Home » Posts tagged 'disability'

Tag Archives: disability

Advertisements

Deaf in one ear

From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Perforated Eardrum – before and after surgery

This has lasted a week. It’s barely been bad enough to send me to my bed, but the drops and painkillers have knocked me out while the ear-thing has sent me all lopsided. I appreciate entirely that there are people with and who have significant and lasting disabilities here, so I don’t mean to diminish by any means what they go through or need to overcome, it has simply made me realise all kinds of things that never struck me while doing the MAODE module on accessibility.

We’re aware of those suits people can wear to get a feel for what it is like to be heavily pregnant – who do they use it on? teenagers?  Is there value though in the able-bodied getting some sense of what it is like to have an impairment by, for example, blocking their ears for a number of hours, wearing a blindfold and restricting their day to a wheelchair, even typing while wearing gloves. In swimming we get swimmers to try swimming with their fists closed in order for them to appreciate the importance of the correctly shaped hand.

Everything, particularly to do with sound, is different.

If someone calls my name I struggle to know where they are – upstairs, downstairs or behind the door. When I shave it sounds as if I have my ear pressed against the wooden floor while it is attacked with a rotary sander. I feel unbalanced, and totter a bit when getting up and have tripped too as if I can’t quite place my left leg.

I did the idiot thing of putting the phone to the ‘wrong ear’ and wondered why the person had stopped talking. If I sleep on my right side the silence would be pleasing except for the constant ‘sandy’ electronic interference like sound in my left ear.

When you have a problem to solve it helps to do something completely different, either to take a break, or bring someone in who has nothing to do with a project. This blocked ear thing is temporarily skewing or tipping so much, as if one end of the shelf has collapsed and all the books have fallen off.

Trusting it won’t last because for now if at any time it looks as if I am my sunny self it’s something I’m putting on.  It could well be perforated in which case I ought not be using ear-drops. if it is perforated then there needs to be surgery. I suspect that it is and I remember how. I pushed a piece of cold, stiff silicon into my ear and then wore headphones over these when trying to block out the sound of a fire alarm in a B&B, not because there was a fire, but because the alert to say the battery was flat was ringing every two minutes all night long.

CONCLUSION

It was earwax. A jet of warm water into my ear and it was gone. Like three wet cornflakes squashed together. How did they det in there?

Advertisements

‘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

 

 

“Don’t call me disabled – I’m a mutant!”

‘If the Paralympics is covered well, it can change the way you look at and treat people with disabilities,’ says Adam Hills, presenter of C4’s late-night show The Last Leg Adam Hills. He’s about to become a regular face on Channel 4 and did stand up show on TV Thursday 20th December which you can still get on 4OD.

An evening with Adam Hills should be the opening presentation on the module Open University H810 Accessible Online Learning : supporting disabled students

The C4 coverage of the Paralympics was engaging, insightful and very, very funny.

In his stand-up show Adam Hills says that he doesn’t feel disabled, indeed, who would no it – he is missing the lower part of his right leg. He wants to ditch the term ‘disabled’ and jokingly suggested ‘mutant’ as an alternative on the basis that he’d like people to think that he had super powers.

Live at the Lyric

 

How do you use an Activity System to improve accessibility to e-learning by students with disabilities?

Fig.1. A knight and two bishops from the iconic Lewis Chess Set role playing to represent ‘Community’ in an Activity System. After (Engeström, 2008) 

Visualizing actions between people, concepts and things requires more than words – models and metaphors are needed to create meaning. I will visualize connections on sheets of backing paper or a white board, or get out a box of Lego. Here I used Lewis chess pieces (resin replicas naturally) on a model of Engeström’s Activity System that I draw out on a piece of laminated board the size of a door (Engeström, 2008)  in order to get a sense of people working in collaborative teams to a common goal and to understand that an Activity System doesn’t represent an entity so much as a framework or scaffold that is held together by the energy of action.

Why use any model?

