to pass it on to others who need to know. Mail me if you need to find it out.

Once you register you’ll get an immediate email with your login and password along with a link to confirm your registration. Click the link, login, and you should be set to go.

Of course, let me know if you have any problems.

New Features

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By popular demand you can now upload your own images to Tar Heel Reader without going through Flickr. I recommend using Flickr but if you have some pictures that are important to your reader but are inappropriate for Flickr, feel free to put them here. The upload process is a bit tricky because of the way browsers implement the file upload process. On Firefox I click on the browse button or in the file name field and an open file dialog opens. In Firefox 3 the dialog shows a preview of images making it easier to find what you want. Then when you find an image you want to upload, click on it and click the open button at the bottom of the dialog. It is not uploaded yet! Now you have to press the upload your own image button. After a delay your picture will appear on a book page. You can mix your own pictures with those from Flickr.

Also, I’ve added a Find another book button at the end of each book.

Let me know if you see any bugs.

Image scaling

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I have modified the presentation of book pages so that the images are scaled to fit in the browser window. Let me know what you think of this feature. This way we avoid having the caption scrolled off the display on small monitors.

Blog created

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I’ve rearranged the site a bit so that we can have a blog for news, tips, and perhaps some educational materials. At least it will allow me to make announcements about changes in the site.