Adaptive technologies for learning and work environments

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  • Book Reviews

    Online Retrieval: A Dialogue of Theory and Practice. Geral- dene Walker and Joseph Janes. Englewood, CO: Libraries Un- limited, Inc.; 1993: 221 pp. Price: $32.50 (pbk.). (ISBN l- 56308-157-l.)

    Courses in electronic database searching form an integral part of most curricula at schools of library and information sci- ence, and faculty members who teach these courses are often searching for the best text to use. A number of different schools have been using the text by Stephen Harter Online Information Retrieval: Concepts, Principles, and Techniques, published in 1986. The new book by Geraldene Walker and Joseph Janes will probably give the Hatter book a run for its money in the textbook stakes.

    First, its newer and more up-to-date in terms of whats hap- pening in information retrieval and online searching, listing ex- amples of recent literature (although I would have liked to have seen more references) and discussing new technological devel- opments such as networks and the Internet, and tools such as Gopher and Archie. Its also laid out with interesting variations in typesetting, pictures, diagrams, examples of online search logs, and interspersed chatty comments by the authors in rec- tangular boxes, which helps break up the format and make it more readable.

    From a broad overview of online searching, the authors trace the conceptual and technical history of online systems and their advantages. Following chapters discuss telecommu- nications, databases, search protocols, command languages, search strategies, controlled vocabulary, and free-text searching and thesauri. Later chapters discuss the search interview, multiple file searching, citation searching, full-text files, search evaluation, and management issues.

    The book, as the authors say, is designed to assist the begin- ning searcher and by searcher I think they mean search inter- mediary, as I dont think the book is meant to be used by end- users. To help assess the usefulness of the book for the begin- ning searcher, a number of the following review comments were gleaned from a discussion with a couple of University of North Texas students from the School of Library and Informa- tion Sciences, who had completed the database searching class and were working as reference librarians.

    One of the major omissions in terms of usefulness for a be- ginning searcher is the lack of a glossary, although some terms are defined in the text. Also, one ofthe problems with the book is the focus on online searching rather than on database search- ing, which would include online and CD-ROM searching. Most beginning searchers would generally be accessing CD- ROM databases more frequently than online databases. The books usefulness would also have increased with a guidance section for beginning searchers on how to assist end-users in- teracting with online or CD-ROM databases.

    Another problem from the point of view of the books use- fulness for training beginning searchers is the shortness of the

    0 1994 John Wiley&Sons, Inc.

    section on the search interview and the verbal conduct of a da- tabase search where the user is present. The authors dont pro- vide any examples of user-searcher dialogue and the section entitled The Search Interview is very thin. This may be be- cause the publisher, Libraries Unlimited, has recently released another book, in the same Database Searching Series, by Bruce Schuman, entitled Cases in Online Search Strategy. The Schu- man book provides fictitious case examples of search in- terviews and online search strategies (I dont know why real examples of search interviews were not used). I presume the publisher anticipates that students will utilize the two books in tandem.

    The format and chapter structure is good, but students would have preferred chapter 10, Multiple File Searching and chapter 11, Searching Other Kinds of Databases: Refer- ence, Directory, Full Text, Citation, placed after the other da- tabase chapter (chapter 4), Database Construction and be- fore chapter 5, Search Techniques. It seems more logical to have all this discussion of different databases and searching multiple databases at the beginning of the process.

    Overall, the book is a good text for online searching classes if the reader uses it in conjunction with other materials, al- though it doesnt have the practice exercises Harter provides in his text. Its usefulness will be further tested as a required text for my next database searching class.

    Amanda Spink School of Library and Information Sciences University of North Texas P.O. Box 13796 Denton. TX 76203

    References

    Harter, S. P. (1986). Online information retrieval: Concepts, principles, and techniques. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

    Schuman, B. A. (1993). Cases in online search strategy. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.

    Adaptive Technologies for Learning and Work Environments. Joseph J. Lazzaro. Chicago: American Library Association; 1993: 251 pp. Price: $35.00. (ISBN 0-8389-0615-X.)

    Because of the wonders of adaptive technology, my life has been changed forever. Thanks to the talking computer, I have been able to adapt to my new life and to find a place of worth in the community, which is more than anyone can ask. I hope this book will help others open new doors just as the talking computer opened vast horizons for me.