A model should be a well-founded visual simplification of an aspect of a complex reality that communicates its concept clearly, is based on thorough research, and is easily shared for feedback and review. Users should find that a model, like an experiment, is repeatable so that in time a body of work including case studies and a critique of the model builds credibility. A conceptual model such as an Activity System is ‘particularly useful when one wants to make sense of systemic factors behind seemingly individual and accidental disturbances, deviations, and innovations occurring in the daily practices of workplaces’. Engeström (2008:27)

Conole and Oliver (2011) mention four levels of description:

1. Flat vocabulary
2. More complex vocabulary
3. Classification schemas or models
4. Metaphors

The use of vocabulary is inevitable, though talking this through to an audience would be my preferred approach, so that with engagement response is invited. The models used here, from Vygotsky (1978) and Leon’tev (1978) to Engeström (2008) may appear familiar and set – they are not. There is a group that likes to see everything ‘triangulated’ – diamonds and stars, though evident in the literature on education – maybe akin to complex rather than plain language. From models we move to various metaphors – and you are certain to have your own. While Engeström (2008:19) himself moves on to ideas of how a fungi grows, to ‘knotworking’ and fluid, organic representations.

Fig.2. Scrutiny of Activity Systems. Based on Engeström (2008) 

Do we use models so that we spend more time thinking through the problems related to efforts to achieve what we desire? Or is the model a product of this effort? There’s a point in the social sciences where a model may lose more readers than it converts – the perseverance is worth it.

Why use an Activity System?

Activity Systems derived from a century of analysis of the way people construct meaning (Vygotsky, 1978.  Leon’tev, 1978) that later researchers applied not simply to how people think, but how groups of people act in collaborative ways  (Engeström, 1987).

Fig. 3.   Vygotsky’s model of mediated act

There are two parts to an Activity System – upper and lower. The upper part is the triangle drawn to represent the interaction of Subject, Tools and Object. Engeström (1987) took a current model – that of Vygotsky (1978) and made it his own and has since offered a metaphor to explain it further.

Fig. 4.   Vygotsky’s model of mediated act and (B) is common reformation. Cole and Engeström  (1993)


Fig.5. The structure of a human activity system. Engeström  (1987:78)

Historically this is where Vygotsky began in Moscow in the late 1920s (Fig.3) Engeström and others turned the experssion of Vygotsky’s model the other way up. This split of upper and lower serves another purpose – Yrjö Engeström likens this expression of an activity system to an iceberg where the top triangle – Subject – Tools – Object is what we see, while the other actions, that give the system context – he added when developing Vygostky’s (1978) original model, are beneath the surface. Engeström. (2008:89). (Fig.4) It’s worth remembering that Vygotsky was working on how people create meaning, while later thinkers have adapted this to help scrutinise how communities or groups of people, tools and sets of guidelines create (as Engeström puts it above, ‘sense meaning’ Engeström 1987).

Here the author Jane Seale (2006) takes an Activity System and applies it, as a management consultant might, to a humdinger of a problem. What this reveals is the interdependence of many factors, groups, tools, artifacts and interests on a desired objective.

Fig.6. Application of Engeström’s (1987) systemic model of activity to the accessible e-learning practice of a higher education practitioner. Featured in Seale (2006)

When is the construction of an Activity System useful?

Engeström (2008:27) suggests that it is particularly useful ‘when one wants to make sense of systemic factors behind seemingly individual and accidental disturbances, deviations, and innovations occurring in daily practices of workplaces’. Someone needs to think it is necessary to study the status quo – perhaps because there is an awareness that something, somewhere is going wrong, or that there has been an actual downturn in business or collapse in profitability, or a desire simply to look at things in a different way to understand where improvements can be made, a change in policy and law, or a reinvented or renewed.

Fig. 7. Engeström.Y (2008) From Teams to Knots: Activity-theoretical studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work.

Engeström (2008:207) suggests that there are five principles in relation to theories of activity systems.

