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eBooks vs. textbooks – towards the hybrid

It amazes me how when reading something and pointed to a footnote or reference that if I choose to do so a few clicks and the reference is before my eyes. Reading up on the First World War there are books from 1914-18 that are freely available in digital form – the additional insight is when you glance at such a reference is to wonder why an author chose that sentence or paragraph, often I find there is something far more interesting being said.

All of this has me reflecting on ‘interpretation’ and how increasingly, because we can, we should, because we can, check up on authors – certainly take them off their academic pedestals as their word is never absolute, is inevitably biased – and sometimes they get it wrong.

There are two kinds of connectedness here:

1) with references the author has used – how selected, why they thought them of relevance or interest (and the authority and credibility of these references)

2) with fellow readers – which, if you want a response, I increasingly find in Amazon of all places. There are always a few people who have picked  through the text, who are willing and able to other a response or to sleuth it out with you.

How does this change things?

The Web puts at anyone’s fingertips resources that until recently were the exclusive domain of university libraries – the older, wealthier universities having the richest pickings and broadest range of references. To ‘look something up’ as we now do in a few moments could take a couple of days. ‘Learning at the speed of need’ is a phrase I like, used in the context of applied learning in business, but just as apt here.

As a consequence, earlier in their careers, students will have a broader and stronger, personal perspective. And as a consequence there will be more people ‘out there’ to join an informed discussion. And as a consequence more new ideas will come to fruition sooner and faster. And as a consequence, collectively, or common understanding will grow and develop faster than before.

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Digital Scholarship


I’ll reflect on and absorb the H818 academic stuff in due course – somewhere in the reading a couple of authors were mentioned so while the pressure is low I’ve been reading Lawrence Lessig ‘Remix’ and re-reading, possibly for the third time, Martin Weller’s ‘The Digital Scholar’.

Open Learning is with us.

Whilst more people globally will get a slice of the tertiary education pizza, there will still be those that who are stuck on the edge with the crust while the ‘privileged’ few get the real substance. This applies between ‘first’ and ‘third’ worlds, but also locally in an education catchment area – when it comes to the democratization of education through e-learning some are more equal than others through having the kit, access, inclination, support and opportunity.

Speaking with a school friend I’d not spoken to since we were 10 or 11 we got onto those OU broadcasts in the middle of the night, and then the BBC ‘Trade Test Transmissions’ – how else could we possibly know anything about how the stain glass windows were made for Liverpool Cathedral on how animals were rescued during the flooding of the Zambezi? Repetition, rich content and a dearth of anything else to watch. In sharp contrast ‘open’ today, and TV too means everything and anything. How can anything stand out? Because the search engines offer it, because of branding and association, through word of mouth through your social and other networks i.e. as a consequence of the nature of your ‘connectedness’.

‘Lego Education’ are worth looking at.

Fig.1. Coach training with Bill Furniss, Nottingham

The Amateur Swimming Association, who train all our swimming teachers and coaches up to the highest level through the Institue of Swimming, have a hundred or so Open Learn like modules that take typically 2-3 hours to do including things like ‘Coaching Disabled Athletes’ and ‘Working with athletes with learning difficulties’. And other important refresher modules such as child protection.

Fig.2. Learning for disabled students needs to be tailored to their specific needs

As we have now seen on H810 : Accessible Online Learning – far more so than in the general population, there are specific and complex needs. The general disability awareness for sport says, ‘see the ability not the disability, play to their strengths’ – as a coach you have to identify strengths from weaknesses.

Fig.3. Using an endless pool to examine swimming technique

Once you are working with an athlete then you find you need more specific knowledge on a, b, or c – which might be an amputee, someone with cerebral palsy, or no hearing. Each person is of course very different, first as a person (like us all), then in relation to the specifics of their disability so a general course for tutors and teachers then becomes a waste of time.

