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Bookshare is now accessible directly through Kurzweil 3000-firefly!

Written by Suzanne Feit

Imagine what it’s like when you have to wait for your teacher to read the textbook to you. Or, you have to wait for mom to finish dinner and the dishes before she has time to read the most popular books to you? What happens when it’s time for the class to review the history chapter and you can’t review it by yourself? And, what can you do when the textbook is not available in PDF and it might take days to find someone to cut the binding and scan the book for you to have access to it?

Why should you, a bright learner, be kept behind because you struggle with decoding or processing and need more time and exposure to the text? What do you do if you can’t decode a word? Do you skip the passage and pretend to understand?

One truly accessible solution is Bookshare.org

Bookshare’s mission is to ensure that all individuals with print disabilities have equal and timely access to print materials. This is a growing online library of over 280,000 titles that is FREE to students with print disabilities. Once a student has qualified for Bookshare then access through Kurzweil 3000-firefly is a breeze. Visit the Bookshare website at www.bookshare.org to learn how to qualify for a membership.

Did you know that you can open Bookshare Texts Directly into Kurzweil 3000-firefly?

You can easily download your books directly into Kurzweil 3000 software installed directly on your computer. Simply, open Kurzweil 3000, go to the Online menu and select Search for Books. Enter the author, title or ISBN number and your Bookshare user name and password. The books are downloaded and saved to your computer. You can save this file to your Universal Library and access through the web-based firefly application at www.FireflyByKurzweil.com or through your firefly iPad App. At this time you can import directly into Kurzweil 3000 with an individual Bookshare account. Using a group account, simply download the book from Bookshare and then open it through Kurzweil 3000 and save to Universal Library in the respective student’s account.

New to the firefly Web-based Application?

The web-based application, firefly, now has a button named Open a File From Bookshare! This button allows you to search by Author or Title and the book is placed into your Recently Opened folder. Logging into www.FireflyByKurzweil.com, this file can be moved to any location by using a Right-Click and selecting Copy and then opening any folder in your Universal Library and selecting Paste.

Once the text is in Kurzweil 3000-firefly, you can save chapters, add bookmarks and take advantage of all the other wonderful Study Skills tools within the program—and access the eBook through Kurzweil 3000 software installed on your computer or by logging into www.FireflyByKurzweil.com. Often districts and individual students have a Bookshare account but they think they need many other tools to access these files. Now with Kurzweil 3000-firefly, all the reading,  comprehension, writing and testing tools are available in this one application.

Universal Library Really Means Easy Access

Any Bookshare file in the Universal library can be accessed from Kurzweil 3000, www.FireflyByKurzweil.com or the firefly iPad App. In addition, using Kurzweil 3000-firefly allows you to save any file as an audio file for additional access.

Now all students can have the same opportunities to independently read, listen and access their textbooks and leisure reading books.

We invite you to learn more about Bookshare and Kurzweil 3000-firefly by watching our recorded webinar
Bookshare & Kurzweil 3000-firefly: The Dynamic Duo!


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How Can You Prepare for the Deluge of Illegal Immigrant Students?

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How Did We Get Here? Background on Our New ELL Students

Across the nation school districts have received record numbers of immigrant unaccompanied minors within the last few months. An unaccompanied minor is any student who is not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian when they arrive in the United States. Students who are escaping violent conditions in Central America have arrived in every part of the country from Alaska to Alabama. Even those districts that are familiar with providing academic support to large numbers of English Language Learners are struggling to meet the needs of this new population of students. Although many are simply classified as English Language Learners or new arrivals, unaccompanied minors often have limited literacy and school experiences in their native language and typically do not come with the proper immunizations, financial backing, or familial supports.

On every news channel the discussions range from how to stop students from arriving to how can we provide stable homes for them; fortunately individual opinions on this crisis really don’t matter. Regardless of students’ immigration or citizenship status, under federal law students must receive equal access to a public education. The question we must all ask is: How do I support these students in the classroom?

What Steps Can Be Taken to Support These New ELL Students?

While this population of students may come to school with a variety of challenges there are two actions that can be taken immediately to help recent arrivals succeed in American schools.