  1. Object Orientation
  2. Mediation by tools and signs
  3. Mutual constitution of actions and activity
  4. Contradictions and deviations as source of change
  5. Historicity

Fig.8. Scrutiny of Activity Systems . Object. Based on Engeström (2008) 

1) Object Orientation

The Object is a problem, the purpose, the motivation and opportunity – the modus operandi behind the activity. ‘Object orientation’ (Engeström 2008:222) is a crucial prerequisite of working with an activity system. In the context of accessible e-learning Seale (2006:165) creates an Activity System in which the object(ive) is ‘to make e-learning accessible for disabled students’. As an exercise considering its widest application this object definition suffers because the object is so broad it embraces a myriad of issues and circumstances, each word is open to interpretation – what, for example, is meant by ‘e-learning’, what is meant by ‘accessible’ by ‘disabled’ and by ‘student’. Rather than an object as an opportunity or goal as Seale uses, a fix, the desired outcome, is more likely to be found where, at least in the first instance, we identify a particular context and a tightly defined problem.

Not only that, but to contain the likelihood of ‘ruptures’ across the activity system clarity and agreement is required on the problem that needs to be fixed. In relation to accessibility to e-learning for students with disabilities there are multiple problems, many unique to a student with a particular disability or, where feasible and appropriate, a group that can be identified by the nature of their disability, for example, deaf students who are seen as, and many want to see themselves as a ‘minority language’ group. What is more, a disabled student may have several impairments and the degree to which these are a barrier to e-learning is fluid, perhaps ameliorating with treatment, or getting worse, transmogrifying, or simply being intermittent. As these are known issues that would cause problems or clashes within the activity system and prevent its working it seems futile to build an activity system on this basis – knowing that it will fail.

A problem well stated is a problem half-solved’. (Charles Kettering)

This may be an aphorism, but it rings true. Problem scoping is necessary but where a problem remains elusive, or is ‘messy’ rather than ‘tame’ (Rittel and Webber’s 1973, Ackoff 1979, Ritchey 2011) a variety of creative problem solving techniques (VanGundy, 1988. Griggs, 1985). Knowing what the problem is enables innovation – identifying the problem and devising a fix, and in communications, where, for example, advertisers prepare a creative brief that begins by clearly identifying the problem.

‘Object orientation’ and in this context, problem definition and refinement, is the first in five principles set out by Engeström (2008:207) for using activity systems. The drive, purpose and motivation for all the actions between the six identified nodes depends on the object ‘that which is acted upon’. A key component of activity theory is the transformation of this object into an outcome i.e. to solve the problem. If solving a problem is the goal, and recognition of a successful enterprise undertaken, then all the more reason to get the definition of the object correct – the process can be repeated for different problems, at different scales and over time. Without absolute clarity over the object you may find that different people in the system have differing interpretations of what it is. Kuutti (1996) found that having more than one object under scrutiny was a reason for an activity system to fail.  An answer where there are two distinct problems may be to treat them as such and attach them to separate activity systems. Whilst for the sake of scrutiny it is necessary to isolate an activity system, they do of course interact – indeed it is by looking at how two activity systems interact that you may reveal how problems are solved or innovations produced. However, if the object is wrong, or ill-defined or ambiguous then the motives may be out of kilter and it would therefore be necessary to transform all of the components of the activity system, especially and including those at the bottom half of the ‘iceberg’. Engeström (2008:87)

Fig.9. Scrutiny of Activity Systems . Tools. Based on Engeström (2008) 

2) Mediation by Tools and Signs

Tools might be evaluation and repair tools and assistive technologies, software or legislation, guidelines or staff development. Tools are a mediating factor between the Subject (student, lecturer, facilitator of the desire outcome) and the Object – the purpose of all this activity.

Tools play a significant role in the history of tackling accessibility issues, to undue, out do or transform resources or interpret platforms in a way that communicates their meaning offering some if not all the affordances of the tools as designed for students, who, having gained a place to study a degree  in Higher Education might be thought of as some the most able’, not simply the ‘able’.Tools in this role at the apex of the Activity System and can include guidelines and legislation where they are an applied ‘tool’ rather than a rule or standard. ‘ A functioning tool for the analysis of teams and organisations’. Engeström  (2008:229) Of course the category includes evaluation and repair tools, assistive technologies and software and equipment. Tools ‘mediate’ between the Subject – the facilitator of change through activity and the outcome of the activities – the Object. ‘To build a website that complies to level AAA’ may be achievable whilst ‘to make e-learning accessible for disabled students’ Seale (2006:) sounds like wishful thinking, rather ‘to build an e-learning module that when scrutinised by a representative range of people with dyslexia’ receives a grading of ‘satisfactory’ or above’. This would suggest the involvement therefore of dyslexic students in the testing of a navigation interface for the virtual learning environment as an ‘action’ between subject and object.

