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Making books accessible to all kids

This project creates an easily accessible digital library of animated books, empowering all children to independently explore reading.

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Think of it as video game console, except it plays books that have been turned into movies. The Raspberry Pi w/ KODI, hard drive, and controller are all housed in a $5 dollar Ikea box. This box is not connected to the internet, so all books were put on a small hard drive. I drilled holes for the buttons and used zip ties to attach everything. I heavily modified KODI to make it kid proof. It is cheap and easy to build and can connect to any HDMI TV or monitor. I found hundreds of Caldecott awarded books made into movies and converted them into mp4s. Kids can preview or review over 300 books that we will be reading in class during the year. This console makes hundreds of books accessible to kids with a wide variety of learning disabilities. Going forward, I'd like to try to make this project cheaper and smaller by installing a Pi Zero into a NES controller.

I've been working on this project for 16 years--It started as a listening center for my kindergarten class. I've been on a quest to create a crash proof easy to use digital library that kids with special needs can access. Every year I update it.

I started with headphones and audio tapes, but found the audio tapes fell apart quickly. Here is a link to an early listening center:

Old listening center

I moved on to DVD's, but found kindergarten students destroyed DVD's pretty quickly, so I began converting the DVD's into mp4 format. Because my library was so large, kids had a hard time navigating it and and a mouse input led to a lot of crashes, so I began developing peripheral input devices that kids could use. Input devices for students with special needs should be crash proof--this input device should be able to help limit where users can go in an operating system, it should also be easy to use by a students with a variety of fine and gross motor skill needs.

One current device in my classroom has been in use in my kindergarten classroom for one month. It's got giant buttons that are easy for all students to use. It's still not perfect. The thumbnails load very slowly and it has crashed once. It has a Raspberry Pi 1 at its heart. I use a Pro Trinket to connect the buttons. The library is stored on a 32 GB thumb drive. The operating system on the Pi is a heavily modified KODI, so kids can't get into things that crash the computer.

A second device that I've been working on uses an old i-mac computer, a USB NES controller, and a key mapper program to remap the controller. This system has not crashed at all. The i-mac is fast enough to quickly load thumbnails and responds to student input very quickly. Clearly the NES controller is the easiest and most reliable way for all students to use. But even an old i-mac is still too expensive for classroom use. I want to create a device that teacher/parents can use for around $20. See bellow

For my next project, I hope to make the input device much simpler/cheaper by using a Raspberry Zero installed in a NES controller connected to a TV. I'd like to control KODI through the raspberry's GPIO's. Editing the source code to listen/respond for button inputs from the NES controller. I think this design would be universal, cheap and easy enough for other kindergarten teachers to copy. All teachers have a TV in the classroom, so this device could easily be plugged in most classrooms around the world.

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  • Can I install thumbnails on the pi to speed things up?

    atomicthomas10/06/2016 at 21:53 0 comments

    I've seen a few posts that talk about installing thumbnails onto a different part of the pi. This would could speed the raspberry pi zero enough to make it a viable computer to use for this project.

  • How to connect the controller to the pi

    atomicthomas10/06/2016 at 21:49 0 comments

    I am thinking about creating a PCB to put into the controller. I need a way to connect the controller to the adafruit trinket. Once connected, the trinket would convert button pushes into usb signals that the pi could understand. I could go with conductive ink, but I think I might just hack the controller's PCB.

  • I-mac version of project (Easiest and most stable build so far)

    atomicthomas10/06/2016 at 11:04 0 comments

    How to build an i-mac version of listening center

    Materials:

    i-mac (at least core duo)-$200

    JoystickMapper- $14 (This app is used to reconfigure controller.

    Generic USB controller from Amazon.com - $7

    1. Upload videos to i-tunes.

    2. Download Joystickmapper app.

    3. Plug in controller.

    4. Run Joystickmapper and setup controller for i-tunes.

    A. Click Add a new preset.

    B. Plug in controller and type name of new preset.

    C. Configure the controller as follows:

    D. Joystickmapper needs to be running to work and the specific preset needs to be checked.

    E. Train kids to use controller

  • I have too many ways to make this project work!

    atomicthomas10/06/2016 at 01:54 0 comments

    Problems:

    A: USB NES controller is not detected by KODI.

    Kodi Alpha 3 has a great controller component, so I installed it into my pi. The controller modifier does not work very well. My pi only detects the down button of my controller. I'd like this solution the most because it is the cheapest and easiest! I'll fool around with it a little more, but if the software does not work, I'll have to figure out a hardware solution. Possible solutions follow:

    1. Wire the controller to an adafruit trinket and connect the trinket to the pi.

    2. Wire the conrolle to the pi's GPIO's and hack KODI to see it.

    B: The raspberry zero is too slow for this project. I need to find a way to get the thumbnails to load faster. I might need to use a faster pi...

    C: Thumbnails are not transferring over from i-mac. My thumbnails are not great, so I need a way to pull the thumbnails off my mac and then put them some place the pi can see.

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  • 1
    Step 1

    Project Steps

    1. Rationale
    2. Gathering Media
    3. Modifying Media
    4. Set up SD Card
    5. Set up KODI
    6. Set up Pro Trinket
    7. Drilling Project Box
    8. Plugging Things in
  • 2
    Step 2

    Rationale

    Making books accessible to kids is important for many different reasons. Kids need tons of exposure to great books. Even in video format, great books demonstrate lots of important things: plot, character development and setting. Giving kids choice is a powerful way to get kids to love reading! I read a lot of books to my students and I don't have time to revisit all the books. This reading console allows kids watch the books that I have already read as well as preview books that I am going to read. When kids read books again, they enhance their understanding of how books work.

    In my 16 years of teaching, I have found that I can teach reading to almost any child. Sadly, many kids that learn to read are aliterate: able to read but uninterested in doing so. Great books are part of the solution, but exposure to different types of books and allowing students to choose what they read is equally important. This project turns books into a video game console that enables kids to choose what they want to read and when, regardless of any physical or educational handicap. This console could help millions of kids find a love of reading.

  • 3
    Step 3

    Gathering Media

    The majority of the books are from Scholastic books. I've bought every book DVD that Scholastic has sold. Amazon has dozens of DVD's with 100's of animated books. Take a look here:

    100 Storybook Classics

    Youtube also has a ton of books. Take a look at this one:

    Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

    You can also record your own reading. Here is a book I wrote and animated:

    There are also great commercials for books. Take a look at this one for I Really Like Slop! by Mo Willems.

    I Really Like Slop!

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