1. Lower the Affective Filter for Illegal Immigrant ELL Students

Most students are coming from tough situations, which involve trauma, abuse and unspeakable violence. Before students can learn, they must let their guard down, feel at ease and embrace their new learning environment. Providing students with a low anxiety classroom environment where they feel safe to learn, are respected by and feel comfortable with their peers and teachers is the best way to include students in the classroom and school community. Knowing that their progress and success matters, students will be open to all the opportunities that education in the United States has to offer.

You would be surprised how technology helps to bridge both relationships and learning! Students hovered around an iPad or a computer highlighting the words they can read themselves or using the bilingual dictionary to make meaning of a simple sentence helps make these connections.

2. Provide Creative, Flexible Options for ELL Students to Access Content

Many students in this population have limited formal education, and will not be use to or benefit from “sit and get” lectures or traditional worksheet paper and pencil assignments. These methods don’t get your students excited or motivated to learn the language and the content. Using advanced educational software, like Kurweil 3000-firefly, provides students with the opportunity to acquire core academic skills in a variety of content areas in a multitude of ways. Because teachers can upload their course content to Kurzweil 3000-firefly‘s cloud library, the software provides the flexibility needed to provide supplementary materials closer to the students’ instructional level. Every student will not begin at the same level, however when we start with them where they are, you will be able to move them to where they need to be! Reading and comprehension features, such text-to-speech in over 18 languages and dialects, visually tracks words bringing the content alive while supporting vocabulary development and content knowledge. Read more about reading, comprehension, writing and testing with Kurzweil 3000-firefly.

Technology Can Help

With the growing number of students arriving from all over the world, we must each be prepared to meet these students’ needs. Kurweil 3000-firefly technology provides the supports and flexibility needed to reach each student from newcomer to advanced levels. Don’t take action because it’s a federal mandate, but because we your daily work in the classroom will provide our students with the opportunity to make choices in their future, instead of it being chosen for them.

Join us during the below free webinars, or download a free trial, to learn how technology can support the growing number of ELL students.


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Kurzweil Education: A New Era Begins

KurzweilEducation_new-era-begins

The change from summer to fall often marks the time of great change. A time of new beginnings. As the summer of 2014 begins the transition to fall, it is clear that change has been in the air here at Kurzweil Education.

Perhaps you didn’t notice, but our name has changed to reflect our reinvigorated efforts towards the learners and educators we’re honored to serve. Kurzweil Educational Systems is now Kurzweil Education. You may ask, “What’s in a name?” Our answer would be, “Quite a lot, actually!” The Kurzweil name itself carries better than thirty years of positive results for those we serve, dating back to the first reading machine created by Ray Kurzweil in the late 70’s. Of course, the core of our focus is education, so we couldn’t leave that out. However, with change in the air, it was time for fresh start here at the old, new Kurzweil Education.

In some ways change is what we strive for, changing people’s lives. When students and teachers share their stories about the difference Kurzweil Education makes for them, you hear the power of transformation, the newfound confidence that comes with literacy success, and the personal pride in achievement. We are proud that our technology changes lives. Today and for the future, we are embarking on a new era of service, support and innovation—one that enables real learning to happen and helps unlock each learner’s unique potential.

KurzweilEdu_new-releaseEarlier this summer, as the weather really shifted into high gear, we released updates to Kurzweil 3000-firefly. In all, there were more than forty enhancements in one update! From thirty new voices representing eighteen languages to academic vocabulary lists to updated dictionaries, it is all about enhancing learning for the users of our products. Whether that learning be for educational, professional, or personal purposes, we are single-mindedly driven to bring the very best solutions and tools to learners anytime, anywhere.

As summer gives way completely to the fall and winter months, stay tuned as firefly and the iPad app continue their metamorphoses into full-fledged solutions for reading, comprehending, and demonstrating knowledge; through enhancements to existing features and the addition of new tools to support change in our user’s lives, which will continue into the future. These are, indeed, very exciting times at Kurzweil Education.

Tune in as you prepare for the back-to-school season to learn more about how we spent our summer break!


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It’s Here! Meet the Latest Version of Kurzweil 3000-firefly

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Close to 40 updates were made to Kurzweil 3000 for Windows, Macintosh and the web-based firefly. While Kurzweil 3000-firefly users have had access to many of these enhancements with monthly updates, as part of their on-going subscription, users of only Kurzweil 3000 will now have the opportunity to upgrade their software starting today. Contact us for more details on the latest version or call 1-800-894-5374.

What Does “Close to 40 Updates” Include?
Kurzweil 3000-firefly has been updated to provide an enhanced experience for both students and educators. It is now easier than ever to provide support for students throughout the entire learning process—both in the classroom and at home. Here are some of the new features added to further enhance the overall experience.

Enhanced Reading Experience

    • Readers will enjoy the highest-quality, Acapela Text-to-Speech voices—with options from English to Spanish to Canadian French, and many more. Hear the difference, get a free trial.
    • Learners can access text in graphics or images with the Image Reader tool
    • Students with Dyslexia will have an easier time reading and writing with newly added OpenDyslexic Font, a research-based font that can also help with comprehension

Deeper Student Comprehension

    • American Heritage dictionaries were upgraded to the latest version to provide the most accurate and up-to-date references available
    • 12,000 Picture Dictionary graphics from Widgit were added; representing over 40,000 words helping students develop a deeper understanding of word meaning
    • Updates to Vocabulary Study Guides enable a “click creation” of vocabulary lists with associated definitions, also supports bilingual dictionaries (French, German, Italian, Spanish)
    • Expanded built in dictionaries, translation support and vocabulary lists help complex text comprehension

Enriched Writing Supports

    • 10 New Writing Templates assist with organization
    • Updates to Word Prediction will enable struggling spellers or non-touch typists to write more in less time, and help them to demonstrate command of the English Language
    • Academic Vocabulary List, built in to the Word Prediction tools will facilitate the use of higher level vocabulary in written assignments

| Learn about the latest version of Kurzweil 3000-firefly

What does this mean for current Kurzweil 3000-firefly subscription customers?
The great news is that you have had access to many of these updates since your subscription started. As a subscription customer, you receive new features at no cost as they become available, often every month! A DVD with these updates has already been mailed to you to ensure you have the latest edition for the 2014-2015 school year. Visit our website for a list of complete features for Kurzweil 3000-firefly.

| Join us for a free webinar tomorrow at 1:00 PM ET to learn about these latest updates. Additional webinars will be held July 22nd and July 29th. 

If you have an older version of Kurzweil 3000 what should you do?
Contact us! We would be happy schedule a one-on-one webinar to show you some of these new features and work with you to determine the best solution to fit the needs of your students. Learn more about the latest edition of Kurzweil 3000 and Kurzweil 3000-firefly for schools.

Success Starts Here!
Sign-up sign-up for a 30-Day free trial today, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter to learn about the latest details of the new version of Kurzweil 3000-firefly.


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Are You Compliant with Proposed SPED Regulations?

new-criteria-SPEDThe U.S. Education Department is calling for increased oversight of special education with hopes to improve academic success of students with disabilities. New criteria will focus on outcomes as a way to determine if states are “doing enough.”

“Compliance with procedural requirements . . . is important, but it is not enough,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan explains. “It’s not enough for a state to be compliant if students can’t read or do math at a level sufficient to graduate from high school.” (Washington Post)

How will the Department of Education Measure Outcomes?
The department of education has developed a complex matrix to determine if states are in compliance. One of these factors is how well students with disabilities score on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Additional factors include:

  • Standardized test scores
  • Gap in test scores between students in general education and special education
  • High school graduation rates

What Effect Does this Have on Schools?
New stringent regulations for educating special-needs students reduces number of states (jurisdictions) in compliance from 38 to 15. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that although states are in compliance, they fail to allow access for students with special needs (emphasizing ADHD and dyslexia) to a robust curriculum. In addition, more rigorous standards will be applied that will impact future funding.

What Steps Can Schools Take to Help Their Students AND Maintain Compliance?
The first step is to ensure all students have access to the supports they need to succeed. This can be an especially daunting task considering the diversity and varying learning needs in today’s classrooms. Technology can help. Based on the principals of Universal Design for Learning, Kurzweil 3000-firefly is a cost-effective solution to help educators meet the many needs of all students.

    • Built-in tools for reading, comprehension, and demonstration of knowledge enable all students to learn from the same materials as their peers
    • Web-based and computer installed software provides anywhere, anytime access to materials and promotes independent learning in the classroom and at home
    • Usage reporting provides visibility and helps educators to make informed instructional decisions
    • Centralized and flexible user management, combined with a cloud-based library, allow educators to focus on what matters most—their students

Take the First Step
Contact us today to learn why thousands of educators across the U.S. — and worldwide — are choosing Kurzweil 3000-firefly as a cost-effective solution for helping their students become independent learners and achieve academic success.


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Reading from Afar

 

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Written by Debby Frohbieter

Most grandparents want their grandchildren to live next door. We want the grandchildren close by so we can spoil them, then send them home when the damage is done. For me, though, I have to find other ways to maintain a relationship with my granddaughters, two and five, who live 2,000 miles away.

Technology is indispensable for this. My older granddaughter, Isabelle, and I Skype once a week. Since she’s barely five, it only takes a minute or two to have a conversation, so after hearing about what new moves she learned in dance and who she had a play date with, she and I read books together. If my dream world existed and Isabelle lived next door, I would be reading to her all the time, not only for my pleasure but to help instill a love for reading. I believe it’s vital to teach young children to love reading because without it, their world would be smaller and less interesting.

Isabelle and I each have a copy of the book we’re reading together and bookmark the page where we left off the previous week. Before we start to read, she settles on what sound I’m going to make to tell her to turn the page. (Boing is the favorite page-turning sound so far.) I read one or two chapters during each Skype session. Our first book was Adventures of Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel. Now we’re reading Angelina Ballerina’s Storybook Treasury. Next will be The Big Green Book of Beginner Books by Dr. Seuss. At the suggestion of an educator, we’re also going to read the David books by David Shannon and some Roald Dahl books. And I just sent Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren to read in the future. Isabelle wants to read Harry Potter but we’re going to put that off for a few years!

My granddaughter loves the time we spend reading and tells everyone she knows, and even some strangers, that she and her nana read books over Skype. I love this time with her and am so pleased I can contribute to Isabelle’s love for books. When her sister, Zoe, is older, she and I will read together, too. I can’t wait.


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Content Makes Challenging Close Reading Material a Breeze

close-reading-kurzweil3000fireflyFun Ways to Incorporate Media into a Close Reading Assignment

As an educator, how many times have you been surfing the net and found content (video, song, infographic) that you thought would be a fit for an assignment? The web is a rich resource for supplementing lessons with fun and informative add-ons. For close reading assignments, these additions can make challenging reading more accessible to students who struggle.

What is Close Reading?

According to A Close Look at Close Reading, close reading requires thoughtful, “critical analysis of a text that focuses on significant details or patterns in order to develop a deep, precise understanding of the text’s form, craft, meanings, etc.” This is exactly the type of reading that can be perplexing for struggling students and those with dyslexia and ADHD. This is why tying fun and informative content to the reading assignment can be key for success.

Close Reading Can Be Fun

Suzanne Feit – with 35 years of experience with adaptive technologies – highlighted an easy way to use Kurzweil 3000-firefly to accomplish the above strategy in a recent webinar, Close Reading: How to Help Struggling Students Succeed with the New Educational StandardsWatch Suzanne’s webinar on-demand.

Here is how it works. Suzanne embedded a link of  They Might Be Giants: “Meet the Elements” YouTube video into a chemistry text that had been uploaded into Kurzweil 3000-firefly. The students completing the science reading assignment would engage in this media by clicking the embedded link at the appropraite point. They would then watch the quirky and amusing song song that is complementary to the lesson to deepen their comprehension of the elements in the periodic table. Take a look:

Take the Close Reading Lesson Further

close-reading-strategySuzanne was then able leverage the content of the video for the close reading assignment by creating a study guide and word bank based on the lyrics. After finding the lyrics online and copying and pasting them into a word document (that was then easily opened in Kurzweil 3000-firefly), she was able to identify the element names and block them out. This let her create an assignment based on the reading and the song in a matter of minutes. She also created a word bank that lists the names of the elements in a side window, allowing students to click and drag the words back into the blank spaces on the worksheet.

Sounds like a cool way to make close reading fun reading.

Watch Suzanne’s Close Reading Webinar On-demand

This is just one the many techniques Suzanne reviewed to help struggling students have fun with close reading. You can watch the full webinar on-demand to see more tips from Suzanne, or visit us online to learn how Kurzweil 3000-firefly supports the Common Core anchor standards.

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