There is a particular congregation of ‘contradictions’ stemming from the relationship between Tools and both Subject and Object:

  1. The array of design and evaluation software applications (Seale, 2006)
  2. The mastery of external devices and tools of labour activity (Nardi, 1996)
  3. No rules of practice for use of that tool (Isscroft and Scanlan, 2002 )
  4. Tools that are overly prescriptive (Phipps et al, 2005)
  5. How do you choose from amongst such a plethora of tools?
  6. The context in which tools are introduced (Seale, 2006:160)

The use of tools, the choice of kit and even supporting software beyond the virtual learning environment, should be the student’s decision. “Learners can be active makers and shapers of their own learning. They should be supported in using technologies of their own choice where appropriate”.(JISC, 2009, p.51)

3) Mutual constitution of actions and activity

This is what activity looks like in a group – evidence of several thousand recorded actions within a group of students (as subject), including the group tutor, and course chair; the Open University Virtual Learning Environment, computer, device, software and network link some of the tools; the rules set by the context of postgraduate e-learning with this institution, the community all those who can be reached online the division of labour the roles we all take as students, mentors, teachers and tutors, technical help desk, subject matter expert, novice or guru – the subject specific learning outcomes for each block, for each assignment or the goal of completing the module with a pass or distinction.

Fig.10. The consequences of an activity system – loads of action. Here a tutor group over a period of 27 weeks. ‘Activity’ is represented by messages in a tutor forum. H810 is an Open University postgraduate course in Education. Technology-enhanced learning: practices and debates

The links between each component – object, tool, subject and so on – should equate to a burst of electricity or perhaps a chemical induced response between a synapse and a neuron – Engeström (2008) goes as far as to liken an activity system to a type of fungi – mycorrhizae like formation  Engeström (1997).

Fig.11. Mycorrhizae – one way Engeström sees an Activity System

An Activity System should be seen not as a concept of a static entity, but rather a living and growing thing. The actions, the double-arrows between each concept, are what gives an activity system structure  – it’s the management  of the disturbances, contradictions and conflicts along these lines of action that disturb effective flow where the role of an activity system comes in – identify then fix these and you move towards achieving the object orientation or outcome. Knorr-Cetina (2003) talks of ‘flow architecture’ and if neither of these concepts ring true for you in relation to activity systems then Zerubavel (1997) talks of ‘a mindscape’ while Cussins (1992) talks of ‘cogntive trails’. There is a caveat when using a metaphor – we tend to look for similarities, rather than see the differences and a choice of metaphor will itself skew our thinking. Morgan (1986/1997).

4) Contradictions and deviations as source of change

I would have opted for Subject as the third issue, but reading Engeström made me think again. Subject, Tools, Object reduces the Activity System to the far simpler upturned triangle Vygotsky devised to explain how people create meaning (Vygotsky, 1978:86)  without further thought to the deeper and wider issues once learning is put in context, that Engeström (1987, 2008, 2011) added by broadening this way of showing how ‘meaning is created’ in the workplace by adding Rules, Community and Division of Labour.

Rather than picking one more of these concepts at the expense of leaving the others out I think that the ‘Actions’ the double arrows that indicate something happening between the elements is of interest. I believe this would be the fourth of Engeström’s five principles – Contradictions and deviations as source of change. This after all is, literally, where all the ‘action’ takes place, what Seale (2006:164) describes as ‘problems, ruptures, breakdowns or clashes’.  (I need to go back and to understand what is meant by Engeström’s third principle – ‘Mutual constitution of actions and activity’) I think this is the principle that the Activity System has to be seen as a complete, self-contained entity, that any break or failure or misunderstanding in the system would call it to fail so you’d be better of starting again from scratch until the scale or context works. Engeström uses the metaphor of a very particular kind of lichen (‘mycorrhizae’, Engeström, 2008:229) to describe Activity Systems – he doesn’t suggest however that you attempt to work with this kind of complexity, rather it is a reminder that an activity system is fluid and changing and depends on activity taking places between the defined nodes.

