Posts Tagged technology

Adventures in Technology

Betty is a library patron who is legally blind and has some hearing loss. She loves to read, has an active social life, walks in the park as often as she can, and she loves her new iPhone and iPad. You may be wondering how all of this is possible for someone with hearing and vision limitations. Thankfully, Betty has a brave spirit, and she also has an advocate in the Manhattan Public Library’s Assistive Technology Center.

Wandean Rivers has been working at the library for 14 years. She specializes in training people to use adaptive equipment such as talking books, screen readers, and iPads, but she also helps connect people with resources.

When Wandean identifies a grant opportunity, she will help qualified patrons fill out the online application. She also provides much-needed moral support. She tells her clients “All they can say is no. We’re going to keep knocking on the door until they flat-out refuse us.”

Betty has applied for grants and subsidies to help purchase adaptive equipment. She was refused, applied again, and now she is the proud owner of her very first cell phone, an iPad, and a CCTV that is also a screen reader.  Betty is no longer at the mercy of strangers to make calls for her when a ride is late. When mail arrives, the CCTV will read it to her. She can even download new books that will be read aloud by an app on her iPhone and iPad.

“She was a little timid at first. Now, she just says ‘well, let me check my phone.’ It’s the difference between having to ask someone to do it for you and being able to do it for yourself. It means independence.” says Rivers.

People are often intimidated by technology.  We’re afraid to push the wrong buttons or break things. With her easy laugh and positive spirit, Wandean has helped people learn to use Word, check their email, try out screen readers, and now she has taken primary responsibility for one-on-one technology training for anyone at the library who needs help.

If you would like help with the basics of computer use, make an appointment with Wandean by calling (785) 776-4741 ext. 202.  She will help you accomplish specific goals and let you know if you might benefit from adaptive technology.

The library offers many ways for people to learn new technology.  For people who are a little more familiar with basic computer functions, Tech Tuesday classes start in mid-September.  Librarians will provide training on a specific topic for beginning and intermediate users. You’ll learn as a group and have plenty of opportunities to ask questions. This season’s schedule includes topics such as: Microsoft Word, Basic iPad, and What is Social Media? For a complete schedule or to sign up for a Tech Tuesday class, visit the library’s online events calendar at www.MHKLibrary.org, call Janet at (785) 776-4741 ext.141, or visit the library.

Online resources through the library’s website offer the next level of training.  If you’re comfortable with basic functions but want to get more adept at using a computer, try Learning Express on the Research page of the library’s website. The Computer Skills courses can help you learn how to use Windows and Mac operating systems, practice with popular software applications such as Excel, Word, and Outlook, or learn the basics of navigating the Internet. Visit the library’s Reference Desk on the second floor for help signing up.

If you’re a professional interested in learning new software, lynda.com is the perfect program for you. Through the link on the library’s website, you can access all of the online training courses and practice files available through lynda.com with your library card and password. Develop advanced skills to master common office programs, learn web design, AutoCAD, Photoshop, Illustrator, video game design, video editing, and much more.

Betty was brave enough to try something new and her life has been improved. If you’re intimidated by technology, or are simply interested in learning something new, the library is the best place to visit. You will be surprised how easy it can be to explore the world of technology and librarians are more than happy to help you on your journey.

Posted in: For Adults, library services, Mercury Column

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Scared of technology?

By Danielle Schapaugh, Public Relations Coordinator

There’s a secret group of people out there (code name EVERYONE) who can sometimes feel intimidated by technology. It almost seems as if technology has constructed a new culture with a set of encrypted rules and customs that are frightening to outsiders. If you didn’t learn the language of the tech-y as a child, never fear! There are plenty of ways to catch up, and the library is here to help.

Here are a few best practices that will serve you well. If you’re a pro, it’s still a good idea to brush up on the basics now and again, so keep reading.

First, you need a system for keeping your information safe online. This is the most important step. Once you’re safe, you can explore and try new things without fear.