Fig.4. Lego Education using Lego Techniks

If we think of this kind of e-training as construction with Lego Techniks, then once you’re past the introduction a ‘set of bricks’ should be used to assemble more specific answers and insights – even getting users – in this instance a coach and athlete, to participate in the construction based on their experience i.e. building up hundreds of case studies that have an e-learning component to them. The Lego Educational Institute are an astute bunch, their thinking on learning profound, modern and hands on.

Perhaps I should see what I can come up with, certainly working with disabled athletes the coach to athlete relationship is more 1 to 1 than taking a squad of equally ‘able’ swimmers. Then apply it to other contexts. And Lego are the ones to speak to.

‘Lego Education’ are worth looking at.

The thinking is considered, academic and modern – written in language that is refreshingly clear and succinct given the subject matter. The idea of ‘flow’ – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – is included while the ‘Four Cs’ of learning is a good way to express the importance of collaborative, self-directed construction and reflection:

  • Connect
  • Construct
  • Contemplate
  • Continue

 

 

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

 

Blogs on accessibility

A map of parties to the Convention on the Righ...

A map of parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Parties in dark green, countries which have signed but not ratified in light green, non-members in grey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Disability in business

 

http://disabilityinbusiness.wordpress.com/
Jonathan, who has a degenerative spinal condition which means he uses a wheelchair and has carers to assist him, has first hand experience of the challenges faced by people living with disabilities – especially in the business world. “I used to run multi-million pound companies and I’d go with some of my staff into meetings with corporate bank managers and they’d say to my staff, ‘it’s really good of you to bring a service user along’, and I’d say, ‘hang on, I’m the MD –  it’s my money!’

 

Disability Marketing

 

http://drumbeatconsulting.com/

 

Michael Janger has a passionate interest in products and technologies that enable people with disabilities to enjoy a better quality of life, and works with businesses to effectively market and sell these products to the disability market.

 

Think Inclusive

 

http://www.thinkinclusive.us/start-here/
I think there are two basic assumptions that you need in order support inclusion (in any context)

 

  1. All human beings are created equal (you know the American way) and deserve to be treated as such.
  2. All human beings have a desire to belong in a community and live, thrive and have a sense of purpose.

 

The important takeaway…when you assume people want to belong. Then is it our duty as educators, parents, and advocates to figure out how we can make that happen.

 

Institute of Community Inclusion

 

http://www.youtube.com/communityinclusion
For over 40 years, the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) has worked to ensure that people with disabilities have the same opportunity to dream big, and make their dreams a fully included, integrated, and welcomed reality. ICI strives to create a world where all people with disabilities are welcome and fully included in valued roles wherever they go, whether a school, workplace, volunteer group, home, or any other part of the community. All of ICI’s efforts stem from one core value: that people with disabilities are more of an expert than anyone else. Therefore, people with disabilities should have the same rights and controls and maintain lives based on their individual preferences, choices, and dreams.

 

Cerebral Palsy Career Builders

 

http://www.cerebral-palsy-career-builders.com/discrimination-definition.html

 

How to deal with the following:

 

  1. Bias
  2. Presumption
  3. Myth
  4. Skepticism
  5. Prejudice
  6. Discrimination

 

 

Access to e-learning and the Olympic Orbit for students with disabilities

Fig.1. Arcelor-Mittal Orbit

‘Social psychology – responsibility for accessible e-learning is mentally disseminated in a crowd and individuals don’t feel responsible’ (Fellow H810 Student)

When it comes to improving accessibility to e-learning for students with disabilities I wonder if it is the same problem of failure to take responsibility even when one person is given a task that ought to be something that everyone considers important.

Let’s say it is declared that everyone should take responsibility for writing clear messages to each other and students – and to do this correct use of upper and lower case is vital. One person cannot ‘police this’ … now say, as you may see with OU content, a low contrast colour background is used in all copy, great for some with dyslexia, makes no difference to the rest of us  … again, it has to be everyone’s responsibility to do this. The better solution to have a tab to alter not only text size, but contrast choices too.

In relation to designers – the programming, coding, web design type, it is the case that many want to be ‘at the cutting edge’ doing stuff no one else has done before in relation to interactivity, sliding fluid frames, and use of video frames and so on. They need to listen to the designer who has had a background in problem solving, thinking of it more as an visualizing, even and engineering problem, rather than a coding, decoding one.