5) Historicity

Fig. 12. A discontinuous series of Activity Systems … like Toblerone at Christmas.

‘Historicity’ – Engeström’s experssion (2008) is a term referring to ‘the historical actuality of persons and events’,(Wikipedia, 2012) suggests the need to see an Activity System as a snapshot, a sequence and a discontinuous one at that. So take the familiar equilateral triangle of the Activity System model and run a line of them. Seale (2006) suggests there is value to be found by doing some ‘archaelogy’ – I think ‘historical research’ would be an adequate way to think of it, for what this may reveal about how these ‘rupture, conflicts’ Seale (ibid) or ‘contradictions’ and ‘deviations’ as a source or change’ Engeström (2008:223) along the lines of activity. Seale (2006) talks of how an activity system ‘incesstanly reconstructs itself. Engeström (1994) talks of an ideal-typical sequence of epistemic actions in an expansive cycle. To Vygosky (1978), learning is a continual movement from the current intellectual level to a higher level which more closely approximates the learner’s potential. This movement occurs in the so-called “zone of proximal development” as a result of social interaction

Subject

Fig.13. Scrutiny of Activity Systems . Subject. Based on Engeström (2008) 

By definition here the ‘non-disabled’, particularly in the cognitive sense though sometimes with athletic promise too. Ironically whilst ‘non-disabled’ is not a favoured term it does at least relate to a homogenous group, while ‘disabled’ does not given the range, scale and potentially shifting nature of impairments to learning from hearing, to visual, cognitive and mobility.

Subject to be of most importance – this is the person, actor or lecturer, indeed a student – anyone who is responsible for facilitating and supporting the student’s learning experience. This may be a practitioner who works with a Higher Education Learning Technologist or the digital media access group if there is such a thing. Engeström (2008:222).

Any of the team members may be a novice, which may be a positive or negative influence for the actions in the system. A novice is inexpert, on the other hand they are free from the habits that may be causing problems and creating barriers. Because of the way a novice learns they are more inclined to innovate as they are not bound or even aware to rules, guidelines and beliefs that may hold them back.

Rules

Fig.14. Scrutiny of Activity Systems . Rules. Based on Engeström (2008) 

These can be formal, informal or technical rules. They are institutional and departmental policies and strategies. These are rules of practice, and legislation, as well as strategies and research. They are explicit and implicit norms. These are conventions and social relations. These in the context of accessible e-learning are the various guidelines related to web usability and legislation related to accessibility and equality. Universal Design and User Centred Design are rules too. Rules mediate between the subject and the community. The actions, the ‘doing in order to transform something’ or ‘doing with a purpose’ are the activities that link Rules with Subject, Rules with Object and Rules with Community.

Community

Fig.15. Scrutiny of Activity Systems . Community. Based on Engeström (2008) 

These are ‘people who share the same objective’ – their being in this activity system is dependent on their wishing to engage with the object, the opportunity, to strive to achieve the stated outcome. Any ruptures are therefore not a consequence of having the wrong person in this community – this grouping, this loose gathering of like-minded people, is what Engeström has come to describe as a knot and the actions these people take as ‘knotworking’ Engeström (2008:194) – latent, informal, sometimes impromptu gatherings of people who assemble to address a problem or to take an opportunity – what Rheingold (2002) describes as ‘smart mobs’.

Fig.16. Scrutiny of Activity Systems . Division of Labor. Based on Engeström (2008) 

Division of Labor

This concept, or node as an ethereal entity is ‘how people are organized to realise the object’. Not one to represent by a chess piece and one may think that this ought to be the link that joins people together … this is where working with a model as the beat of a heart, not the heart itself, requires acceptance of the way a model is designed to work. Division of labor This is planning and funding, designing and developing, implementing and evaluating, using, specialists vs. the mainstream).

Fig.17. A Wordle using the text from this blog.

Conclusion

Fig. 18. The Water Cycle – imagine this reversionsed to represent a digital ocean and content in the ‘cloud’.