Which brings us to PASSWORDS. *Cue scary music.* You need strong passwords for every account, and it isn’t safe to re-use them. Think of the Titanic: if there’s a breach, you want all the security measures and safety locks in place to keep the ship from going down. But how do you manage to remember it all? You don’t. You get to write it down in a password book.

A password book is like an address book for all your accounts. “But how is that safe?” you ask. It’s safe because it’s kept in a physically secure location, and you can write hints rather than passwords if you want to be extra sure the information won’t leak out. Step 1) Find a password book, address book, or even a notebook to use. Step 2) Write down your information whenever you add an account, and keep it up-to-date. Step 3) Stash the book in a safe place that you can still access when needed. Don’t keep the password book on top of your desk or in your purse. Create a physical barrier of some sort so the information isn’t easy for someone else to find.

Next, develop a code for creating and remembering your passwords so you don’t always need to check the book. For example, if I am interested in astrology, I might use the signs of the zodiac as my code. I could start with the sentence “Aquarius likes water,” and replace a few of the letters with symbols such as @ for lowercase “a” and $ for “s.” The result is Aqu@riu$like$w@ter. That’s good, but not great. It needs a little more code, so I will use H20 instead of “water,” and add 3 instead of “e”. The result is a rock-solid password like Aqu@riu$lik3$H20 that’s difficult to hack, but relatively easy to remember because it has meaning for me. If you use the same substitutions for all your passwords, you’ve got yourself a secret code. (Which kind of makes you a superspy!)

Once you have solid passwords in place, you can explore the internet without fear. “But what about all the devices, social media, apps, and everything else? What the heck is a hashtag? This is only the tip of the iceberg!” you plead.

It’s difficult for print materials to keep up with the trends, thus it’s almost impossible to recommend a good book for reference. Instead, try learning online so you can practice as you explore. Start with sites like Microsoft.com tutorials, Learning Express training through the library’s website www.MHKLibrary.org, or www.visualsteps.com, which offer the basics.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You will be surprised at how many other people are looking for the answers, too. If you ask, you will either find an ally in your search or a sage who can answer your question. There’s no shame in the search for knowledge!

Just make sure you’re asking for advice from people you trust. Visit the library, talk to a librarian, and use one of our computers if you want to explore risk-free. Type in your questions online and look at sites with names you recognize like Apple and Microsoft, read instruction booklets that come with devices, ask your friends, or enroll in a class.

UFM offers computer training classes, the library has Tech Tuesday courses, and you can make appointments at the library for one-on-one training, too. Call the Manhattan Public Library at 776-4741 ext. 141 to schedule a session.

Most importantly, don’t give up! It’s better to try and fail than to do nothing and succeed. The world of technology is all around us, and it isn’t going away anytime soon.

 

Posted in: For Adults, Mercury Column, News

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2015 Consumer Electronics Show

Consumer Electronics ShowEvery year people gather to see what’s new and upcoming at the Consumer Electronics Show. This year the trends focused on 3D printing, drones, home automation, wearables, and robotics. There was a computer that uses your eye movements in place of a mouse to move the cursor, cars that help you find a parking spot, wearables to keep you healthy, and even a refrigerator that alerts you if you’re running low on milk! The PCs keep getting thinner and the TV screens keep getting bigger.

It’s fun to look into the future and imagine what we may see someday in our library: new literacy games for kids, computers that are easier for those who are disabled to use, or maybe a drone that will pull your books for you. If you like to keep up with the trends and research, you may enjoy the magazines MacWorld, PC World, and Popular Mechanics, all available in print at the library or in digital format.

Posted in: Adult Services, For Adults

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Free Online Learning

GCFLearnFree.org is a web site that offers free tutorials and online classes on a variety of subjects, from reviewing Math and Reading Skills to learning Microsoft Office products and English as a Second Language. Log on and see what is available! All of the courses are free, most are self-directed so that you can learn at your own pace, and some have instructors and offer a certificate of completion–very helpful if you are applying for a job that requires knowledge of Word or other Microsoft Office programs. Tips on resume writing and job hunting and interviewing skills can also be found here to help you find that job!

