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Category Archives: Technology

Hack the System!: Combating Fake News!

Posted on November 18th, 2016 by adowds in News, Technology, Teen Services
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Post-election anxieties are pretty heightened right about now, and election results have left many people asking, How?!? Why?!? What?!? Fingers are being pointed in many directions, but one culprit taking the lead is “fake news”. So much so, some “fake news” bloggers are actually claiming partial responsibility for the election of Donald Trump.

 

“Fake news” is a form of news satire. Content is presented in a format typical of mainstream journalism, but the actual content is anything but real and often pokes fun at current events. Fake news stories pop up everywhere on social media sites, and receive almost immediate attention, likes, shares, and reactions from users due to its sensationalized material. According to BuzzFeed News Analyst Craig Silverman, “the top-performing fake election news stories on Facebook generated more engagement than the top stories from major news outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, NBC News…”. Silverman used a tool called BuzzSumo to compare the way the public engaged or interacted with traditional news stories vs fake news stories that peddled false claims during the final three months of the US presidential campaign. He found that the 20 top performing “fake news” stories received 8.7 million shares, reactions, likes, etc. on Facebook while the 20 top performing new stories from reputable publications received 7.3 million.

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Does this mean that fake news won the election for Donald Trump? Most likely not. But it does mean that people either are not as media savvy as we hoped or, we tend to trust almost anything once it is posted online — no questions asked. While companies such as Facebook and Google have amped up their abilities to block ad monies that promote fake news and hoax stories, two individuals have created extensions for Chrome to help people circumvent untrustworthy new sites by warning them when they are visiting sites or reading material that is known to be misleading, satirical, or a hoax.

 

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First, Daniel Sieradski created the “B.S. Detector” on Tuesday, November 15th for Chrome browsers only. This extension will identify and flag articles from questionable resources while users are browsing Facebook.  Sieradski’s invention relies on a pre-generated list of well-known fake news sites created by Melissa Zimdars, a communication and media professor from Merrimack College in Massachusetts. Users may submit requests to update and change this list.

 

 

 

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The second extension, Fake News Alert, was created by New York magazine journalist Brian Feldman and was released Thursday, November 17th. If a user attempts to visit a known hoax site, a pop-up or banner appears to alert users. Feldman also uses Zimdars’ preexisting list of fake news sites to assist people who may not be media savvy or have been foiled hook, line, and sinker into reading and believing one of these articles.

 

These latest creations may diminish the outpouring of misinformation, but they also have a few downsides. First, they can only be used on Chrome browsers. Second, it is up to the user to proactively download the tool. And most notably, these extensions only work on the specific website domain, which means users must actually click on the website link in order to receive an alert. According to Feldman, preemptive alerts that flag articles before they are opened or read would require a more sophisticated version of his Fake News Alert Chrome extension. And similar to any antivirus software, new hoax sites can be created that aren’t in the extension’s database.

 

The good news — Both of these tools were created in about an hour and their inventors admit they are pretty bare bones. There is plenty of room for tinkering and improvement, which means there is ample opportunity for you all to hack the system and build your own app, fight against fake news, and enable people to place more trust in what they are reading!

 

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Want to create your own technology life hack? Stop by Teen Central during Open Lab time.

“Hack the System!” features examples of technology life hacks created by Ally, the Youth Technology Librarian at Teen Central. Check back on the third Friday of each month for her latest post.

Hack the System!: Tech Hacks for Struggling Readers

Posted on October 21st, 2016 by adowds in Technology, Teen Services
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While brainstorming ideas as to what to write this month, I stumbled upon an article in Time Magazine titled, 10 Tech Hacks to Help Struggling Readers. While most of my posts have focused on Tech Hacks that make life more fun and interesting, this article was a great reminder that technology can also hack some of life’s biggest obstacles.

Reading is a learned skill developed through a process of building upon cognitive, linguistic, and social skills acquired during our early years. Acquiring this skill can be quite frustrating, especially when the struggle crosses over into other aspects of a teen’s life, causing that teen to feel and get left behind.

Thankfully, technology has provided educators and students with accessible and cost-effective apps and assistive devices that can revolutionize literacy proficiency. With these tools, reading and writing may still be difficult, but it’s not impossible. How? Hack the System! There may be endless apps and gadgets available, but check out the four options below, catch up on some reading, and impress your friends with the latest Tech Hack!

vdr1. Voice Dream Reader — Voice Dream Reader is designed for people with dyslexia, visually impaired, and other learning styles. Filled with 186 voices and 30 different languages, this app can read content from almost anything and anywhere — pdfs, books, Word, websites, PDFs, and Dropbox. Readers can customize their experience by changing fonts, voice speed, highlight and take notes, or set a sleep timer. As the company’s site said, choose your instrument and turn text into speech.

 

 

2. Read2GoRead2Go is a mobile reading app that pairs with Bookshare, the world’s largest online library of read2goebooks for readers with print disabilities. By downloading Read2Go, teens can read anywhere, anytime straight from their mobile device.  Read2Go also can connect via Bluetooth to Braille readers. The customization features are similar to the Voice Dream Reader, allowing teens to experience books their own way.

 

 

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3.  Audiobooks — Sometimes you just need to take a break from the printed book and let someone else do all the reading! Audiobook devices such as Playaway Bookpacks combine the easy-to-use and transportable Playaway device with the book’s printed version. Bookpacks are one of the easiest ways for struggling and emerging readers to practice and develop literacy skills. Choose from classics like The Outsiders or best-sellers such as The Book Thief. Playaways can be a bit pricey, but audiobooks are FREE at your Library!

 

 

blio-24. BlioBlio is a free app designed for iPhones and iPads. The app displays in full color, with colorful fonts, pictures, and engaging layouts. Many of the books can be read aloud by a text-to-speech voice (purchase required) or audiobook, with words highlighted as they are spoken. Blio is a joint venture between Kurzweil Technologies and the National Federation of the Blind. The expertise from these two partners has created an app that is unique in its ability to help those with reading disabilities make sense of the text through synchronized highlighting and a serial presentation view. As the company’s motto states, “Don’t just read books. Experience them.”

 

 

allyDid you know that in addition to physical books and DVDs, your library card gives you access to audiobooks through Bibliocommons, Hoopla, and Overdrive. To learn more about how to download audiobooks to a device, visit the library’s eBook & Digital Media page. To browse books on CD, search for titles and authors in the BPL catalog and select “Audiobook CD” under format. Or, ask a Librarian!

Want to create your own technology life hack? Stop by Teen Central during Open Lab time.

“Hack the System!” features examples of technology life hacks created by Ally, the Youth Technology Librarian at Teen Central. Check back on the third Friday of each month for her latest post.

Reading Backwards, Watching in Japanese: Mob Psycho 100, the Manga!

Posted on October 11th, 2016 by jkenney in Books, Resources, Reviews - Staff, Technology, Teen Services

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Happy Fall Otaku! I hope you all got to see Mob Psycho 100 on a streaming site. The first season is now over! So that was fast, but it did actually start in July. At this point I wondered, “what about the manga?” Well it doesn’t seem to be widely available  in the US. I won’t be able to order copies for the BPL, but it is online! Go and read on MangaFreak here. Unfortunately, it doesn’t actually read right to left (kuso!) but the browser is pretty nice. Go ahead and pop out the larger version. You can also find it here on MangaReader, but be wary of non-teen ads. It does work with AdBlock so you can try that too.

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Looking at the manga, you can see the basic art style in the story panels. Drawing is simplified line work with some more advanced light and shadow. More detail is given to the creepy spirit characters and psychic power effects.

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The online manga sites scan entire and partial softcover foldouts as you can see here below:


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So there you have it. The complete run of the manga is available on these online sties. The browsers work well and have high quality scans. The thumbnails were a little blurry for this post but don’t let that disappoint you. Click the images for full resolution. Go online and read Mob Psycho 100 backwards. The pages may flip left to right but the panels on each page are still right to left. Enjoy!

 

john250-150x150Did you know that in addition to physical books and DVDs, your library card gives you access to anime and graphic novels online? The BPL subscribes toHoopla, a streaming service that allows you to check out and enjoy the media you love on your computer, tablet or smartphone. You can learn more about the BPL’s digital media collections here.

Want company while you’re watching anime? The Hyde Park Teen Anime Club meets on Thursdays at 2:30 p.m.

*”Reading Backwards, Watching in Japanese” features reviews of anime and manga by John, the Teen Librarian at the Hyde Park Branch, on the second Tuesday of every month.

Hack the System!: Turn Your Handwriting Into a Custom Font

Posted on September 16th, 2016 by adowds in Technology, Teen Services
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Helvetica. Arial. Georgia. Times New Romaaannn. These fonts get boring. Sooo boring. In fact, it is time to stop hitting the snooze button and get creative with a few easy steps, a black Sharpie marker, and your own two hands. Turning your handwriting into a new font is super easy. Today, I am going to show you how to do this:

 

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Most websites will tell you that it only takes 5 minutes to turn your handwriting into a new font. If you are that rare unicorn that can perfect something in one try, it will take you 5 minutes. If you are like me and get a little nutty when it comes to the details, it will take you at least an hour. Warm up those penmanship skills and have fun with this Tech Hack. Let’s get started!

 

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First, print out this template and fill in each square. Don’t use a regular Bic pen. I used a fine point black Sharpie marker. Be careful to stay within the lines or part of your letters will get cut off.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Next, scan the sheet or sheets — you can create as many fonts as you want. Be sure to scan in greyscale, not color. Then, upload the completed template to MyScriptFont.com. Follow the steps, give your font a name, and you should see something like this:

 

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If you like your font, continue on to the next step by clicking on the file name (ie, Ally_sFont.ttf). I created both a print and cursive version of my handwriting.

 

 
 
 
 

Finally, install your new font onto your computer. Once you click on the file link, you will be prompted to install. Simply follow the steps on either a Mac or in Windows. It really is that easy.

 

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That’s it! You created your very own font! Open up Word, Google docs, Illustrator, Photoshop, or any software that utilizes lettering, select your newly designed font style in the drop-down menu, and start typing!

 

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allyWant to create your own technology life hack? Stop by Teen Central during Open Lab time.

“Hack the System!” features examples of technology life hacks created by Ally, the Youth Technology Librarian at Teen Central. Check back on the third Friday of each month for her latest post.

Hack the System!: Headphones as a Camera?!?

Posted on August 10th, 2016 by adowds in Technology, Teen Services
Tags: , ,

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In 2013, the Oxford Dictionary announced its word of the year would be “selfie”. The Oxford Dictionary states that a selfie is “A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media”. While it lists the origin date as 21st Century, the actual first selfie was taken over 150 years ago in 1839! That’s before telephones, computers, and television.  According to The Public Domain Review, “…amateur chemist and photography enthusiast”, Robert Cornelius, took the first portrait in his family’s store in Philadelphia. He did so “…by removing the lens cap and then running into frame where he sat for a minute before covering up the lens again”. Check out his picture… Pretty cool, right?selfie2

Selfies, obviously, have taken off after the introduction of smartphones. Each day, more than 1 million selfies are being generated by people around the world. Mastering a selfie, however, can be quite traumatic. According to the article Millennials Selfies, young adults will take more than 25,000 selfies during their lifetime. The average young adult spends about 7 minutes A DAY in order to perfect their photo. That’s almost 54 hours a year!

The struggle is real – we get it. Problems often arise when it comes to getting the right angle, removing that ever-present selfie arm from the photo, or the dreaded double or multiple-chin shot that is inevitable. But what if I told you I knew of a tech hack that might solve a lot of these problems. Enter Apple’s Remote Earbuds.

At first, they might just look like ear buds, but take a closer look and they are now the new selfie stick, but way more awesome. I asked a couple of teens at Teen Central to try out this fun tech hack following these 4 easy steps:

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  1. Plug your Apple earbuds into your iPhone.
  2.  Open up your Camera app.
  3. Focus on a picture or selfie of your choosing.
  4. Snap a picture by pressing either the up or down volume button on the earbud cable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So next time you want to take the ultimate group selfie or you want a super-steady shot from far away and without your arm in the way, grab your headphones, have fun, and smile!

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photocred by Apple Remote Earbuds

 

ally

Want to create your own technology life hack? Stop by Teen Central during Open Lab time.

“Hack the System!” features examples of technology life hacks created by Ally, the Youth Technology Librarian at Teen Central. Check back on the second Wednesday of each month for her latest post.