Digitization of assets is akin to the creation of an ocean in which the binary code are the molecules of water – apt then with the shift from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 and our adopting the use of ‘the Cloud’ and ‘Cloud Computing’ to take this metaphor into a more dynamic form and think of it as a water-cycle. This system is shifting continually horizontally with currents and tides, but also vertically – the exponential growth in computing speeds and memory capacities the energy that drives the system. This global system hasn’t taken adequate account of people with disabilities – as in the real world there are barriers to access caused by visual, hearing, mobility and cognitive impairments – just as these have been addressed in a piecemeal way through legislation, funding, programmes and promotions, by disability groups or holistically, so too with adaptations or changes to the digital world – there is no panacea that will remove all barriers for all people with any disability, of any kind, type or stage of deterioration or amelioration.  Stretching the metaphor further I wonder if at times this digital water-cycle, again like the real one, is polluted, that translucence as well as flotsam and jetsam in this ocean are the barriers – on the one hand the pollutants have to be removed – the barriers taken down – but at the same time, cleaner purer water, in the form a universal design that is simpler and usable would gradually cleanse some of system. Once again, a mirror to the real world responses, specialist schools and associations, say for those with dyslexia are blind or deaf, become an oasis or island in this digital system.

‘Those not engaging with technologies or without access are getting left further and further behind. We need to be mindful that the egalitarian, liberal view of new technologies is a myth; power and dynamics remain, niches develop and evolve. Applications of metaphorical notions of ecology, culture and politics can help us better understand and deal with these complexities’. (Conole. 2011:410)

FURTHER  READING

Cecez-Kecmanovic, Dubravka, and Webb.C (2000) “Towards a communicative model of collaborative web-mediated learning.”Australian Journal of Educational Technology 16. 73-85. Towards a communicative model of collaborative web-mediated learning  (last accessed 20 Dec 2012) http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet16/cecez-kecmanovic.html

Hardman, J (2008) Researching pedagogy: an acitivty system approach Journal of Education, No. 45, 2008. PP65-95 (last accessed 20 Dec)  2012 http://joe.ukzn.ac.za/Libraries/No_45_Dec_2008/Researching_pedagogy_an_Activity_Theory_approach.sflb.ashx)

Engeström’s (1999) outline of three generations of activity theory (last accessed 20 Dec 2012) http://www.bath.ac.uk/research/liw/resources/Models%20and%20principles%20of%20Activity%20Theory.pdf

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.

Engeström.Y (2011) Learning by expanding: ten years after (last accessed 19 Dec 20-12) http://lchc.ucsd.edu/mca/Paper/Engestrom/expanding/intro.htm

REFERENCE

Ackoff, R.L. (1979) The Art of Problem-Solving, New York: Wiley

Cole, M. and Engeström, Y. (1993) A cultural-historical approach to distributed cognition, in: G. Salomon (Ed.), Distributed cognitions: Psychological and educational considerations (New York, Cambridge University Press), 1-46.

Conole, G (2011) Designing for learning in a digital world. Last accessed 18 Dec 2012 http://www.slideshare.net/grainne/conole-keynote-icdesept28

Conole, G. and Oliver, M. (eds) 2007 Contemporary Perspectives on E-learning Research, Themes, Tensions and Impacts on Research. London, RoutledgeFalmer.

Cussins, A. (1992). Content, embodiment and objectivity: The theory of cognitive trails. Mind, 101, 651–688.

Engestrom (2008-04-30). From Teams to Knots (Learning in Doing: Social, Cognitive and Computational Perspectives) (p. 238). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.

Engeström, Y. (1987) Learning by Expanding: An Activity-theoretical Approach to Developmental Research. Helsinki: Orienta-Konsultit.

Engeström, Y. (1994). The working health center project: Materializing zones of proximal
development in a network of organizational learning. In T. Kauppinen & M. Lahtonen (Eds.) Action research in Finland. Helsinki: Ministry of Labour.

Engeström.Y (1999) Learning by expanding. Ten Years After. http://lchc.ucsd.edu/mca/Paper/Engestrom/expanding/intro.htm

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.

