Spring is in the Air—and Summer is Close Behind

free-ebook_kurzweil3000fireflySummer is a time for play and relaxation—and there’s no better way to relax than curled up with a good book. How can you ensure your students will get their much needed reading time during the summer months? Make it easy and fun.

Make it Easy to Read with Free eBooks Online

There are thousands upon thousands of free eBooks available to anyone, and accessible to everyone with Kurzweil 3000-firefly. Finding these books can be cumbersome, unless you know where to look. Here is a list of our favorites that will help your students avoid the summer slide.

  1. International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL)
    The ICDL offers free eBooks for all ages and from a variety of cultures, which is especially important for English Language Learners. Check out the Featured Book List from the ICDL to get started.
  2. ManyBooks
    Choose from a list of 10 most recent downloads, or base your decision on recent book reviews. These are just 2 of the many ways free eBooks from ManyBooks makes it easy to find what you are looking for (even when you aren’t sure what that is).
  3. Feedbooks
    A very simple navigation for any genre you can think of makes for easy browsing free eBooks on the Feedbooks public domain pages. The only caveat is deciding where to start—The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction or Science Fiction.
  4. Project Gutenberg
    As one of the original free eBook aggregators, Project Gutenberg has a very large list to choose from. If you’re not in the mood for something a little different, check out their latest project The Self-Publishing Press.
  5. CK-12
    The multitude of educational videos on CK-12 is a great solution for kids who want a break from reading. Send them on a virtual Earth Science field trip on a rainy day.
  6. FreeKidsBooks.org
    With books for ages ranging from toddler to young adult, this kid-friendly site makes finding a new book both fun and simple. Kids can either read the book online, or download a PDF to have it read to them in Kurzweil 3000-firefly.

K3000ff-easy-buttonTip: Show students how to open eBooks with the click of a button in firefly—PDF and EPUB files included.

Make it Fun by Turning Reading into Play

Here are a few recommendations on how to motivate students to read—and read a lot—during the summer break. Implement one or a few in your classroom to appeal to various social and learning styles.

    • Summer Book Club: Help students organize a book club before the end of the school year. They can hold their discussions in person or online with WhatsApp or Google Hangout.
    • Summertime Reading Events: Work with your PTO or local library to host summer reading events. Bring Kurzweil 3000-firefly up on the screen to have everyone follow along.
    • Create a Digital Scavenger Hunt or WebQuest: Have students look for clues within books or find and read books based on the hunt. Learn how by reading this blog.
    • Give Reading a Purpose: Have students collect donations for every page they read—or leverage usage reporting in firefly to track time spent reading. Have your class vote on which charity to give the proceeds to.

Do you have firefly? Listen to a free on-demand webinar “Opening up the World through EPUB Books and Kurzweil 3000-firefly” to watch how to upload files into firefly, or contact us for a free demo.

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Tales from CSUN

When I was asked to go to San Diego in March to manage our exhibit at CSUN, the Annual International Technology & Persons with Disabilities Conference organized by the Center on Disabilities at California State University, Northridge, I enthusiastically said, “yes!” Not only was I going to travel to the beautiful city of San Diego but I was also going to see some of the technology that makes it possible for people with disabilities to lead independent lives.

Here are some snippets describing what I saw at CSUN this year.

A young woman came to our booth to talk about Kurzweil 1000, our text-to-speech software for people who are blind or who have vision impairments. She lost her sight shortly after receiving her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and is now studying for a Master’s using Kurzweil 1000. She said she wouldn’t be able to continue in her studies without a tool like Kurzweil 1000. That was a nice story to hear.

Quite a few people visited us to learn more about firefly and the relationship between Kurzweil 3000 and firefly. I drew pictures to explain that firefly and Kurzweil 3000 are an ecosystem united by the Kurzweil Universal Library in the cloud. Documents are uploaded to the Universal Library using Kurzweil 3000. These documents can be read using either Kurzweil 3000 or the web-based version of firefly or the iPad app version of firefly. The following picture (which is better than anything I can draw!) shows this relationship. This is a simplified version of our ecosystem because more can be done with Kurzweil 3000-firefly than just reading documents. But this is a start in understanding the relationships.


A quick walk around the exhibit hall reinforced my delight at the knowledge that technology has given a voice to people who learn, interact, and communicate differently. It was hard not to notice the devices for magnifying text, or the high definition cameras to bring content into reading devices, or communication apps to help people who can’t speak, and more. Without technology, so many people would be unable to prove they can be contributing members of society. Hooray to technology!

cami-stevie-wonder-kurzweil3000fireflyTo end, I have to mention the Stevie Wonder sighting! His appearance on the second day of the exhibit caused quite a stir as people snapped photos with their phones. Stevie graciously posed with several people, including our own Cami Griffith. As a huge fan of Stevie, Cami’s day, month, and year was made.