Rather than hiring prima donnas,  the creators of e-learning need to understand that much of e-learning is like civil engineering – we’re not building an iconic swimming venue for the Olympics, or a visitor ‘attraction’ such as the Arcelor-Mittal Orbit either.  The reality is more mundane  – basic compliance with regards to e-learning is more akin to a box of well-considered leaflets or a 16 page magazine. So don’t hire people with expectations of winning a BAFTA.

I have seen too often amazing ‘stuff’ win a contract, everyone is happy and then someone puts up their hand as launch becomes imminent and asks ‘what about access for students with disabilities?’

‘We haven’t thought about that yet’ comes the sometimes honest, though sheepish reply.

Is this like designing the Concord to get people to New York in 3 hours 30 minutes only to find that a) they won’t let you land and b) 10% of passengers are scared of flying and would prefer to go by ocean liner. Using an analogy we are familiar with, what if the Arcelor-Mital Orbit at the London Olympics – without thinking about access had stairs then after construction they were asked about wheelchair access? Do designers perform the equivalent of trying to put in a lift after the event? If a skin or dashboard will do the job that is fine, and in some cases I think this is where assistive software and technology can work … but only if you’ve thought about it from the outset.

The argument and appeal to designers is to aim for ‘universal design’ that goal of combining function and form to produce something so clear and simple that works for everyone … or at least broadens what some author calls ‘reachability’.

Fig.1. Arcelor-Mittal Orbit

‘Social psychology – responsibility for accessible e-learning is mentally disseminated in a crowd and individuals don’t feel responsible’ (Fellow H810 Student)

When it comes to improving accessibility to e-learning for students with disabilities I wonder if it is the same problem of failure to take responsibility even when one person is given a task that ought to be something that everyone considers important.

Let’s say it is declared that everyone should take responsibility for writing clear messages to each other and students – and to do this correct use of upper and lower case is vital. One person cannot ‘police this’ … now say, as you may see with OU content, a low contrast colour background is used in all copy, great for some with dyslexia, makes no difference to the rest of us  … again, it has to be everyone’s responsibility to do this. The better solution to have a tab to alter not only text size, but contrast choices too.

In relation to designers – the programming, coding, web design type, it is the case that many want to be ‘at the cutting edge’ doing stuff no one else has done before in relation to interactivity, sliding fluid frames, and use of video frames and so on. They need to listen to the designer who has had a background in problem solving, thinking of it more as an visualizing, even and engineering problem, rather than a coding, decoding one.

Rather than hiring primadonnas,  the creators of e-learning need to understand that much of e-learning is like civil engineering – we’re not building an iconic swimming venue for the Olympics, or a visitor ‘attraction’ such as the Arcelor-Mittal Orbit either.  The reality is more mundane  – basic compliance with regards to e-learning is more akin to a box of well-considered leaflets or a 16 page magazine. So don’t hire people with expectations of winning a BAFTA.

I have seen too often amazing ‘stuff’ win a contract, everyone is happy and then someone puts up their hand as launch becomes imminent and asks ‘what about access for students with disabilities?’

‘We haven’t thought about that yet’ comes the sometimes honest, though sheepish reply.

Is this like designing the Concord to get people to New York in 3 hours 30 minutes only to find that a) they won’t let you land and b) 10% of passengers are scared of flying and would prefer to go by ocean liner. Using an analogy we are familiar with, what if the Arcelor-Mital Orbit at the London Olympics – without thinking about access had stairs then after construction they were asked about wheelchair access? Do designers perform the equivalent of trying to put in a lift after the event? If a skin or dashboard will do the job that is fine, and in some cases I think this is where assistive software and technology can work … but only if you’ve thought about it from the outset.

The argument and appeal to designers is to aim for ‘universal design’ that goal of combining function and form to produce something so clear and simple that works for everyone … or at least broadens what some author calls ‘reachability’.