Griggs, R.E. (1985) ‘A Storm of Ideas’, reported in Training, 22, 66 (November)

Issroff, K. and Scanlon, E. (2002) Using technology in higher education: an Activity Theory perspective. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 18, 1, 77–83

JISC. (2009). Effective Practice in a Digital Age: A guide to technology-enhanced learning and teaching. Retrieved from http://www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/programmerelated/2009/effectivedigital-age.aspx

Knorr-Cetina, K. (2003). From pipes to scopes: The flow architecture of financial markets. Distinktion, 7, 7–23.

Kuutti, K. (1996) Activity theory as a potential framework for human–computer interaction research. In B. Nardi (ed.) Context and Consciousness: Activity Theory and Human–Computer Interaction. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, pp. 17–44.

Leon’tev.A.N. (1978) Activity, consciousness, and personality. Englewood Cliffs. NJ. Prentice-Hall.

Moessenger, S (2011) Sylvia’s Study Blog (Last accessed 19 Dec 2012) http://sylviamoessinger.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/h809-reading-oliver-et-al-chapter-2-a3-6/

Morgan, G. (1986 2nd 1997) Images of Organisation

Phipps, L., Witt, N. and Kelly, B. (2005) Towards a pragmatic framework for accessible e-learning. Ariadne, 44. Online. Available HTTP: <http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/ issue44/ phipps/> (last accessed 19 Dec 2012).

Rheingold, H. (2002). Smart mobs: The next social revolution. Cambridge, MA: Perseus.

Ritchey, T. (2011) Wicked Problems – Social Messes: Decision support Modelling with Morphological Analysis.Springer.

Rittel.W.J., Webber.M.M. (1973) Dilemmas in a general theory of planning Policy Sciences, June 1973, Volume 4, Issue 1,

Seale, J. (2006) E-learning and Disability in Higher Education: Accessibility Research and Practice

VanGundy, A.B. (1988) Techniques of Structured Problem Solving, 2nd ed, Van Norstrand Reinhold. Techniques 4.01, 4.06, 4.57

Vygotsky.L.S. (1978) Mind in Society. The development of higher psychological process. Cambridge. MA.

Wikipedia (2012) Definition of ‘Historicity’ – (last accessed 19 Dec 2012) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity

Zerubavel, E. (1997). Social mindscapes: An invitation to cognitive sociology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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

e-Learning with Lego – Connect, Construct, Contemplate and Continue

LEGO logo

LEGO logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

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 Institute 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

 

 

 

 

Do you need help getting around?

Fig.1. Signage plonked in your face as you exit the tube station at Tower Hill

My antennae are out for anything and everything to do with accessibility – this caught my eye because there is no mention of disability or accessibility – nor should there be. I find phrases like ‘disabled persons’ or, instead of the icons such as these –  words like ‘wheel-chair user’, ‘blind’ or ‘visually impaired’ and ‘deaf’ as outmoded and inappropriate as efforts to define ‘people of colour’.

I rather liked the ‘older old’ which I say in something yesterday – by anyone’s reckoning Rupert Murdoch at 82 is ‘old’ whereas his mother who died yesterday was certainly ‘older old’. Given how long-lived we are becoming Shakespeare’s ‘Seven Ages of Man’ ought to be rephrased as ‘the nine (or ten) ages of … ‘persons’ (yuk)

I rather like ‘oldies’ too – but do they?

The relevance of this two-fold: the integration rather than the segregation of disability into the population – at many levels we are all just ‘people’ and the language should reflect this; universal language as well as universal design – so understanding at what ‘levels’ words also need to be chosen with care. As this sign does so well there is no need or value in defining the need by labelling people with certain disabilities, at deeper levels then yes, clarifying and responding, for example to a visual impairment and then refining this to the blind, legally blind, sight impaired, short sighted and so on is necessary. Getting the context right matters. Giving it some thought – and having people in place to give it this thought – helps.

FURTHER LINKS

Transport for London

Transport and access to public services

Transport for London – Disability Guides

Mayor of London Access Policy

 

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)

———————————————————————————————————–

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

%d bloggers like this: