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Where do I stand academically? Where and what next? And the madness of being.

Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE) with the Open University, UK (OU)

H800: Technology-enhanced learning: practices and debates

H807: Innovations in eLearning – Learning outcomes

H810: Accessible online learning: supporting disabled students

B822: Creativity, Innovation and Change

H808: The e-learning professional

This completes the Masters Degree. I graduate on Saturday 27th April 2013

Currently (March 2013) I am taking H809 as a bridge towards doctoral research or professional consultancy. Complete in June 2013.

H809 Practice-based research in educational technology

I joined the #H817open MOOC for one component of this module. I will register for 2014

H817: Openness and innovation in e-learning.

I am applying to undertake doctoral research in education – using learning technologies.
 
H809 will help prepare for applications starting in January 2014 for an October 2014 start. Most are now a 4 year programme, with a Masters in research to begin. WebSciences at University of Southampton is an interesting option – I attended an Open Day in January.
Too many active interests was a stated issue on childhood school reports. Nothing’s changed.
 
I am looking at an MA in History with the University of Birmingham which would give me the opportunity study the First World War. (I have written extensively about this through my late grandfather’s memoire ‘That’s Nothing Compared to Passchandeale’)
I attended the School of Communication Arts, London. A full-time programme in copywriting, art direction and design and have worked in the ‘creative’ and ‘communications’ industries all of my career.
And ‘EAVE’ (European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs)
My first degree is in Geography.
My dissertation was on demographics. I love maps. Perhaps I should try to match maps, e-learning and the First World War. Animated it all and add some interviews and n ‘drama reconstruction’.
See what happens when you let something fester and wake up in the middle of the night.
 
Neuroscience and long term memory are fascinating too.
I need my life over. I need to split into three and start again. I need a coffee and a long walk on the South Downs. (I need to go back to bed)
And then there’s Fine Art.
 
And Creative Writing. And cooking. And the garden. There’s teaching, and moderating … and blogging. There’s movies. And sailing and swimming coaching. There’s family and friend … ah. Friend? I knew there was something missing in all of the above.
Scrap the lot and have a belated 50th birthday to celebrate 20 years of marriage, parenthood and the madness of being. Then sign up to crew in the Round the World Yacht Race.
There’s a reason why I call this blog ‘mind bursts’.
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Why skiing is my metphor for life and learning

Fig.1.   Mont Turia from the summit of Aiguille Rouge, Les Arcs at 3250m

On the last day, on the last run of my first week’s skiing I broke my leg rather badly. I was 13. I was in hospital for a week. In a wheelchair for two months and had the leg re-broken as it wasn’t setting properly. I spent six months at home. Idiot. But most 13 year old boys are.

I missed the next season.

For the following 20 years skiing mattered – a gap year working in the Alps (Val D’Isere in the Sofitel Hotel working 13 hours a day 7 days a week), a decade later researching a TV documentary and book  (Oxford Scientific Films, Skieasy Ski Guides), falling in love with a fellow skiing enthusiast (we’ve been married 20 years), a honeymoon on the slopes and ten years later, on the slopes with a 4 and 6 year old, then again when they were 10 and 12. 

I miss it.

(See above – the last week of the season, Tignes. The only people on the slopes are the ‘seasoniers’ who have worked since December. It is like being on the beach. A stream that flows above Val Claret melts and various ponds form. We ski it.)

Early in the afternoon I’d asked my girlfriend if she’d marry me. I was feeling cock-a-hoop.

We’ve been back twice in the last decade. There have been other priorities. I’ll be taking my 14 year old son out later this month or in April. Is that wise? At this age teenagers really are prone to take risks and can lack the physique.

Reasons to celebrate and look forwards

37 months to the day after starting the Masters in Open & Distance Education (MAODE) I got the final result, for H810: Accessibility in Open Learning – supporting students with disabilities, today. 84.

It has been so worth it and such a better, engaging, effective, experience than my undergraduate degree in a traditional university some decades ago. I feel as if I have earned it for a start. I have survived disasters rather than succumbed to them.

I am a reading, thinking, writing machine.