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Don’t Let English Language Learners Fall Behind

ELL Kurzweil3000firefly

Learning a New Language Takes Time

It takes 5-10 years to gain proficiency in a new language. Why? ELL students must learn both the social language and the more difficult academic language. Ongoing linguistic challenges coupled with the lack of a culturally relevant academic background increase the level of difficulty. Unfortunately, time does not stop for ELL students. They will need to continue their academic progression at the same rate as their native-English speaking peers, an ambitious goal considering the new rigor introduced with Common Core Standards.

ELL Students Can Read & Learn at Grade Level with Literacy Software

Specific features in Kurzweil 3000-firefly support language and academic learning for ELL students—regardless of ability level or prior education experience. Visually tracking words with text-to-speech helps ELL students to improve their fluency, while high-quality voices reinforce the flow and cadence of the English language. Additionally, built-in tools allow ELL students to work on difficult, decontextualized content-area texts, enabling them to read text at or just beyond their language proficiency level. How does it work?

On the Fly Translation for 72 Languages & Reference Tools Help ELL Students Read at Grade Level

Let’s face it, students today are used to having tools at the tip of their fingers. Investing the time in opening a dictionary or visiting an online translation site can be frustrating and take a long time, a task that is exemplified when considering complex text. The ability to translate words, sentences and entire paragraphs, right within the text and immediately simplifies the task and makes the whole process of reading more inviting.

ELL Students Learn at Grade Level with Study and Writing Supports

Within Kurzweil 3000-firefly, ELL students can gather, examine, and relate information from a variety of sources—including text books, high-level articles, or online—translating from English to their native language and then back again. The software then guides them through the thinking and writing process, from outline to brainstorm, and final written work. Here are a list of tools that facilitate the study and writing process for ELL students:

  • Highlight and extract main ideas and supporting evidence into column notes and outlines
  • Visually organize thoughts with graphic organizers
  • Develop an understanding of text structure with writing templates
  • Listen with text-to-speech to proofread content, syntax, and word selection
  • Employ proper usage of homophones and content-specific vocabulary with Word Prediction

Aid Vocabulary Acquisition with a Suite of Tools in One Software Solution

Decoding a word is just the first step, developing an understanding or word meaning—either for a targeted word or phrase—is crucial for meeting Common Core Standards. Kurzweil 3000-firefly provides a multisensory approach to learning by offering both visual and auditory supports. As a result, students are actively engaged in vocabulary enrichment and are able to develop a deeper comprehension of learning materials.

  • Built in bilingual and picture dictionaries, in addition to thesaurus tools, assist with vocabulary acquisition
  • Instant access to reference tools, including Wikipedia, work to deepen comprehension
  • Customizable Word Lists and Vocabulary Study Guides help to familiarize students with new words and phrases

Give ELL Students the Tools to Succeed.

Enhance, develop, and accelerate learning for ELL students with award-winning tools from Kurzweil 3000-firefly. You will enable them to simultaneously develop their language skills, further their academic learning, and develop technological know-how within one intuitive and user friendly environment. Learn more about key features for ELL students  or how Kurzweil 3000-firefly can be used for test-taking.

Get your free trial today to see how Kurzweil 3000-firefly promotes independent learning and enables ELL students meet the rigors of the Common Core. Try it on any and all supported platforms—including PC, Mac, iPad App, and the firefly the web application.

1I.M. Chisholm & C. Beckett, “Teacher Preparation for Equitable Access Through the Integration of TESOL Standards, Multiple Intelligences, and Technology” Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 12(2), 2003
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You Can Read files in firefly from Your Computer with the Click of a Button

ebooks-kurzweil3000firefly“Wow!” is the word used to describe the newest feature in firefly. You can now open a file saved to your computer directly into firefly with the click of a button. No need to go to Kurzweil 3000 to convert a file to store to your library, and no scanning. Just start reading. Tell us what you think of this new feature.


How does it work?

Login to www.fireflybykurzweil.com, click on the “Your Computer” button, then select the file you’d like to read from your computer. It’s that simple.

What file types work with this new button?

You can open many of main file types using the new button in firefly. Files created in Microsoft Word, saved as either a Rich Text (RTF) or Plain Text (TXT), and files already converted to Kurzweil—or KES files. You can even open a PDF and EPUB directly into firefly from your computer. If your file ends with those listed below, it can be opened and read in firefly with just one click.

  • .pdf
  • .doc
  • .epub
  • .rtf
  • .txt
  • .kes

Try the new button with these free sources for eBooks!

Now that you can open files with the click of a button, here are a few sources for eBooks to expand your library—without spending a penny.

  1. ManyBooks
    ManyBooks provides many free eBooks available in many languages, and in many file formats including PDF, EPUB, and Plain Text—a total of 19 file formats in all.
  2. Feedbooks
    Discover thousands of public domain books, both fiction and non-fiction, with this e-book retailer. Digital formats include PDF and Kindle. Did you know you can read Kindle files with Kurzweil 3000-firefly’s Image Reader?
  3. Project Gutenberg
    Search through over 42,000 free eBooks with Project Gutenberg’s re-creation of classic literature library from paper books into digital books.
  4. CK-12
    CK-12 Foundation is a non-profit that creates and aggregates high quality curated Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) content. Choose from thousands of free, standards-aligned STEM teaching resources including text, audio, and video files. Download files as PDFs, or use the Read the Web tool in Kurzweil 3000-firefly.
  5. AccessText
    Help college students with disabilities succeed by getting their textbooks in a digital,  format. Basic subscriptions are free.
  6. Bookshare
    Digital books and periodicals for individuals and organization that serve individuals with documented visual impairments, learning disabilities or physical disabilities. Offers over 200,000 titles for qualified students.

Register now for a free webinar Wednesday, February 26th to learn how to open files directly into firefly, in addition to other tricks for simplifying your day.

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Giving Access to Read for Informational Text

Are your students struggling with informational text?

Common Core Informational TextWe recently held a webinar to demonstrate how to read for informational text (non-fiction), one of the anchor standards in the Common Core State Standards.

Reading for informational text requires students to be able to read, comprehend what they read, demonstrate their comprehension, and overcome learning and language barriers. This can be a challenge for students who struggle. Kurzweil 3000-firefly can help.

How does Kurzweil 3000-firefly provide access to informational text?

  • Reading to understand complex text
  • The ability to grasp unfamiliar words and phrases
  • The interaction with text to improve comprehension and retention
  • The extraction of information to demonstrate comprehension

Which tools within Kurzweil 3000-firefly can be used to provide access to informational text?

  • Text to speech in support of close reading, especially for students with print-based disabilities
  • Read the web to support text complexity
  • Reference tools to understand complex text, and improve academic vocabulary and word meaning
  • Translation to give English language learners the ability to understand what they’re reading in their native language
  • Highlighters and note-taking functionality to interact with text and to demonstrate comprehension

Each of these tools (and more) were demonstrated during our webinar. Listen to the webinar now. Or visit our web site to learn more about how Kurzweil 3000-firefly gives access to the Common Core.

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I Have Been Using Kurzweil Since the 5th Grade


Using text-to-speech and assistive technologies, such as Kurzweil 3000-firefly has been a “game-changer” for me. As a student with dyslexia it is the difference between success and failure, self-confidence and frustration. This year, I will be graduating from high school and I can say, without hesitation, that without assistive technology I wouldn’t be able to take the classes I want because I’d never be able to keep up with the reading or writing. With it I am able to take challenging honors and AP classes.

Why is Assistive Technology Important?

Assistive technology means being able to focus on my strengths and abilities rather than having to worry about my disability. Without using technology, I struggle to express my thoughts in writing. I have to continually rewrite and rephrase what I want to say until I can find words I know how to spell. By contrast, with assistive technology, I can focus on what I want to say. I no longer have to omit particular words or leave out whole sentences because I can’t spell the words I want to use. I just use spell check, and speech-to-text technology to make sure I’ve chosen the right word.

I Have Become a Better Student with Assistive Technology

Using text-to-speech and audio technologies, such as Kurzweil 3000-firefly, I have complete access to just about anything I want to read, whether it is for school or pleasure, and can actually understand what I am reading. Kurzweil 3000-firefly and other technologies decipher the words for me so I can focus on the content. Before I started using text-to-speech I would miss out on interesting text all the time. Instead of reading chapters in my books or interesting stories in the morning paper, I would look at the pictures and guess at words I didn’t know. This would result in misreading and missing out on lots of interesting information. In school I would struggle through reading assignments and not really understand what I had just read. It was frustrating because I knew that if someone else read it to me, or I had access to assistive technology, I could understand it.
With technology being very common in most classrooms, I never feel self-conscious about pulling out my laptop or iPad in class. The great thing about the iPad is that there are so many assistive apps and accessibility features that I’m able to have equal access all the time, not just when I’m at my computer.

Assistive Technology Gives Me More Free Time

Instead of wasting time stumbling through words and rewording sentences, I read and write much more quickly. Then, I can use the time I save to do other things like writing my assistive technology blog, playing basketball, or going to the movies.

I’m sure Kurzweil 3000-firefly and other assistive technologies will remain an important tool for me in college and beyond.