Posted in: Adult Services, For Adults, For Teens, News

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Survey Says!

We want to hear from you! Beginning April 14 and continuing through May 11, MPL is conducting an online survey to understand how patrons use the library’s technology so we can provide resources and services that are valuable to the community. The Impact Survey is anonymous, available in English and Spanish, and takes 10-15 minutes to complete. The survey is confidential and does not collect any personally identifiable information.

Please support the library and help us improve our services. Click the link at the top of our web page to fill out the survey.

The Impact Survey is a project of the University of Washington Information School with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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Kansas K20-Librarians Whitespace Pilot

wirelessManhattan Public Library is one of four libraries in Kansas selected to participate in an innovative program coordinated by the State Library of Kansas, under the national Gigabit Libraries Network’s Libraries Super-Wi-Fi Pilot. The pilot project will test the ability to provide library Wi-Fi hot spots in different areas of the community using unlicensed TV white-space technology. The project is progressing and will be activated in the upcoming months. We look forward to sharing more news with you as the project develops.

More information may be found at here.

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Assistive Technology Center

by Ann Pearce, Talking Books/Children’s Consultant

Manhattan Public Library’s Assistive Technology Center is the recipient of a $2,500 matching grant from Pilot International Foundation and the Little Apple Pilot Club.  This is the third and final year of this grant.  The grant has enabled the library to upgrade the Assistive Technology Center with new furniture, computers, software, and the addition of devices including an  iPad, Kindle Touch, and a Livescribe Smartpen.
The focus of the grant this year is service to children.  The Center is equipped with different software solutions in the areas of reading, writing, spelling, grammar, and math.  One such software solution is the family of programs from the company, Inspiration.  Inspiration is recognized as a leader in visual thinking and learning.  Inspiration has been available for several years in the Assistive Technology Center, and we have just added Kidspiration for younger children, and Inspiration Maps app for the iPad.  Visual thinking is a style of learning that presents concepts in a visual way such as diagramming and outlining.  To understand visual thinking, it’s easiest to think about brainstorming and being able to quickly put your thoughts down by either using images, words, or both.  For many students, the writing process can be overwhelming.  By using visually mapping, this process can be broken down into more manageable components.  The user can then edit the content, and when ready, the software can convert the images to a traditional text outline.
Along with software and the addition of devices, part of the grant monies have been used to purchase books concerning brain health and related topics for the library’s collection.  I recently read one of the books purchased, All About IEPs: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About IEPs by Peter W. D. Wright, Pamela Darr Wright, and Sandra Webb O’Connor.  The school year has begun and for many students, their Individualized Education Program (IEP) is an important component in their pursuit of an education.  For many students and parents, the IEP process can be daunting.  This is a self-help book that takes the reader from the planning stages to resolving disputes with the school and everything in between.  The authors have included a helpful glossary of terms and a list of the statutes and regulations pertaining to IEPs.
The book is divided into chapters related to the issues and decisions each IEP team needs to address, from measurable goals to transition after school.  One chapter is devoted to the use of assistive or adaptive technology.  The law defines an assistive technology device as “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability.”  Some of the assistive technologies that can benefit students with disabilities include text-to-speech, voice recognition, word prediction, screen readers, screen magnification, and talking dictionaries.  Dr. Katherine Seelman, associate dean of rehabilitation science and technology at the University of Pittsburgh, is quoted in the book as saying, “For people without disabilities, technology makes things easier.  For people with disabilities, technology makes things possible.”
The authors of this book are no strangers to special education.  Peter Wright is an attorney who represents children with special needs and their families.  Pamela Wright is a psychotherapist with training in psychology and clinical social work.  Sandra O’Connor is the editor of “The Special Ed Advocate,” a newsletter about special education legal issues.
The Assistive Technology Center is a community resource equipped with technological solutions for children.  Parents, teachers, and children are encouraged to take advantage of this resource.  If you would like more information, or if you would like to make an appointment, call the library at 785-776-4741, extension 202.  The Assistive Technology Center is open twenty hours a week from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, except for Wednesday, with hours from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