 

How to create accessible e-learning for students with disabilities

Fig.1 Groundhog Day staring Bill Murray

At what point does the protagonist in the film ‘Groundhog Day’ –  TV weatherman Phil Connors played by Bill Murray – unite the Punxsutawney community? How does he do it? And what does this tell you about communities of practice? (Wenger 1998)

Fig. 2. Chick Peas – a metaphor for the potential congealing effect of ‘reificaiton’

Issues related to creating accessible e-learning

Pour some dry chickpeas into a tall container such as a measuring jug add water and leave to soak overnight. The result is that the chickpeas swell so tightly together that they are immovable unless you prize them out with a knife – sometimes the communities of practice are embedded and immovable and the only answer could be a bulldozer – literally to tear down the buildings and start again.

‘Congealing experiences into thingness’. Seale (2006:179) or derived from Wenger (1998)

This is what happens when ‘reification causes inertia’ Wenger in Seale (2006:189).

‘Reification’ is the treatment of something abstract as a material or concrete thing. Britannica, 2012.

To ‘reify’ it to thingify’. Chandler (2000) , ‘it’s a linguistic categorization, its the conceptualization of spheres of influence, such as ‘social’,’educational’ or ‘technological’.’ (ibid)

‘Reification creates points of focus around which the negotiation of meaning becomes organized’. Seale (2006)

It has taken over a century for a car to be tested that can take a blind person from a to b – the huge data processing requirements used to scan the road ahead could surely be harnessed to ‘scan the road ahead’ to make learning  materials that have already been digitized more accessible.

Participating and reification – by doing you give abstract concepts form.

1) Institutional and individual factors need to be considered simultaneously.
2) Inclusivity (and equity), rather than disability and impairments, should be the perspective i.e. the fix is with society rather than the individual.
3) Evidence based.
4) Multifaceted approach.
5) Cultural and systemic change at both policy and practice levels.
6) Social mobility and lifelong learning were ambitions of Peter Mandelson (2009).
7) Nothing should be put or left in isolation – workshops with children from the British Dyslexia Association included self-esteem, literacy, numeracy, study skills and best use of technology.
8) Encouraging diversity, equity of access and student access.
9) Methods should be adapted to suit the circumstances under which they are being applied.
10) Technical and non-technical people need to work together to tackle the problems.
11) A shared repertoire of community practices …
12) Design for participation not use …. so you let the late arrivals to the party in even if they don’t drink or smoke (how would you integrated mermaids?)
13) Brokering by those who have multiple memberships of groups – though the greater the number of groups to which they belong the more likely this is all to be tangential.
14) Might I read constellation and even think collegiate?
15) If we think of a solar system rather than a constellation what if most are lifeless and inaccessible?
16) Brokers with legitimacy may cross the boundaries between communities of practice. Wenger (1998)
17) Boundary practices Seale (2003)

Fig. 3. John Niell, CBE, CEO and Group Chairman of UGC

Increasingly I find that corporate and institutional examples of where a huge change has occurred are the product of the extraordinary vision and leadership of one person, who advocates putting the individual at the centre of things. Paying lip service to this isn’t enough, John Neil CBE, CEO and now Chairman of the Unipart Group of Companies (UGC) called it ‘The Unipart Way’.

REFERENCE

Britannica (2012) Definition of reification. (Last accessed 22 Dec 2012 http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/496484/reification)

Chandler, D (2000) Definition of Reify. (Last accessed 22 Dec 2012 http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/tecdet/tdet05.html)

Seale, J. (2006) E-Learning and Disability in Higher Education: Accessibility Research and Practice, Abingdon, Routledge; also available online at http://learn2.open.ac.uk/ mod/ subpage/ view.php?id=153062 (last accessed 23 Dec 2012).

Wenger, E. (1998) Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 

What is a mind burst?

Fig 1. STIHL Leafy Christmas Card. Courtesy of Ads of the World. Dec 2012

Advertisers create ads that stick so that consumers are influenced in their decision making in the shopping aisle. Can this be used to help students remember for exams and when required in the workplace?

I was looking for a way to an an Umlaut to the name ‘Engeström‘ in Google Docs help but instead stumble upon something far more valuable in relation to access to e-learning for students with disabilities – navigation short cuts. These apply to how a person with sight impairment might move through a text and so, like basic web usability, informs on best practice when it comes to writing, proof reading and lay-out, i.e. editing with a reader with a visual impairment in mind.

Somehow the clear way the guide is laid out caused the penny to drop in a way that hasn’t occurred in the last three months however many times I have observed, listened to, read about or tried to step into the shows of a Web usability recommends a way of laying out text that is logical, clear and suited to the screens we use to access content from the web.

Fig.2. Google Docs help center – navigation student with a visual impairment.

This logic of headings and multiple sub-headings, let alone plain English in relation to short sentences as well as use of paragraphs makes reading not only easier for those with no disability, but assists those with varies degrees of visual impairment as content is then better able to respond to standard tools of text enlargement and enhancement, but also of screen readers that work best when reading through text.

What assistive technology does, a control that doesn’t require a mouse and keeps a manageable set of keys under the fingers rather than needing to run back and forth across the keyboard, is to reduce the above commands to actions that a visually impaired or blind person can then use to control their web viewing experience.

This, for me is a ‘mind burst’ – when, why and how the ‘penny drops’ that moment of clarity or inspiration.

Is there a common logic to it?

My construct has to be different to anyone else’s because of the vast array of connections that make me the person I am and have become. As a ‘educator’ and ‘communicator’ do I seek out moments of revelation in relation to a topic such as this in the hope and belief that they will make sense and even work for others?

In terms of immediacy of effect adverts in the forms of magazine spreads, posters and TV spots aim to do this to – willing a person to act in a certain way, whether to purchase a service or product, or to sign up for a course, subscribe to a magazine or contribute to a charity.

If applied to learning are we in any way cheating or making it too easy?

On the contrary, is it not the educator’s role to spark understanding or act as a catalyst to get thinking going or to create an memorable image, a tag or peg that can be applied not just in an exam but when this thinking is required to solve or resolve problems in the real world?

Ads of the World in relation to learning

Fig. 3. When you smoke, your baby smokes. Vermont Department of Health. Courtesy of Ads of the World. 

Fig.4. Garnier Fructis – courtesy of Ads of the World 

  • Can the quality or nature of the expression of a module of learning have a measurable impact on retention of this information?
  • Whilst the goal of an education is marked by assessment and therefore students need to have the information at their fingertips for an exam, how in the real world do we ensure, with efficiency, that lessons are not forgotten?
  • Does it help is a piece of health and safety training for a nuclear power station includes dramatic reconstruction of a nasty accident and the measures not only taken to deal with it … but to prevent it happening in the first place?

Does advertising have something to teach the educator? Can memorable images be used in learning to help make the facts stick? Should such pegging be something of the student’s own construction?

REFERENCE

Ebbinghaus, H. (1885) Memory: A Contribution to Experimental Psychology

Engeström.Y (2008) From Teams to Knots: Activity-theoretical studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work. Learning in doing: Social, Cognitive & Computational Perspectives. Cambridge University Press. Series Editor Emeritus. John Seely Brown.

BLOGS ON ACCESSIBILITY

Disability in business

Jonathan, who has a degenerative spinal condition which means he uses a wheelchair and has carers to assist him, has first hand experience of the challenges faced by people living with disabilities – especially in the business world. “I used to run multi-million pound companies and I’d go with some of my staff into meetings with corporate bank managers and they’d say to my staff, ‘it’s really good of you to bring a service user along’, and I’d say, ‘hang on, I’m the MD –  it’s my money!’

Disability Marketing

Michael Janger has a passionate interest in products and technologies that enable people with disabilities to enjoy a better quality of life, and works with businesses to effectively market and sell these products to the disability market.

Think Inclusive

I think there are two basic assumptions that you need in order support inclusion (in any context)

  1. All human beings are created equal (you know the American way) and deserve to be treated as such.
  2. All human beings have a desire to belong in a community and live, thrive and have a sense of purpose.