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Be Sure to Say Hello at ATIA: Booth #515


It is that time of the year again and we are getting ready to meet with you at ATIA. We are all excited to meet with some of our old friends, meet new ones, continue to collaborate with you and expand our knowledge.

We must say that with the frigid cold weather up here in Boston, Orlando, FL is more welcoming than ever…

Have you seen Kurzweil 3000-firefly’s latest features?

K3000ff-easy-button Yes, using firefly you can now open any file, from any computer, with the click of a button!

Visit us at booth #515 at ATIA next week to see this feature live and learn about Kurzweil 3000-firefly’s latest features for reading, writing, and studying —including:

  • Enhancements to Usage Reporting; including new graphical, detailed data, ad hoc reporting capabilities and monitoring time spent in Kurzweil 3000-firefly.
  • Creating Vocabulary Study Guides
  • Newly added OpenDyslexic font
  • Kurzweil 3000-firefly’s new open a file from your computer.

Be sure to take time out of your busy schedule to join us at one the following sessions at ATIA:

Thur, Jan 30th – 8:00-9:00 AM – Bonaire 8
Data, Schmata…Why & How Does Reporting Help Learning?
Presented by Elisa Wern, Lacy Redd, and Teri Jones

Thur, Jan 30th – 9:20-10:20 AM – Boca I Room
Digital Access to the Common Core
Presented by Suzanne Feit

Fri, Jan 31st – 9:20-10:20 AM – Bonaire 1 Room
Suite Bytes: UDL and Assistive Technology for Inclusion
Presented by Linda Laverty

Fri, Jan 31st – 1:45-2:05 PM – Product Demo Center Room
Alternate Assessment Meets the Common Core
Presented by Suzanne Feit

Sat, Feb 1st – 8:00-9:00 AM – Antigua 2 Room
Imagine Yourself Adapting Curriculum: Learning to Cut & Paste
Presented by Fio Quinn

Sat, Feb 1st – 9:20-10:20 AM – Antigua 2 Room
FAA-La-La: Preparing for the State Alternate Assessment
Presented by Linda Laverty

Meet the Presenters:

Suzanne Feit is a consultant and training specialist with in-depth knowledge of assistive technology of software and hardware. For the past 35 years, she has been a part of district wide implementations of technology for students with special needs, providing support for educators, working with students from pre-school through the university level. Suzanne is an expert at implementing solutions for people with disabilities ranging from physical challenges, learning disabilities as well as significant cognitive challenges. Suzanne specializes in training the trainers and promoting effective implementation of the right tools to promote learning and independence for all students. She is the author of technology focused materials for the advancement of language arts, math and science with special needs audiences.

Fiorella (Fio) Quinn has an extensive background in special education, assistive technology, and music. Her expertise comes from more than 23 years in the educational field (both in Italy and the United States) as a teacher, trainer, international presenter, and developer of learning resources. Fio collaborates with numerous companies and leaders in the field. She has co-authored several collections of ready-made activities for different software and apps in both English and Italian. Fio is also an important contributor to the Classroom Suite Activity Exchange.

Elisa Wern has degrees in Occupational Therapy and Special Education and has presented at a variety of state and national conferences including regional
trainings, CEC, and ATIA. She is currently the Local Assistive Technology Specialist for Alachua County Schools where she coordinates AT services for the district.

Lacy Redd has been Principal at Newberry Elementary for 12 years. She holds a Master’s degree in Education and a Specialist Degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Florida. Her school has been named a SWIFT school and serves as a model for high performing fully inclusive schools. NES partners with the University of Florida as a training site for future educators. Mrs. Redd has presented at educational conferences across the country and enjoys sharing her schools success story.

Teri Jones has been working in special education for 29 years. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Special Education and a Master’s degree with a concentration in physical disabilities and multiple handicaps. She has provided assistive technology supports for her students for at least 20 years. Teri currently works as an Exceptional Student Education co-teacher at Newberry Elementary School, in Newberry, Florida.

Linda Laverty recently retired from the Palm Beach County School System where for over a decade she served in the capacity as Instructional Technology Specialist for the Dept. of Exceptional Student Education. Prior to that, Linda implemented the first assistive technology lab in Palm Beach County. She has presented at Closing the Gap, FETC, ATIA, and both state and national CEC Conferences. Linda has been instrumental in training hundreds of teachers on using and implementing curriculum designed to meet the needs of students with significant disabilities through the use of Classroom Suite. She has administered both the State Assessment for students on regular and special diploma tracks and has devoted considerable time in designing activities in Classroom Suite that will assist teachers in preparing their students for this important state assessment.

Don’t wait until after the conference, sign up for webinars in February now!

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