    With this quote from the preface, the author, Joseph Laz-

    JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR INFORMATION SCIENCE. 45(8):565-566, 1994 CCC 0002-8231/94/080565-02

  • zaro, leaves no question as to the personal and social signifi- cance of the subject he has undertaken: the transformative po- tential of adaptive computing technologies in the daily lives of people with disabilities. The recent passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act has heightened public awareness of the need for equal access to educational and employment opportu- nities for people with disabilities. Less known is just what can be done to bring about this transformation. Adaptive Technol- ogiesfor Learning and Work Environments addresses a key part ofthe solution. offering a practical and comprehensive guide to computer-based adaptive technologies. The reader new to this subject will find ample information to get started, whether as an employer or educator of individuals with disabilities, a pro- vider of public services-including libraries, or a person with a disability looking to enhance their educational and employ- ment prospects. For those with experience in this area, the book is a useful reference to important resource organizations, pub- lications, funding strategies, and much more.

    Mr. Lazzaro, himself blind, was introduced to the talking computer (a computer with a voice synthesizer and screen reading software that allows the user to read any portion of the computer display and to hear keystrokes as they are typed) while in college. This adaptive technology enabled him to finish college, writing papers without assistance. He currently directs the Adaptive Technology Program at the Massachusetts Com- mission for the Blind. This firsthand experience infuses the book with credibility and an engaging immediacy.

    Mr. Lazzaro defines adaptive technology as any device that allows an individual to work or gain access to information in- dependently. The adaptive technologies focused upon in this book consist of those that are compatible with personal com- puters and those that are used for information access (p. xiii). The first chapter provides an overview of the barriers to com- puter and information access faced by people with disabilities, and of the adaptive technologies designed to overcome these barriers. The second chapter is a general introduction to the personal computer for the novice. The next three chapters are devoted to adaptive technologies for people with vision impair- ments, hearing impairments, and motor or speech impair- ments. Each ofthese three chapters contains an extensive list of adaptive technology vendors with contact information. (The author does not discuss applications for people with disabilities that can impair a persons ability to process information [p. xiii]. This is unfortunate as many of the technologies discussed here-voice synthesis, optical character recognition, word pre- diction, etc.-can be of tremendous benefit to people with learning disabilities, acquired brain injury, and other informa- tion processing-related disabilities). Chapter 6 introduces the reader to the world of computer networks, where the addition of adaptive technology brings about equal access to informa- tion. Chapter 7s discussion of rehabilitation engineering. train-

    ing, and technical support will help employers and employees become educated consumers when looking for worksite accom- modations. The final chapter on funding adaptive technology is a valuable guide to the ins-and-outs of government and private funding sources. The appendix contains a wealth of resource information on organizations, conferences, journals, and state technology assistance programs.

    Two minor points could be clarified in future editions. First, is the statement that Word-prediction software, also called ab- breviation-expansion software, can speed up the data-entry process . . (p. 134). These are really two distinct types of adaptive software. The former provides a list of word options to select from based on the first few keystrokes typed, whereas the later expands a pre-established abbreviation into one full word or phrase.

    Second, in discussing network access, Mr. Lazzaro makes an important point that adaptive equipment (hardware) is al- ways added to the individual workstations, never the (network) file server itself (p. 160). However. the reader might not realize from this statement that much adaptive software can be run from a network file server (with the proper software license), enabling access from any individual workstation on the net- work.

    The book contains many useful examples of help to anyone starting out, such as how to make a voice synthesizers screen reading software work with a typical word processing program. Mr. Lazzaro places signposts throughout the text to warn the reader of common problems to be anticipated, including such inevitable rites of passage as the discovery of (interrupt and memory address) conflicts when trying to combine certain adaptive technology components with standard computer hardware and software. The book is very well designed, with clear type and layout, making it an easy read for quick refer- ence, or for more detailed study.

    Mr. Lazzaros book appears at a crucial juncture in civil rights history, as rising awareness and expectations, brought on in large measure by the passage of the Americans With Dis- abilities Act, encounter the practical challenges of the ADAs mandate to provide equal access in the workplace, school, and public facilities. For consumers, employers, and any service or- ganizations looking for accommodations to meet these chal- lenges, Adaptive Technologies for Learning and Work Environ- ments is a most welcome and timely resource.

    Daniel Hilton-Chalfen UCLA Disabilities and Computing Program Ofice of Academic Computing Microcomputer Support Ofice, 5628 MSA University of California, Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA 90024- 155 7

    566 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR INFORMATION SCIENCE-September 1994

    Online Retrieval: A Dialogue of Theory and Practice.References

    Adaptive Technologies for Learning and Work Environments.

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