Posts Tagged ‘technology’

Hack the System!: Tech Hacks for Struggling Readers

Posted on October 21st, 2016 by adowds in Technology, Teen Services

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.




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.

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

Posted on September 16th, 2016 by adowds in Technology, Teen Services

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:




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!




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:





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.




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!



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

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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:


  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!






photocred by Apple Remote Earbuds



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.

Hack the System!: Introducing Technology Life Hacks

Posted on July 13th, 2016 by adowds in Technology, Teen Services


Life can be frustrating sometimes. Dealing with technology can be even more frustrating. But what if we put these two together to make life just a bit easier and a bit more fun? The solution – technology life hacks!

So what is a life hack? Life hacks refer to any tool, trick, skill, shortcut, or method that makes an aspect of someone’s life easier and more efficient. You may incorporate life hacks into your every-day life and not even realize it. For example, have you ever thrown a dryer sheet into your dirty laundry pile to mask the smell? Life hack! Or, you only have a little bit of Nutella left in the jar so you decide to add 2 scoops of ice cream to it – ultimate life hack! These are just two shortcuts to make life smell fresher and taste more delicious.

According to lifehacker.com, the term “life hack” was created in 2004 by technology journalist, Danny O’Brien, to describe ways members of the tech community utilized playful shortcuts to simplify and accelerate their workflow. This term quickly gained popularity and is now used every day, by tech geeks or not, to describe people’s attempts to circumvent this complex thing we call Life.

As I start my new job here in Teen Central, life hacks may become my lifeline as my desk piles high with ideas, computer wires, technology workshop gadgets, and 3D printed toys. Each month, I will highlight my latest life hack creation and invite teens from Teen Central to craft, explore, and test out new hacking devices.

To keep you busy until then, geek out on these simple, everyday technology life hacks:

1. Dirty computer keyboard? Slide the sticky part of a post-it note between the keys to grab dust, dirt, and left-over lunch crumbles.



2. Bent or frayed charger cord? Take the spring from an old pen and wrap it around the top of the cord to keep it straight.





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 second Wednesday of each month for her latest post.

Ctrl+Z: Girls Makers & Coders Program

Posted on April 22nd, 2016 by chalpin@private.bpl.org in Technology, Teen Services

Girls Makers & Coders, an 8-week program, is about to head into its fourth week here in the Lab at Teen Central. The program is designed to provide an opportunity for young women, ages 12-18, to gain experience with hands-on projects that incorporate different skill sets, including design processes and computer coding. The focus of these projects is around “wearables” – clothing or accessories that are fabricated using technology or have computers or technological functions built in to their design. (A current exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts highlights the relevance and excitement coming out of this particular area of innovative design.) The program is being led by knowledgeable volunteers and 9 registered girls are participating.


Learning about circuits and laying out their design.

Organizations such as Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, and Change the Equation are bringing awareness, seeking solutions, and providing programs to address the gender and minority gap in STEM related fields. (For more information specifically about the gender gap, look here). It is our hope that the library can also be place where an interest in science, technology, engineering, and math can be sparked and explored. The library, as an informal learning center where people are encouraged delve into their interests, is perfectly situated for like-minded youth to meet and work together in a low-stress, fun environment all while gaining new skills to build upon in the future.


Success! After sewing with conductive thread, LED’s are properly connected to their battery.


After working on smaller, individual projects that aim to build a foundation in concepts such as circuitry, and an introduction to computer code, participants will collaborate to design and create a larger interactive project with colorful lights (LEDs) controlled by sensors and code with a wearable microcontroller. Through this process participants will also be able to employ crucial 21st Century Skills by exercising their creativity, thinking critically, effectively communicating with their team, and successfully collaborating to complete their unique project.


Sewing with conductive thread.





When the program wraps up in the coming weeks, check back here and I’ll update with more info about their finished project!







hologram on 9-16-15 at 7.25 PM #3Need a library card? Wondering how long you can borrow a book? Borrowing and Circulation information can be found here.

*”Ctrl+Z” is all about fearlessly exploring technology. Look here for info about teens, technology, and having fun with new media by Catherine, Teen Technology Coordinator at Teen Central, on the fourth Friday of every month.