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Seniors and Technology by Ann Pearce

I was headed home the other day, when I noticed my gas gauge said empty, not just sort of close to empty, but EMPTY.So, instead of turning left and going up the hill, I turned right and headed for the nearest gas station.I was slightly apprehensive about the prospect of filling up my car due to the fact that upon occasion, brand new gas pumps confound me, and I had never been to this particular station.Yes, I am so old that I remember a time when you only had to drive up to the pump and a friendly young man would come up to the car and ask, “Fill it up?”That same friendly young man would check your oil and clean your windshield, but I digress.I told myself, all I have to do is read the LED screen and follow the directions.I found the slot for my credit card, remembering to remove it quickly, grabbed the nozzle, and punched the number for regular.The LED screen said to start fueling, which I attempted to do and nothing happened.I tried again, but nothing happened.I waited so long, the LED screen read, “cancelling transaction.”Now, you really can’t argue with an LED screen, and it doesn’t look good to the other customers if you do. So, I simply started the process all over again hoping for a different result.Up to this point, all of my attention had been on the screen, but this time around when I punched the number 87, low and behold there was a second hose hanging on the right side of the pump. Grabbing the gasoline nozzle instead of the one for ethanol was all it took.Needless to say, I was elated to successfully complete the transaction and head for home.

Technology can be fun, exciting, useful, necessary, aggravating, slightly annoying (as my example above demonstrates) and sometimes downright overwhelming.It is also ubiquitous and constantly evolving.As a senior, where does one go to find answers to technology questions?Most of us call our children or grandchildren with varying degrees of satisfaction.However, another resource is “The Senior Sleuth’s Guide to Technology for Seniors” by David Peterka.

This easy-to-read guide introduces the reader to computers, the Internet, and gadgets galore to enrich daily living.The word ‘introduces’ should be stressed here.If you already have a Facebook page along with your dog, you watch your favorite movies streaming over the Internet, and you order all your airline tickets online, this may not be the book for you.However, if you are unsure of what technologies there are available, and you are curious to find out, this would make a good read.

Peterka points out that over the last few years, the senior technology market is booming.Even the International Consumer Electronics Show, which is held every January and is the largest show of its kind, features a growing number of technologies targeting seniors in their Silvers Summit.The reason for this growing interest is obvious:There are 78 million baby boomers in this country, and they are just reaching their full earning and spending potential.

One area of concern for seniors is health management.As we age, health management can become more complicated.There are more doctors’ appointments to schedule, more medications to take, and more chronic illnesses to manage.Taking the correct medications at the right times is extremely important.So how do you make this chore easier to manage?If you need a simple reminder, you can choose between a watch that features several alarms and can list the medications to be taken, a pill box that beeps or vibrates, or a phone service that calls at the appropriate time.A more high tech solution is a medication dispenser.It is not only programmed to beep, but it dispenses the correct medication.If you don’t take the pills, then a caregiver or family member is notified.

On the lighter side, Peterka covers entertainment, from purchasing a digital camera to uploading your latest family video to YouTube.There is even a rather lengthy section on the much loved, much hated remote.And since technology is the topic, Peterka lists several web sites for further exploration including his own at www.sleuthguides.com.

For a close up look at some technologies and services available here at the library, stop by our booth Wednesday, September 21 at All Faiths Chapel on the K-State campus.At 7:00 p.m., Dr. William Thomas will give a lecture entitled, “Eldertopia: How Elders Will Change the World.”Funding for this lecture is provided by the Beach Museum of Art, the Office of the President of KSU, the Center on Aging, K-State Libraries, the College of Human Ecology, and Meadowlark Hills Retirement Community.Other cooperating agencies are the KSU Department of Interior Architecture and Product Design, the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce, and Manhattan Public Library.

Posted in: For Adults, Mercury Column

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