The important takeaway…when you assume people want to belong. Then is it our duty as educators, parents, and advocates to figure out how we can make that happen.

Institute of Community Inclusion

For over 40 years, the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) has worked to ensure that people with disabilities have the same opportunity to dream big, and make their dreams a fully included, integrated, and welcomed reality. ICI strives to create a world where all people with disabilities are welcome and fully included in valued roles wherever they go, whether a school, workplace, volunteer group, home, or any other part of the community. All of ICI’s efforts stem from one core value: that people with disabilities are more of an expert than anyone else. Therefore, people with disabilities should have the same rights and controls and maintain lives based on their individual preferences, choices, and dreams.

Cerebral Palsy Career Builders

How to deal with the following:

  1. Bias
  2. Presumption
  3. Myth
  4. Skepticism
  5. Prejudice
  6. Discrimination

The importance of having alternative formats to provide access to resources by students with disabilities

Read this web page and consider to what extent the six challenges mentioned are addressed in your context:

Mis-Adventures in Alt Format (Stewart, 2007)
http://www.altformat.org/index.asp?id=119&pid=222&ipname=GB

Pick one challenge and write a paragraph in your tutor group wiki explaining how it is relevant to your context.
____________

Developing a total picture of how Alt Format fits into the broader discussion of curricular reform and modernization will help insure that we do not continue to live on the margins of the educational mainstream. (Stewart, 2007)

‘Universal Design for Learning’

Challenges in relation to Alternative Formats:

  1. How does the provision of Alt Format fit into other emerging models for data management and delivery?
  2. How do we build systemic capacity to meet the projected needs for Alt Format and Accessible Curricular Materials?
  3. How do we align the divergent Alt Format efforts occurring on an international bases so that they minimize redundancies and duplicative efforts?
  4. How do we move beyond the current focus on Blind and Visual disabilities to a more holistic model of access for the gamut of print disabilities?
  5. How do we develop the level of technological literacy in students with print disabilities that will be necessary for them to benefit from the technological evolutions that are occurring in curricular access?
  6. How do we involve all of the curricular decision makers in the process of providing fully accessible materials?

In my context

1) How does the provision of Alt Format fit into other emerging models for data management and delivery?

With the digitization of everything a further step to ensure content is also accessible should be taken at the time of conversation or creation. I’m not aware in an agency where this ever occurs and when there is a client request the response is a simple one – word or PDF formats, or look to the browser of platform where the content will sti.

2) How do we build systemic capacity to meet the projected needs for Alt Format and Accessible Curricular Materials?

Is there a more appropriate agent to handle the conversion and delivery of electronic content on a given campus or system of campuses? I’d probably consider the Open University itself, or the Business School where I worked for a while. I know the disability officer, but his role was more to do with access and personnel and visitors to the building then meeting student needs – which I presume comes under Student Services.

3) How do we align the divergent Alt Format efforts occurring on an international bases so that they minimize redundancies and duplicative efforts?

Whilst efforts can and have to be made to improve access universally might the fine detail be left to address either group issues by working with representatitives of associations for, for example, the blind, dyslexia, cerebral palsy and other groups ? Learning from then improving such practices and tackling access for people from these groups for specific subjects and specific levels on a strategic basis knowing that complete coverage is the goal?

‘A plan for the development and incorporation of emerging technologies in a holistic and self-sustaining model is incumbent. These emerging systems must be based on flexibility and economies of scale if we are ever going to get in front of the issues of materials access.’ (Stewart, 2007)

4) How do we move beyond the current focus on Blind and Visual disabilities to a more holistic model of access for the gamut of print disabilities?

Doesn’t cover everyone who would benefit and would benefit other groups, such as non-native language populations, remedial groups and as an alternative for any user who may prefer or benefit from the text record.

5) How do we develop the level of technological literacy in students with print disabilities that will be necessary for them to benefit from the technological evolutions that are occurring in curricular access?