I feel like someone who has come to skiing late in life and has caught the bug. My mother started skinning in her mid 40s … and in her 50th year (unencumbered by her husband who was with wife three by then) sold the house and did a belated ‘gap year’ working a season in the Alps. The equivalent for me has to be the intellectual challenge of doctoral research.

More reading, thinking and writing – with research and teaching too I hope.

Onwards.

Tutor Marked Assignment One  (TMA01) for H809 (Practice-based research in educational technology) is due on Monday.

Why more?

‘Practice-based research in educational technology’, to use skiing as a metaphor, is like learning to ski ‘off-piste’. Apt, as the tracks I make are ones I have planned, rather than keeping to the groomed, signed and patrolled ‘safety’ of the regular runs.

And my reward?

Fig. 2. Mont Blanc – From the Ski Resort of La Plagne,  Above Montchavin. Les Arc on the right . The road to Val d’Isere clinging to the mountain in the middle distance Bourg St. Maurice in the bottom of the Valley

Skiing en famille.

We’ve not been out for five years so it should be a treat. It has to be on a shoestring, so short of hitching to Bulgaria can anyone recommend ways to keep the cost down?!!

 

To teach is to nurture and the best metaphor for the mind is to see it as a garden

Fig. 1. My own vision of education as nurturing – like growing plants in a garden

‘Her metaphor for the brain is that of a garden, that’s full of the most interesting,  different things that have to be constantly cultivated and constantly checked‘.  This was Kirsty Young  introducing her guest, Professor Uta Frith. (01:24 into the transmission, BBC Radio 4 2013)

Professor Uta Frith of University College London was on Desert Island Discs for the second time this week  – this time round I paid close attention. I then went to the BBC website and took notes.

Having recently completed the Open University postgraduate module H810 Accessible Online Learning and of course interested in education, this offers insights on what studying autism and dyslexia tells us about the human mind.

There’s more in another BBC broadcast – Uta Frith interviewed for the BBC’s Life Scientific – Broadcast 6 Dec 2011 accessed 1st March 2013 – and available, by the way,  until January 2099 should you not be able to find time and want your dyslexic grandchildren to listen.

The difference between someone who is autistic and the rest of us is how we each of us see the world.

‘We learn by taking different perspectives – something about ourselves which we otherwise would have never known’. Uta Frith (2013)

‘Take what’s given to you and make the best of it, but of course the cultivation is key to all of these things, so culture in our lives, learning from other people … these are the really, really important things’. Uta Frith (2013)

We may all have some of this in us.

Genetic factors matter.

‘How we are raised is a myth. It is not right. It has been so very harmful. It is a illusion to think that doing the right things, for example that you get from books, that you can change things.’ Uta Frith (2013)

Then from BBC’s Life Scientific

‘A passionate advocate of neuroscience and how its findings can be used in the classroom to improve learning. She hopes that eventually neuroscience will inform education in the same way that anatomy informs medicine’. (01:35 in, BBC 2013)

Uta Firth wants knowledge of the brain to inform education the way knowledge of the body informs medicine.

Professor Uta Frith is best known for her research on autism spectrum disorders. Her book, Autism, Explaining the Enigma (1989) has been translated into many languages. She was one of the initiators of the study of Asperger’s Syndrome in the UK and her work on reading development, spelling and dyslexia has been highly influential.

Throughout her career she has been developing a neuro-cognitive approach to developmental disorders.

In particular, she has investigated specific cognitive processes and their failure in autism and dyslexia. Her aim is to discover the underlying cognitive causes of these disorders and to link them to behavioural symptoms as well as to brain systems. She aims to make this research relevant to the education of people with development disorders and to contribute to a better quality of their everyday life.

The above profile form the UCL pages

Further Reading/Viewing

Uta Frith on YouTube on early years, then on dyslexia

Frith, U (1989/2003) Autism – explaining the enigma (second edition)

Frith, U (2008) Autism – a very short introduction

REFERENCE

Uta Frith, Desert Island Discs, BBC Radio 4, Transmission accessed 1st March 2013

Uta Frith, The Life Scientific, BBC Radio 4, from BBC website as a podcast (accessed 1st March 2013

University College London, Staff. Website (accessed 1st March 2013)

 

Exploring students’ understanding of how blogs and blogging can support distance learning in Higher Education

Fig.1. Why Blog?

