Thursday, 17 November 2016

A fantastical day in York

by Sarah Bennett, Reading Services Assistant, RNIB Bookshare

Caroline and I travelled up to Yorkshire for a second time this month to continue with the RNIB Bookshare tour.  

We met up with staff from University of HuddersfieldYork St John UniversityLeeds Beckett UniversityNorth Yorks Council and York College.  York St John University kindly hosted the training session in one of their brand new IT Teaching suites which was kitted out with the most splendiferous equipment. 
Reception, Holgate Building

Information Learning Services, Fountains Building

The training

The morning was spent getting familiar with the website and going through: 
We then looked at the different file types and discussed the benefits of DAISY files and went through the third activity - how to convert a DAISY file into Word.

We demonstrated the new tool we've recently developed.  This tool makes converting our DAISY files to a structured Word document with style mark-up quick and easy.  If you'd like us to send you the tool please contact us.  Download the guidance on how to use the automatic word document generator.

Finally, before we had a break for lunch we discussed the website's Reading List functionality, how it can be best used in different scenarios and the benefits of the ability to share the lists between sponsors.

We had two copyright specialists in the training session and they were keen to discuss their current procedures and how they ensure that the copyright guidelines are adhered to.  It was raised that an improvement to RNIB Bookshare would be an option to restrict downloading by members, instead members would be either assigned books or reading lists. We shall be adding this to the RNIB Bookshare Wishlist.

Caroline and I then spent a lovely half hour sitting in one of the university's quadrangles eating our lunch and watching students in their graduation outfits making memories with their families.

After lunch we continued with the activities and went through the Book Request process and discussed how we work with publishers.  We demonstrated some applications that could be useful tools for members, such as Capti and Kindle.


What was most liked about the training?
"The balance of interactive learning"
"The hands-on aspect"
"Step by step guides and practical activities"

What do you plan to change as a result of the training?
"Make more use of free apps like Capti and share files to Bookshare"
"Look at current procedures and re-wrtie to include Bookshare, develop a strategy for use"

Thank you to everyone at the York St John session.  Remember you can call us anytime for help and guidance: 0300 303 8313.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Conversations at Coventry sensory support service

Ian and I spent a lovely sunny autumnal afternoon meeting the staff from Coventry sensory support service on Wednesday 2 November to chat to them about how they can get the best from RNIB Bookshare and its new features for their service and learners.

orange and brown autumn oak leaves

The training

We talked about how to search and download titles, discovering the accessible images, creating and using member (learner) accounts, using reading lists, creating structured Word documents and using files on devices, in particular the iPad (and  various tools such as the Kindle and Capti apps) and the iPad for Education project.

The team were really welcoming and enjoyed our ‘hands on' approach. They told us what they liked most about our training:
“Your step by step approach”
“Lots of help when we were stuck, training was simply given and easy to understand”
“Step by step instructions in going through the website – how to convert DAISY to Word DOC”
“Easy to follow and was delivered in a very accessible way”
“Relevant to the work we are doing” 

Their comments…

What will I change as a result of this training?

“Using accessible formats – DAISY to Word”
“Sign posting students and schools”
“Hoping to download files much more quickly. Feel confident about doing it!”
“more VI pupils as members”
“encourage students to use the site independently as they get older” 

How does RNIB Bookshare affect the learners you work with?

“ They would be struggling without this service”
“enables a much faster service”
“the great availability of resource’s that are out there is a real bonus for our learners”

How does RNIB Bookshare affect how you work?

“Speeds up adaptations”
“save time on preparing resources from scratch” 

 A good day ...

We had a really productive afternoon with the team, and its great that they feel ready to have more of a go now, and are particularly keen to engage with learners accessing RNIB Bookshare. 
“Great! Thank you, just what’s needed!”
The team felt a little concerned about how to resolve any difficulties once we had gone, and were reassured that we are always happy to do a webinar or take a call from them if they have any questions. Thank you Coventry SSS and good luck!

Friday, 14 October 2016

A golden day at ‘The Hive’!

By Caroline Walker, Reading Services Assistant RNIB Bookshare

On Wednesday 12 October I visited and spent the day with staff from the University of Worcester at the fantastic location of The Hive. As well as having a fabulous golden roof, it’s the first library to be both a public and university library. As a combined facility for the whole community to use, the project has developed into one of the most exciting new libraries in Europe. It is collaboration between the University of Worcester and Worcestershire County Council.

It’s a fantastic space to use and visit and it was wonderful to see such a busy library.

Who was there?

It was great to meet the staff who are responsible for creating accessible resources at the university and customer services who all wanted to learn more about RNIB Bookshare. We also met with representatives from local Colleges and schools. 

What we talked about

During the morning session we had a general introduction to the site and focussed on the new features of RNIB Bookshare. We discussed:

The afternoon session was dedicated to more detailed discussions on:

More resources for students

It was brilliant to hear from the team how much easier it is for them to get hold of titles for students through our request service. As a result they said that they now have the time to get more titles than before for their university students!

Great to spend time with you Worcester!

Sunday, 9 October 2016

iPads for Education service

A new service launched by RNIB will enable thousands of students with sight loss to read their course materials using an accessible Apple iPad.

RNIB are excited to be working in partnership with O2 to offer subsidised iPads to children with sight loss so that by using these devices with RNIB Bookshare, users can have portable, immediate access to all of the books and texts needed for their curriculum.

Through the iPads for Education service the learner receives an Apple iPad Air 2 32GB, connectivity through wi-fi and 1GB of 4G data each month. The cost to the family or organisation is £14.50 plus VAT per month.

Apple iPad resting against a pile of hardback books

Steve Tyler, Head of Strategy and Accessibility at RNIB, said: 
“We are very excited to launch iPads for Education. We know that blind and partially sighted young people need access to books and textbooks at the same time as their peers. This can help with greater participation in lessons, research and homework.  
“We are really pleased to be partnering with O2 and DHL in the UK and to be able to deliver this fantastic service to students with sight loss.”

Saturday, 8 October 2016

TES SEN Show, Islington - 7 October 2016

By Jennie Short, RNIB Bookshare Product Manager

TES SEN Show colourful cogs logo

On the train

It's been a few years since RNIB's had a stand at the Times Educational Supplement Special Educational Needs Show and I'm really looking forward to going again. I think the last time I attended I was working in our product team looking after our educational products.

Harrison's been dropped at breakfast club, Ben gave me a lift to the station and I'm now sat on the 8.12am train ready to depart Peterborough on the quick train to London King's Cross. October is RNIB Wear dots ... raise lots fundraising month so I'm wearing my spotty blouse today. 

Jennie on the train ready to depart Peterborough, wearing a purple blouse with white spots

This month we've got lots of promotional activity planned and are really excited to be launching the iPads for Education service in partnership with O2 to offer subsidised iPads to children with sight loss. It's dawned on me that I don't have any information to hand out at the show, we only finalised the flyer text last night!

Phew! A quick call and email to the lovely Rose Doyle in our London resource centre at Judd Street and she's going to print some flyers off for me to pick up enroute.

The show

After my quick stop at Judd Street I headed back to the tube station and jumped on the Northern Line to Angel. As I was heading to the escalator to exit the station I spotted a lady carrying a display banner and asked if she was heading to the SEN Show too. She was indeed and happy I'd asked as she didn't know where to go, so we walked up to the Business Design Centre together. Afraid I can't remember her name, she'd travelled up from Devon and was from the WESC Foundation - Specialist Foundation for Visual Impairment.

My colleague, Stewart McKay, was at our stand when I arrived. Stewart works in our Product Sales Team and spends most of his week travelling around the country doing events and visiting resource centres and local societies. Ella High, who works on our newsletter and service for education professionals, Insight Online, wasn't far behind me. Our trio was ready for the day ahead. 

The doors opened at 10am and there was a great steady flow until about 1pm when it slowed down (Friday afternoon!), but we still had some valuable conversations with visitors. About 12pm a wave of teachers from Wales arrived who were excited to learn that RNIB Cymru will soon be uploading their Welsh language titles to RNIB Bookshare.

We talked to visitors about our reading services including the RNIB Newsagent which provides a range of kids magazines including Horrible Histories, National Geographic Kids and First Weekly News. We had some of our multi-sensory toys on display; the scented stationery was very popular and Wikki Stix are always a fun product. 

Box of eight Scentos, our scented colouring pens

We handed out lots of information on our services for children and young people and families. We had some RNIB "half full not half empty" mugs and Insight Online journals to give away, well in return for them signing up to the Insight Online newsletter; we got 50 new subscribers. 

It was great to talk to customers who are using RNIB Bookshare and who are seeing their staff and learners benefiting from accessing materials quickly in a range of formats. A couple have signed up to our "you come to us" RNIB Bookshare training day in London on Friday, 16 December to learn more about getting the best out of the site.

We took it in turns to go to lunch, but all went to the same amazing Pho, Vietnamese restaurant; super delicious food. Towards the end of the day we had a walk around the other exhibits and had a competition to see who could get the best freebie! Ella and I both got squeeze stress apples from the Education Support Partnership. I squeezed it for the rest of the day and broke the stalk off! Stewart got a great pen which flowed very nicely on the page. 

I caught up with our friends at Dyslexia Action and spoke to the team at NASEN SEND Gateway to see how we can make best use of their service and ensure we keep our pages up to date. I spoke to the SEN Magazine team, we have an ad in their October edition, which has helped us see a recent increase in membership applications and also been quite timely for other magazines to contact to us having seen the ad in SEN Magazine, and we'll be promoting the iPads for Education service and RNIB Bookshare through a range of channels through October and November.

I ended the day talking to The National Autistic Society and have a go on their virtual reality specs which put me in the position of a child with autism visiting a shopping centre with their mum. A really interesting and useful insight. I bought the take home kit to use with the free Autism Too Much information (TMI) app so I can share it with my family and colleagues. 

Stewart will be doing the show on Saturday too with Nuala Salter from our Library team and Funmi Hinmikaiye from Fundraising. Hope they have another fun and successful day.

As the show ended at 5pm the tube was heaving and although all heading to Kings Cross got split up at Angel to ensure we could all squeeze onto the tube train! I've managed to get a slightly earlier train home, but am sitting on the floor! Looking forward to getting home, getting the kids to bed and having a relaxing evening.

It was a good show and thanks to all who came and spoke to us. If you need any further help you can contact the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Next stop... lovely Lincoln!

By Caroline Walker, Reading Services Assistant RNIB Bookshare

We went east for our next training day as Ian and I traveled to Lincoln to meet with Lincolnshire Sensory Education Support Service and other locally invited schools.

We had a very grand venue at the Council Chambers in their County Offices, I promise that neither of us sat in the really posh seats at the front!!

A grand wood panelled Council Chambers

We were a large group of 25, and everyone had brought laptops so that they could join in and navigate around the site with us and try out the new features. Some were regular users of RNIB Bookshare, others new to the site.

What did we talk about?

We talked about the copyright legislation and qualifying print disabilities, new accounts for learners (Members) including the free web reading tool. We searched and downloaded books and talked about requesting books and how we work with publishers.

Using and creating structured word documents, and using different file formats was a really useful discussion and especially how easy it is to convert DAISY files into MS Word.

We then looked at how staff and learners can use the site and resources with their devices, such as iPads and Kindles and various tools such as the Kindle app with RNIB Bookshare files.

Ian leading the group in training

How does RNIB Bookshare affect your learners?

“Promotes independence”
“It will be a massive support for them at school and at home”
“To be able to read more interesting books”

How does RNIB Bookshare affect how you work?

“Greater ability to promote independence and more accessibility to the curriculum for our SEN students”
“It saves me time”
“Makes adaptations quicker and easier to use”
“Reduces the need for me to type everything by hand”

What did you like most about the training?

“Being able to chat face to face”
“How to convert DAISY file to a Word document”
“How things were illustrated as they were being spoken about so it became easy to follow.” 
We had some really positive comments about how everyone felt about the afternoons training and how they will now be able to use RNIB Bookshare so much more effectively.

Thanks for having us Lincolnshire Sensory Support team and friends! Next time I visit Lincoln, I really hope to see more of your beautiful city!

A view of Lincoln with the Cathedral on the skyline

Friday, 9 September 2016

A Grand day at Kings College London!

By Caroline Walker, Reading Services Assistant RNIB Bookshare

Sarah and Caroline were on their travels again as they took a train down to London to meet RNIB Bookshare customers from a number of London based universities, kindly hosted at Kings College London. We met at the Library in the Franklin-Wilkins Building on the Waterloo Campus.

Franklin-Wilkins Building, Waterloo Campus

Who was there?

We met with Disability officers and Library Staff from  Kings College London, City University, London School of EconomicsGoldsmiths (University of London) and the University of Westminster. It was a great opportunity to find out how these busy institutions are using RNIB Bookshare and to help them get the most of our using our service.

We talked about…

What did everyone have to say about RNIB Bookshare?

It was great to hear that everyone found the practical aspects of the day really useful. Here’s what everyone said….
‘Its brilliant! and the revamped site has made it (my work) easier’

How will it affect your learners?

‘It will speed up access to course and research materials where previously it was necessary to go directly to publishers’ 
 ‘Gives them more autonomy’
 ‘Really useful to have a variety of download and options’

How will it affect how you work?

‘Save time eg reducing amount of time allocated to scanning materials to produce alternative formats' 
 ‘I would like to start using it, particularly as I help to create reading lists at work.’
 ‘has the potential to improve my work providing the publishers cooperate.’

Thanks again to Kings College University for hosting us. Good luck everyone, and keep up the great work your doing in providing great accessible resources to your print disabled learners!