In many anecdotal reports, less than 10% of the incoming students to higher education have ever had any realistic exposure to the access technologies they will need to be successful in adult education and in the world of work. (Stewart, 2007)

Current studies suggest the opposite, that students with disabilities who gain so much from having a computer to access resources, that they are digitally literate. There are always people who for all kinds of reasons have had less exposure to or are less familiar with the technology -whether or not they also have a disability.

6) How do we involve all of the curricular decision makers in the process of providing fully accessible materials?

The original authors never have a say or make a contribution to the reversioning of content for use by disabled students.

This method of access often times results in the retrofit of existing materials, or the creation of alternative access methods that are not as efficient or well received in the general classroom environment. (Stewart, 2007)

For a truly effective model to be developed the original curriculum decisions should be made in a context of understanding the needs of all learners, and in particular those learners who do now have visual orientation to the teaching and learning process. (Stewart, 2007)

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Interview analysis revealed five personal factors that appeared to influence students’ decisions about technology use:

  1. a desire to keep things simple,
  2. a lack of DSA awareness,
  3. self-reliance,
  4. IT skills and digital literacy,
  5. a reluctance to make a fuss.

The three most talked about factors were desire to keep things simple, IT skills and digital literacy. Seal and Draffan (2010:455)

‘The are many ways of making and communicating meaning in the world today.’ Conole (2007:169)

The kind of problems students with disabilities now face are different – less whether content has been made available in a digital format, but how good the tools and services are to access this content.

  • accessibility of websites and course/learning management systems (CMS)
  • accessibility of digital audio and video
  • inflexible time limits built into online exams
  • PowerPoint/data projection during lectures
  • course materials in PDF
  • lack of needed adaptive technologies.

Students also mentioned technical difficulties using e-learning and connecting to websites and CMS, problems downloading and opening files, web pages that would not load, video clips taking too long to download, poor use of e-learning by professors and their own lack of knowledge working with elearning.

For most groups of students, solving e-learning problems by using non e-learning solutions was also popular.

During the last decade there has been tremendous development and interest in e-learning on campus. While our research shows the many benefits of e-learning, such as the availability of online course notes, there are also problems. Chief among these are problems related to inaccessibility of websites and course management systems. (Fitchen et al 2009:253)

Digital Agility

Results suggest that an important personal resource that disabled students in the study drew on when using technologies to support their studies was their ‘digital agility’. Seal and Draffan (2010:449)

Use of assistive technologies

Many students with disabilities have, since 2007, developed strategies for the use of both specialist assistive technologies (e.g. IrisPro, quill mouse, Kurzweil, Inspiration or Dragon Dictate) as well as more generic technologies (e.g. mobile phone, DS40 digital recorder, Google) Seal and Draffan (2010:450)

Seal and Draffan (2010:451) therefore suggest that disabled students have the kind of ‘sophisticated awareness’ that Creanor et al. (2006) described when they talked about effective learners being prepared to adapt activities, environments and technologies to suit their own circumstances. This contradicts somewhat the arguments of Stewart who argues that disabled students are behind other students in terms of developing digital literacies.

The digital agility of the students, identified in the study, is significant in terms of encouraging practitioners not to view all disabled students as helpless victims of exclusion. Digital inclusion does not always have to be understood through the dual lenses of deficits and barriers. Seal and Draffan (2010:458)

REFERENCE

Conole, G and Oliver, M (eds) 2007. Contemporary perspectives in E-Learning Research. Themes, methods and impact on practice.

Fichten, C. S., Ferraro, V., Asuncion, J. V., Chwojka, C., Barile, M., Nguyen, M. N., & … Wolforth, J. (2009). Disabilities and e-Learning Problems and Solutions: An Exploratory Study. Journal Of Educational Technology & Society, 12(4), 241-256.

Seale,J., Draffan,E.A. (2010) Digital agility and digital decision-making: conceptualising digital inclusion in the context of disabled learners in higer education, Studies in Higher Education, 35:4, 445-461

Stewart, R (2007) Mis-Adventures in Alt Format

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