If anything has been written on blogging I want to read it. On 27th September 1999 I posted to my first blog – it was on blogging and new media. We’re now in the phase of transition that took the printed book after the Gutenberg Press some 400 years. The clunky blog of 1999 barely compares the variety and scope of what we still call a blog today.

This rightly questions when and where blogging should be an endeavour to use with students. 

Exploring students’ understanding of how blogs and blogging can support distance learning in Higher Education (2007) Kerawalla, Minocha, Conole, Kirkup, Schencks and Sclater.

Based on this research blogging is very clearly NOT of interest to the majority of students, NOR is it likely to be of value to them for collaborative learning. There may be value in blogging for your own sake – aggregating content in one place.

(Research on using blogging with students of Public Relations gives a far more favourable response … I would suspect that this would apply to courses on journalism and creative writing i.e. use the medium that is appropriate for those on specific courses).

This is a study of OU students.

A more promising, and appropriate study I am looking at concerns PR students who a) need to develop their writing skills b) need to understand what blogging is all about.

The greatest value I have got from this self-inflicted exercise is to deconstruct the research that was undertaken should I wish to undertake research of this ilk myself. Can I fault the research?

What do you think?

Problem Does blogging support student in their learning or not?
Are educators perceptions of the positive uses of blogging for learning borne out by the perceptions of and uses of blogging by students?
Questions QQ Designed to ascertain their level of experience of blogs and to gather their opinions about how blogs (and other tools) could support their learning.

The research questions we sought to answer were as follows:

1) What degree of blogging experience do students have?
2) Do students want to have blogging as part of their course?
3) In what ways do students think blogging is (not) a useful learning tool?
4) Is there a disparity between what course designers think blogging is useful for, or would like blogging to be used for, and students’ opinions of usefulness?

Setting Online students at the OU
Survey of 795 student and course designers
Authors ‘Enthusiastic’ OU IETT Academics
Previous research O’Reilly 2005, Sade 2007, Weller 2007 – literature search, previous research …
Concepts/theories
Methods Qualitative – explorative/iterative rather than set

All questions required students to select their response by clicking on a radio button, (e.g. ‘yes’ or ‘no’, or Likert scales such as ‘not at all’, ‘slightly’, ‘in-between/no opinion’, fairly’, or ‘very much’). (Kerawalla et al. p. 6. 2007) + an open question for expanded thoughts.

Interviews with course designers – Interview questions were designed to address the following areas: the rationale for introducing blogs, whether blog content would be assessed, whether blogging was compulsory, uptake levels and whether there were any plans to evaluate the success of blogging activities.

– extract, collate and compare.

Quantitative

Analysis – The survey generated both quantitative and qualitative data.

SPSS Analysis
Manual coding of responses
Coding of responses

Findings
  • Affordances of blogs not taken up, support meaning making, (Fiedler, 2003)
  • reduce sense of isolation (Dickey 2004).
  • knowledge communities (eg Oravec 2003).

i.e. Not everything they’re cracked up to be.

Krause (2004) reports haphazard contributions to blogs by his students, minimal communication between them, and found that posts demonstrated poor quality reflection upon the course materials.

Williams and Jacobs (2004) introduced blogs to MBA students and although he reports overall success, he encountered problems with poor compliance as, for example 33% of the students thought they had nothing valuable to say in their blog.

Homik and Melis (2006) report only minimal compliance to meet assessment requirements and that students stopped blogging at the end of their course. Other issues include:

  • students plagiarizing from each others’ blogs
  • the need for students to have developed skills in choosing which hyperlinks to include in their blog (e.g. Oravec, 2003)
  • an ability to manage the tension between publishing private thoughts in a public space (Mortensen and Walker, 2002).

It appears that the ideals of educators can be difficult to implement in practice. (Kerawalla et al. p. 5. 2007)

Paradigms A cultural psychological approach to our research that proposes that learning is a social activity that is situated and mediated by tools that fundamentally shape the nature of that activity (e.g. Cole, 1996, Wertsch, 1991 and Vygotsky, 1979).
Limitations Expectations about sharing, enthusiasm for the genre …definition of blog (see e-portfolio and wiki), journalism …. hard to define (Boyd, 2006).

They mean different things to different people. Uses to collate resources (portfolio) (Huann, John and Yuen, 2005) , share materials and opinions .. (Williams and Jacobs, 2004).

Implications Guidelines, informs design
  • 53.3% of students had read a blog
  • only 8% of students had their own blog
  • 17.3% had commented on other people’s blogs
  • 23% of students thought that the commenting feature on blogs is ‘slightly’ or ‘not at all’ useful,
  • 42% had ‘no opinion’
  • 35% thought that commenting is ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ useful.
  • only 18% said that they thought blogs would be ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ useful.
  • of those who blog only 205 of these thought blogs would be ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ useful.

Students were asked ‘how much would you like to use a blog provided by the OU as part of your studies?’

35%  ‘not at all’
13% said ‘slightly’
34% had ‘no opinion’,
12% said ‘fairly’
6% responded ‘very much’

Students were asked ‘how much would you like to use a blog provided by the OU for personal use?’.

52.6% said ‘not at all’
8.7% said ‘slightly’
28.3% had ‘no opinion’
8% said ‘fairly’
2.7% responded ‘very much’.

Chi-square analyses

Examination of the observed and expected frequencies for this data suggests that in both cases, there is a relationship between not seeing a role for blogs and not wanting greater use of conferencing.
Supporting findings that when given a choice between classroom based learning or e-learning those who have a choice are equally satisfied by what they get.

All of the positive responses refer to the students’ own (potential) study blog. (Kerawalla et al. p. 7 2007) Others use their blog as a repository. Few saw the benefits of linking or using a blog to for reflection and developing ideas.

Responses to the question ‘would you like a blog provided by the OU to support your studies?’ reveal that there is a profound lack of enthusiasm (from 82% of the sample) for blogging as part of courses.

Later this year, we plan to explore PhD blogs. This variety and combination of methods will enable us to gather different perspectives and to triangulate our findings. (Kerawalla et al. p. 7 2007)

REFERENCE

Cole, M. (1996) Cultural Psychology. Camb. Mass: The Belnap Press of Harvard University Press.

Kerawalla, Lucinda; Minocha, Shailey; Conole, Grainne; Kirkup, Gill; Schencks, Mat and Sclater, Niall (2007). Exploring students’ understanding of how blogs and blogging can support distance learning in Higher Education. In: ALT-C 2007: Beyond Control: Association of Learning Technologies Conference, 4-6 September 2007, Nottingham, UK.

Vygotsky, (1979) Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. M. Cole M, V. John-Steiner, S. Scribner and E. Souberman (eds and trans). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wertsch, J (1991) A sociocultural approach to socially shared cognition. In L.Resnick, J. Levine and S. Teasley (eds), Perspectives on Socially Shared Cognition, Washington: American Psychological Association.

Things I wished I’d known when I started the MAODE three years ago (I’ve finished, I’m doing H809 as CPD – already!)

A thorough introduction to the platform and tools as a common 16 hours to all modules.

An afternoon, face-to-face tutorial? Through OU Students regionally if not with your tutor. Perhaps through Alumni support groups in Google Hang outs or some such?

This may sound like anathema to the online, distance learning purists, but I wonder if the OU will have to ‘turn itself inside out’ and have undergrads on campus – not just postgrad doctoral students. As ‘traditional’ universities offer everything the OU and a handful of other distance learning specialists around the world used to have as ‘unique selling points’ they will be able to offer it all: e-learning support for resident students, e-learning for distance learners and blended learning for everyone in between.

Turn the Michael Young building into the OU’s first Hall of residence.

If I go into academia I will want to teach even if my ‘job’ is research. I can think of no better way, intellectually, to master (literally) my art and subject than by supporting others. Knowing some star ‘educators’ in other institutions I wonder if tutors would gain also from greater contact. The weekly tutorial (at a price) is feasible through Google Hangouts.

I digress:

H809, understandably is a module to take once you have several modules under your belt, however, H809 light, say these first couple of weeks, might be an invaluable, even open and free ‘stand alone’. I would have scrutinised more closely, fewer papers had I known what I know now.

These first few weeks has been applied learning – using the OU Library not simply as an exercise. Invaluable.

(p.s. cats were fighting in the street. I got up to survey the aftermath and couldn’t get back to sleep. Why not catch up on H809 as a few postings from fellow students suggests I am getting a tad behind this week).

Don’t get behind. The ‘tick boxes’ on the VLE ‘ladder’ are a blunt instrument. Every exercise deserves a ‘tick box’ too, though I understand why the OU wouldn’t do this – it starts to smack of primary school. It really is the case (like exercise), that a a couple of hours every day is better than trying to do it all at the weekend, or worse, abandoning it for a week/10 days because catching up is a monster. If this happens seriously think about abandoning that week – keep up with everyone else first as learning with them is better than learning alone.

Isolation is a state of mind, or a behavioral issue. The sooner you learn to tip the contents of your mind out on your lap the better. Learning together is a joy.

Make time to get your head into gear in the first few weeks. If you have to give it more time than the course notes suggest put in the extra hours so that you ‘get it’ otherwise you will struggle all the way through. You can’t do much about is as an EMA approaches if you’re still asking ‘but ?’ about weeks 1-3.

There is no need to print anything off! Get an iPad and a Kindle. Get your digital literacy skills up to speed ASAP.

Write it all down. The default button in this OU Blog is private. Use it as a learning journal, portfolio, digital notebook, aide memoire.

Take the initiative. Meet online in week one. Buddy up, agree a time. Nothing beats meeting your fellow travellers. Google Hangouts work. The nuttiest one I remember was a ‘Pyjamma party’ – all above board and ‘propper’ but given the time differences some were in bed and woke up for it. I guess it requires the ‘hyper gregarious’ character in the group to do this.

Don’t get distracted:

Most don’t blog at all … it should fit in to the regular programme.

Contribute to student forums always, even use RSS feeds but get used to putting the next activity first otherwise you can expend too much of the week’s allocated hours discussing the first couple of activities. Enough is enough. Get the other activities out of the way then come back.

When reading we need a perspective of what has been and what is coming up.

Before you get stuck,  a  couple of definitions:

Parafoveal = dependent on parts of the retina external to the fovea. The fovea is a small rodless area of the retina that affords acute vision.

SACCADE  = that small rapid jerky movement of the eye  as it jumps from fixation on one point to another (as in reading) Merriam-Webster

What follows is about the use of word-accurate eye-tracking technology to help understand how we read – I find it most revealing in relation to Dyslexia.

During reading of English, information is effectively used from three to four letters to the left and up to 14–15 letters to the right of fixation (McConkie & Rayner, 1975, 1976).

If you’ve got an eBook if you don’t already, go for this kind of seting:

Reducing the window to thirteen characters increases the fixation duration by 30 percent, decreases the saccade length for forward saccades by 26 percent, and increases reading time by 60 percent, as compared to a window size of 100 character spaces. (McConkie & Rayner, 1975)

Parafoveal preview starts the identification process of a word before fixation.

If I understand what follows correctly it means that it is easy to read phrases and sentences as part of a body of text, than it is to read one word at a time in isolation.

We get a perspective of what has been and what is coming up.

Our results suggest that previewing word n2 can result in delayed parafoveal-on-foveal effects, which are lagging behind or spilling over into postboundary fixations on word n1. The present findings do not disconfirm the general hypothesis of serial word-processing during reading, but they strongly suggest that mislocated fixations are not sufficient to account for the complex dynamics of processing in the perceptual span during reading. (McConkie & Rayner, 1975)

In this article, research on the following topics are reviewed with respect to reading:

  • (a) the perceptual span (or span of effective vision),
  • (b) preview benefit,
  • (c) eye movement control, and
  • (d) models of eye movements. (Rayner, 2009 p. 1456).

This makes sense if you watch very closely as someone reads. I’ve not done this since I was a child, watching a parent or grandparent read. Children struggle when they plod as if from one stepping stone to another. I wonder if it would be better for the child to skim read and get a sense of the story rather than reading it word for word?

It is my contention that most of the time in such tasks, either (a) eye location (overt attention) and covert attention are overlapping and at the same location or (b) attention disengagement is a product of a saccade programme (wherein attention precedes the eyes to the next saccade target). (Rayner, 2009 p. 1458).

In reading, for example, the line of text that the reader is looking at can be divided into three regions: the foveal region (2 degrees in the centre of vision), the parafoveal region (extending from the foveal region to about 5 degrees on either side of fixation), and the peripheral region (everything beyond the parafoveal region). (Rayner, 2009 p. 1459).

Saccade duration, the amount of time that is takes to actually move the eyes, is a function of the distance moved. (Rayner, 2009 p. 1459).

NB. Saccade size in visual search can be highly variable depending on the complexity of the array; when the array is complex and crowded, saccades are shorter (the same would hold for a highly complex scene). (Rayner, 2009 p. 1460).

Regressions (saccades that move backwards in the text) are the third important component of eye movements in reading and occur about 10–15% of the time in skilled readers. The long saccades just mentioned tend to follow a regression since readers typically move forward in the text past the point from which they originally launched the regression.Most regressions are to the immediately preceding word, though when comprehension is not going well or the text is particularly difficult, more long-range regressions occur to earlier words in the text. (Rayner, 2009 p. 1460).

Variables include (Rayner, 2009 p. 1460) :

  • text difficulty
  • reading skill
  • characteristics of the writing system
  • typographical variation (font)

– as text gets more difficult, fixations get longer, saccades get shorter, and more regressions are made (Rayner, 1998).

Dyslexics suffer from – longer fixations, shorter saccades, and more regressions – with normal text.

i.e. Bugger around with fonts, choice of words and other typographical variations and you start to replicate what it is like to be dyslexic.

Beginning and dyslexic readers have longer fixations, shorter saccades, and more regressions than skilled readers (Rayner, 1998), as do less skilled readers (Ashby, Rayner, & Clifton, 2005).

  • Function words are skipped
  • Fix is greater on longer words – 8 letter words are almost always fixated, 2 letter words are fixated 25% of the time.

How does this inform us of best practice for reading academic texts?

Read through with equal care more than once?

Skim read, the read with focus … or these three then stop and take notes. Or take notes from the start?

It is also clear that the spaces between words (which demarcate how long words are) are used in targeting where the next saccade will land. When spaces are removed, reading slows down by as much as 30–50% (Morris, Rayner, & Pollatsek, 1990; Pollatsek & Rayner, 1982; Rayner et al., 1998a; Rayner & Pollatsek, 1996; Spragins, Lefton, & Fisher, 1976). (Rayner, 2009 p. 1469).

  • How were manuscripts laid out?
  • What do early print look like?
  • When did the need for spaces, sentences, paragraphs and such like develop?

There’s a science to writing as well as an art.

Over the past few years, it has become very clear that the ease or difficulty associated with processing the fixated word strongly influences when the eyes move (Liversedge & Findlay, 2000; Rayner, 1998; Starr & Rayner, 2001). (Rayner, 2009 p. 1472).

Fixation time on a word is influenced by a host of lexical and linguistic variables (Rayner, 2009 p. 1472):

  • word frequency
  • word predictability
  • number of meanings
  • age of acquisition
  • phonological properties
  • semantic relations with the fixed word and previous words

This is consistent with the view that what influences when to move the eyes during reading is different from visual search. (Rayner, 2009 p. 1472)

To what degree is reading a visual process or a cognitive process?

This debunks Marshall McLuhan theorising about the shift from the meaning of words in an oral tradition compared to the written word.

When raeding wrods with jubmled lettres and found that while it was fairly easy to read such text, there was always a cost associated with transposing the letters. (Rayner, 2009 p. 1473)

It is thus quite clear that lexical variables have strong and immediate effects on how long readers look at a word. While other linguistic variables can have an influence on how soon readers move on in the text, it is generally the case that higher level linguistic variables have somewhat later effects, unless the variable more or less“smacks you in the eye”. So, for example, when readers fixate on the disambiguating word in asyntactic garden path sentence there is increased fixation time on the word (Frazier & Rayner,1982; Rayner, Carlson, & Frazier, 1983; Rayner & Frazier, 1987) and/or a regression from the disambiguating word back to earlier parts of the sentence (Frazier & Rayner, 1982; Meseguer, Carreiras, & Clifton, 2002; Mitchell et al., 2008). (Rayner, 2009 p. 1473)

On the other hand, it is certainly the case that more and more researchers are turning to eye movement recording and data as a means to examine important issues about how the brain/mind handles information in various tasks. Many brain imaging techniques now enable researchers to also record eye movements(though rather crudely), and attempts to simultaneously record eye movements and event related potentials in reading and other tasks look very promising (Baccino & Manunta, 2005;Dambacher & Kliegl, 2007; Sereno & Rayner,2003). Thus, the future looks very bright with respect to the possibility of learning more about cognitive processing and how information is processed in the tasks described above via the use of eye movements. (Rayner, 2009 p. 1487)

REFERENCES

McConkie, G. W., & Rayner, R. (1975). The span of the effective stimulus during a fixation in reading. Perception & Psychophysics, 17, 578–586. doi:10.3758/BF03203972

Rayner (1998)
(Ashby, Rayner & Clifton, 2005)

Rayner, K 2009, ‘Eye movements and attention in reading, scene perception, and visual search’, Quarterly Journal Of Experimental Psychology, 62, 8, pp. 1457-1506, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 11 February 2013.

How do you split your time online? Visual expression of my ‘personal learning environment’ PLE

Fig. 1. The latest expression of how I learn on line. February 2013

This has gone through various forms and ought to included learning across all platforms – I get books from Amazon where the eBook doesn’t exist, I use sheets of A1 paper on a drawing board to sketch out ideas and plans, I use the iPad as a digital camera and use a digital SLR too.

Fig. 2. How it was

The difference? Even more reading and writing.

Fig. 3. Earlier still. A year ago?

A more realistic expression of my learning environment or context i.e. taking on board multiple influences

Fig. 4. A difference expression of the same thing – centred on e-learning

How to visualise learning – think Lava Lamps!

Fig. 1. Lava Lamps – and how we learn – on a rising thermal and in coloured, slimy blobs …

There is a physiological response to the first moments of a new module – I am nervous. This is like meeting the cast for a student play for the first read through. Intrepidation and expectation. As ever, I know no one, not the tutor or fellow students, though many of us have surely crossed paths on previous MAODE modules. We certainly have all of that in common so will have a set of themes and authors, favourite moments and gripes to share.

Visually I see this as my ‘Lava Lamp’ year!

The blob is starting to stretch and will at some stage take me away from the Master’s Degree – now complete – and onwards either returning to learning and development in the multinational / government department arena of my past, or into research.

Fig. 2. Lava lamp inspired quilt – illustrates this idea of the thermal. Is this how we learn? It’s how I visualise it.

If you want the wordy, academic response then read Kolb.

Fig. 3. How I see learning occuring – as expressed during H808 – The e-learning professional

A brief review on the accessibility of library resources in your own context.

I chose to look at the local provision of library services.

The East Sussex County Council (ESCC) Library Plans and Strategies offer a review of services from 2005 to the present day and a vision for the next six years.

http://www.eastsussex.gov.uk/libraries/policies/plans/download.htm

Access and equity are rolled into one:

Equal access strategy(opens new window)

‘Providing library and information services for people with disabilities, people from black and minority ethnic communities and other people at risk of social exclusion’. Published December 2009

It is intersting to look at stocking decisions and policy, as it is at this point that choices are made regarding resources.

‘East Sussex Library and Information Service recognises that we serve a diverse community and we are committed to developing our stock to be inclusive irrespective of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, age and religion or belief. We will ensure that while providing stock to meet the needs of the whole community we will meet legal requirements and industry standards’.

The above means that they will follow the guidelines of the 2010 Disability Act.

‘As technology and formats change we will develop policies and strategies to ensure that we offer opportunities to read using all available methods (e.g. MP3, downloadable ebooks and audiobooks)’.

Here it is less clear how choices are made regarding technology.

By having guidelines and by benchmarking decisions in relation to access a national rather than a local consensus can be found. ESCC libraries follow ‘National Indicator 9’ and the ‘Library Benchmark’ (a voluntary self improvement tool) as well as local targets as defined in the ESCC Vision and Business Plan which has a vision for access and equality of access with proactive steps taken in relation to the growing number and recognised need of that they call the ‘older old’.

New formats, such as downloadable e books and audiobooks, are making reading more accessible and will replace older formats.

ESCC aim to:

Provide a range of stock for housebound and care centre customers including Large Print, audio formats and reminiscence materials.

Provide materials for people with disabilities or sensory impairments, for example selection of Makaton, Braille and BSL (British Sign Language) stock.

New library builds are designed with physical access in mind and better and greater provision of computers with Internet access

In one innovative case working with a building group the upper floors of a new library in Seaford, for example, will include accessibility apartments for people with learning difficulties.

In the US there were calls five years ago for the American Library Association (ALA) to put in place at ‘a kind of watchdog group’ to respond to the policies and guidelines drafted by other ALA groups to ensure that access issues are considered.  Schmetzke (2007:528)

It is worth considering both physical and online access issues Schemtze (2007:529) is critical of ‘Web pages that do not provide “electronic curb cuts,” such as text alternatives for non-textual components, proper skip navigation links, meaningful link text etc., pose barriers.

Potential problems occur with:

  • Documents in PDF image-only format cannot be read by screen readers.
  • A catalog in which search boxes and buttons are not properly labeled leaves some people stranded.
  • Online surveys, meant to find out about users’ needs and wants, systematically exclude the voices of people with certain disabilities if they are not free of barriers.

Schmetzke (2007:529)

There are universal benefits to taking access into consideration at the design and build stage.

‘Especially in the age of hand-held do-it-all devices, it is widely acknowledged that accessible design tends to be good design and that it is beneficial to all’. Schmetzke (2007:529)

An extra level of trouble and care deepens and lengthens the thinking on a project – editing, clarity and layout all improve when accessibility issues are considered.

Schmetzke tells the story of a blind library user who struggled with the software provided, but by gets involved to solve the problem not only were alternatives found:

  • LitFinder
  • What Do I Read Next
  • Readers Advisory Online
  • What Do I Read Next (a Gale product)

Schmetzke (2007:529)… but they turned out to be cheaper too.

Whilst Schmetzke goes on to argue that no one should ‘find himself or herself in a position where they have to fight battles’. Schmetzke (2007:529) I wonder if this isn’t this inevitable? That change is always a struggle of some kind? That without some debate there is complacency? That things can always be improved?

More damning Schmetze found that a usability survey on American Libraries failed to include a single question explicitly addressing accessibility issues and used an online survey tool (Survey Monkey) that was inaccessible. Schmetzke (2007:531)

Schmetzke calls for a univeral design approach

Properly designed, there should be no need for alternative versions. What can we do about these shortcomings?’ Schmetzke (2007:532)

The general idea is to be proactive, not reactive; to monitor actively and systematically, not to passively wait until, by sheer coincidence, someone stumbles upon a problem.

This paper proposes the creation of a global library of Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) talking books:

The Essential Role of Libraries Serving Persons Who Are Blind and Print Disabled in the Information Age (Kerscher, 2006) (SEE BELOW)

Here, it is pointed out, that no matter the provision of computers and what they can then do with digitised text, ‘a large percentage of their patrons are not computer power users. This average library patron must be served using the technology that is appropriate for each person’.(Kerscher, 2006:102)

The DAISY Consortium has its roots in Libraries for the Blind

It then integrated key experts in their employment to participate in W3C working groups, and in other technology development initiatives focused on information delivery. (Kerscher, 2006:102)

REFERENCES

East Sussex Councty Council (20012) ESCC Library Plans and Strategies (accessed 5 Dec 2012 http://www.eastsussex.gov.uk/libraries/policies/plans/download.htm)

Kerscher, G (2006) (accessed 4 Dec 2012) The Essential Role of Libraries Serving Persons Who Are Blind and Print Disabled in the Information Age

Schmetzke, A. (2007) (accessed 5 Dec 2012) Leadership at the American Library Association and Accessibility: A Critical View

 

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