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

Master of Arts  in Open and Distance Education (MA ODE) with the Open University, UK (OU)

H800: Technology-enhanced learning: practices and debates

H807: Innovations in eLearning – Learning outcomes

H810: Accessible online learning: supporting disabled students

B822: Creativity, Innovation and Change

H808: The e-learning professional

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

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

H809 Practice-based research in educational technology

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

H817: Openness and innovation in e-learning.

I am applying to undertake doctoral research in education – using learning technologies.
 
H809 will help prepare for applications starting in January 2014 for an October 2014 start. Most are now a 4 year programme, with a Masters in research to begin. WebSciences at University of Southampton is an interesting option – I attended an Open Day in January.
Too many active interests was a stated issue on childhood school reports. Nothing’s changed.
 
I am looking at an MA in History with the University of Birmingham which would give me the opportunity
study the First World War. (I have written extensively about this through my late grandfather’s memoire ‘That’s Nothing Compared to Passchendaele’)
There is more.
 
I attended the School of Communication Arts, London. A full-time programme in copywriting, art direction and design and have worked in the ‘creative’ and ‘communications’ industries all of my career.
And ‘EAVE’ (European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs)
 
My first degree (BA, Hons, Oxford), MA is in Geography.
My dissertationn was on demographics. I love maps. Perhaps I should try to match maps, e-learning and the First World War. Animated it all and add some interviews and ‘drama reconstruction’.
See what happens when you let something fester and wake up in the middle of the night.
 
Neuroscience and long-term memory are fascinating too.
I need my life over. I need to split into three and start again. I need a coffee and a long walk on the South Downs. (I need to go back to bed)
And then there’s Fine Art.
 
And Creative Writing. And cooking. And the garden. There’s teaching, and moderating … and blogging. There are movies. And sailing and swimming coaching. There’s family and friend … ah. Friend? I knew there was something missing in all the above.
Scrap the lot and have a belated 50th birthday to celebrate 20 years of marriage, parenthood and the madness of being. Then sign up to crew in the Round the World Yacht Race.
And if that doesn’t kills me …

 

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Here in Lewes we shut the town centre down for a march as often as we can.

It all stems from 5th November. We had only been here a couple of months and we were enrolled in a Bonfire Society. That was 13 years ago.

The town also has a Moving on parade for all primary schools in the district, not just the town, but from outlying villages. The town centre is closed to traffic and kids, dressed up, carrying banners and whatnot on a theme, march through town and end it with a party in the Paddock – a large field, formerly part of the earthworks around the 11th century Lewes Castle.

It helps to make an occasion of something when we move on. We’re rather good at it:

  • Christenings
  • Marriage
  • Death
  • Birthdays
  • Anniversaries
  • Graduation

I’m down for Brighton or will try to enroll in Versailles for my graduation. I skipped my first nearly three decades ago. I just didn’t feel like moving on. I hadn’t felt I’d had an education to justify the fuss. My fault, not theirs. I put in the hours and came out with an OK degree but that isn’t why I’ll remember my undergraduate years.

I should mark moving on, and away from this blog. It logs, day by day, and in the background countless pages of hidden notes. It has carried me through the Masters in Open & Distance Education.

H809, my bonus track, will mark the end.

For this reason I am migrating most of the content and the journey it records to an external blog.

My Mind Bursts

From time to time I’ll post a note at the bottom of the page to say this is where it’ll be from June.

My moving on.

By May, I’ll also know if the next few years have been set up. We’ll see. I may even be back at the OU in some capacity. I rather

 

Why skiing is my metphor for life and learning

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

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

I missed the next season.

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

I miss it.

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

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

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

Reasons to celebrate and look forwards

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

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

I am a reading, thinking, writing machine.

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

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

Onwards.

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

Why more?

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

And my reward?

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

Skiing en famille.

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

 

‘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

 

Does the organisation where you work have an accessibility (or similar) policy?

I’m going to consider this from three perspectives:

  1. a substantial learning provider that is migrating content to the web wholesale (no policy);
  2. an e-learning agency that produces modules for learning and design managers (the policy is the policy of each different client)
  3. at the Amateur Swimming Association who have a meaningful relationship with disabled swimmers (a policy toward athletes may not be as supportive and accessible when it comes to their own teachers and coaches).

In due course I’ll consider accessibility in relation to content and resources provided by the Open University whom one would expect to be leader in this field – indeed I believe they are and it is apparent as soon as you look at a page of OU e-learning content compared to the kinds of materials  typically produced for corporate clients. Having worked for or in such organisations I can identify differences and suggest reasons for the decisions taken.

If your organisation does not have a policy, why do you think this might be?

I would like to consider this from the point of view of three learning providers –  a substantial institution akin to the OU, a specialist niche trade association and from the perspective of an agency that creates e-learning.

Does your organisation have someone in a senior position whose job it could be to lead accessibility-related policies and initiatives?

The person responsible ought to be senior, ought to carry influence, have personal knowledge or training in relation to access and accessibility and demonstrate the leadership qualities that come from taking on something new and seeing it through.

Are senior management aware of accessibility issues and simply choosing to ignore them?

People are in love with the cutting edge of e-learning – desiring an advanced look and feel and the smart technology behind tracking personal development, e-assessments and accreditation, rather than standing back and favouring instead something cleaner, simpler, perhaps less fashionable, but more accessible – and potentially easier to scale, adjust and for assistive technology – to read. Effectiveness, cost effectiveness and accessible ought to be priorities rather than gamification, virtual worlds and all encompassing solutions where a smorgasbord of choices and decisions is a better reality.

If there are laws in relation to discrimination that have teeth then no person or institution has yet been taken to court.

Has a decision been made that policies are not the right tool to use to try to change practice?

Agencies will do as asked – issues of accessibility might be raised at the briefing stage and the client will say then to what degree accessibility matters and share how accessibility issues have been addressed in the past in their organisation- usually piecemeal and after the event rather than building accessibility in from the start. No one has consider an approach, whether a policy or a design and technical response. The difficulty faced by an agency pitching in a competitive environment for work is that the market too often favours used of the latest gizmos and the most compelling, potentially award winning design. The policy should be for effectiveness and value for money with a close look at cost effectiveness based on old as well as new media.

If so, how is your organisation communicating to staff any desire or intention relating to accessibility?

Will any individual or group of students be significantly disadvantaged if they are required by their programme or institution to use the proposed system? (Seale 2006:128)

This needs to be at the top of the agenda.

Just like a change in management practice or take over of or by a business communication with people should be thorough, timely and authentic. If attitudes have to be changed, developed or refreshed the effort will be all the greater. This requires commitment and resources from the top and engagement of people familiar with such exercises.

How might you improve on accessibility-related policies that exist in your organisation?

1) Find a champion and a leader – if necessary two different people.
2) Get disabled students involved in deciding and advising on policy based on their experiences
3) Know the legal position and comply – tie in with ISO and Plain English policy and compliance (best practice).
4) Organisations have to mean it and be professional about it
5) TEAM WORK
6) Purchasing decisions
7) Benchmark accessibility

CHAMPION

1) There has to be someone to champion the cause, needs, benefits and legal requirements of accessibility. This person needs leadership qualities – informed, persuasive, by example, with authority, credibility and presence. Seale (2006:128) suggests that supportive managers with a positive attitude are need, people with previous experience of supporting students with disabilities. Seale (2006:128)
Accessibility implementation needs to be actively managed (Lamshed et al. 2003) Seale (2006:128)

  • ensuring that the accessibility of e-learning material and resources is monitored and audited (see Seale (2006 chapter 7)
  • ensuring that there is ‘joined up’ thinking between the different specialist and mainstream learning support services within an institution (see Seale 2006 chapter 8)
  • ensuring that staff development opportunities are strategically targeted to raise awareness and that staff are able to respond to accessibility requirements (see Seale 2006 chapter 9)
  • developing and implementing procurement procedures to ensure accessibility of future technology purchases;developing and implementing institutional accessibility policies.

USER GROUP ENGAGEMENT

2) Talk to and engage with end users – be proactive, learning to accommodate and work with the broadest church or representative disabled students.

From US. (Oregon) Accommodations in postsecondary education are governed by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).
Students with a documented disability have a right to receive reasonable accommodations. Additionally students have responsibilities which include:

  1. Providing the DAS office with appropriate documentation
  2. Responding to requests for information
  3. Scheduling and completing a required DAS orientation
  4. Making requests for accommodations according to the DAS Timeline for Service Requests before and during each term of attendance
  5. Following the policies and procedures which are available in the DAS Student Handbook

KNOW THE LEGAL POSITION

3) The legalese must be understood – ignorance of the law is no excuse – ideally a legal advisor will inform the CEO and Board, or trustees should seek advice and exirt pressure – that or responding to demands from society and individual campaigns. People need to believe that an organisation could be taken to court for failure to comply to accessibility legislation. Compliance. Level Double-A Conformance to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 http://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG1AA-Conformance

Comply with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 Part Four (as amended by Special Educational Needs Disability Act 2001) and the Disability Discrimination Act 2005. All of the Priority 1, 2 and 3 accessibility checkpoints across websites, as established in the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). The WAI promotes a high degree of usability and accessibility for people with disabilities.

It is possible that some of our older pages (those not within our new visual identity) might not currently conform to these standards. However, we are actively engaging with our website team to ensure that all future web pages are compliant with W3C guidelines for accessibility.

Like compliance to IS0 9000 and 9001

http://www.praxiom.com/iso-intro.htm

And PLAIN ENGLISH CAMPAIGN

http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/awards.html

CLOUT

4). Purchasing decisions need to take accessibility into consideration – so someone with control on budgets needs to have a say. All new purchases of learning management systems, courseware and networked equipment is accessible (Rowland 2000; McCarthy 2001). He who pays the piper, plays the tune.

MISSION STATEMENT

5). Some organisations could or do put issues into their mission statement or reflect specific brand values – just as companies have ‘gone green’, so too they ought to be looking at both accessibility and equality as part of their corporate and social responsibility mix.  Anderson (2004) argues that practice will only change if the policy is actively implemented:Developing campus Web accessibility policies, guidelines or standards is often thought of as a way to meet legal obligation, however, implementing Web accessibility policies can be a means for creating a campus e-culture of inclusion. While developing a policy has numerous challenges – implementing, supporting and updating a Web accessibility policy is where the rubber hits the road and separates those who succeed in Web accessibility efforts and those who have a policy. (Anderson 2004)

  • embedding accessibility across all institutional activities and systems, from procurement to student support services;
  • addressing whether and how the development of an institutional accessibility policy will encourage such embedment;
  • identifying a team of key stakeholders, across the whole institution (and not just specialist disability services) who are willing and able to work towards embedment.

This may or may not be a ‘tall order’ (Wilson et al. 2002: 20), but without leadership from managers the task will not get any ‘smaller’.

TEAM WORK

6). It is a grave error to make access the responsibility of one person – and the cliche is to give the role of ‘Disability Officer’ to the one person in a wheelchair. Rather to be effective an ‘action team’ needs to be created so that from across the organisations there are partnerships with a range of representative stakeholders. it must be both a collaborative and a team effort.

Byrne (2004) suggests that in setting up a ‘Web Accessibility Policy and Planning Group’ the following stakeholders (among others) should be included: management, student representatives, disabled students, administrators, web designers, lecturers and learning support staff.

  • involve all stakeholders, including top-level support (Burgstahler 2002a; Smith and Lyman 2005);
  • organize an accessibility committee (Smith and Lymann 2005; Hriko 2003; Byrne 2004);
  • provide training and technical support (Smith and Lyman 2005; Burgstahler 2002a; Brewer and Horton 2002);
  • promote institutional awareness (Burgstahler 2002a; Brewer and Horton 2002);
  • evaluate progress towards accessibility (Smith and Lyman 2005; Burgstahler 2002a; Brewer and Horton 2002).

MEAN IT

7). Organisations have to mean it – not pay lip service, but set SMART goals, adhere to plans, be open with failings and strive to make things better. Whilst mission statements and guidelines are a move in the right direction, they will not necessarily ensure or mandate that practice changes. In order to ensure accessibility, policies need to be specific, detailed and directive.

i.e. SMART goals

Specific
Measurable
Attainable
Relevant
Time Bound

Advice from a number of accessibility advocates would suggest that accessibility policies need to:

  • define the scope of the policy (Johnson et al. 2003; Brewer 2002);
  • delineate a specific and official technical standard (Johnson et al. 2003; Bohman 2003d; Brewer 2002; Smith and Lyman 2005);
  • indicate whether compliance is required (Bohman 2003d);
  • indicate a timeline or deadline for compliance (Bohman 2003d; Brewer 2002);
  • define a system for evaluating or monitoring compliance (Bohman 2003d; Brewer 2002; Smith and Lyman 2005);

[page 132]

  • indicate any consequences for failure to comply with policy (Bohman 2003d).

Seale (2006:131)

BENCHMARK

8). Benchmark accessibility annually and raise the bar each year too, with comparisons tolike institutions – are we doing better or worse – and particular with those those organisations the ‘action team’ admire for what they are doing or have achieved. A useful exercise would be to look at the history of adoption of access in the physical world, the debates, legislation and practices. Change to be done appropriately and to be permanent takes time.

Develop the view that making accommodations for students with disabilities forms part of the institution’s engagement with learning technologies, can provide efficiencies and improve business agility and performance.

REVIEW – Visitors using the centre are taken through a structured questionnaire that enables them to review their learning practices and compare their level of performance against evolving good practice.

COMPARE – Three key performance indicators above.

ACT – Once you have identified where you can improve , the centre contains over 200 resources to help you take action in your business.

TOWARDS MATURITY (2012)
http://www.towardsmaturity.org/static/towards-maturity-benchmark-centre/

If none exist, what might you include in any new accessibility-related policy within an organisation?

It would be an interesting activity to hold a meeting and hand out books pertaining to contain text that are blank, to be handed a laptop on which all the keys have been glued down, a radio that scrambles the audio.

Design with Assistive Technology (AT) in mind. ‘As technology evolves, Assistive Technology (AT) often becomes outdated, leaving developers scrambling to produce new forms of AT to “catch-up” to IT. In the meantime, individuals relying on AT are left with obsolete equipment and consequently, reduced access to information and services. Although AT does catch up, inevitably, the accessibility cycle repeats itself as technology is too often developed with little or no thought to accessibility’. KATSEVA (2004)

‘Typically, technology is designed for functionality from the outset and made accessible only after-the-fact, either with AT or with retrofitting. This process excludes those for whom access to information and services is already difficult, as well as being terribly inefficient and costly. This process is akin to building a house without the electrical infrastructure, only to have each room wired individually, as new appliances are purchased’. KATSEVA (2004)

Does your organisation have other policies that should refer to accessibility?

If so, do they refer to it? If not, in what ways should they refer to it? Kelly et al. (2004) note that IT Service departments usually aim to provide a secure, robust managed environment, which may conflict with the flexibility many end users would like. (Seale 2006:128) The same is likely to occur with the strict adherence to web accessibility policies. There will need to be a compromise. The IT department, as they are used to managing and even policing IT should perhaps become the guardians of accessibility policy too as it would impact on design and programmining choices.

Who are the key people who have a role in managing accessibility in your organisation?

What helps or hinders them working together on accessibility-related issues?

Leading an institution’s response increases the visibility of accessibility as an issue, makes it easier to dedicate the necessary resources to the issue and makes the monitoring of compliance more of a probability (WebAim n.d.b).

At Cranfield University, we try to ensure that our services, products and facilities are available to all – irrespective of any disability. This applies to our website, too. Our website has been built following expert disability advice. (http://www.cranfield.ac.uk/ prospectus/ note.cfm) SEE APPENDIX 6

Oregon State University provides on its website a set of general web accessibility guidelines:

The universal access to information is a part of the University’s ongoing commitment to establishing a barrier free learning community at Oregon State. These guidelines have been established as a part of this commitment, and to meet the ethical and legal obligations that we have under The Americans with Disabilities Act, The Telecommunications Act of 1996, and The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.

The Oregon State policy has been replaced by Disability Access Services Mission and Goals, http://ds.oregonstate.edu/ about/mission.php (last accessed 24 May 2012).

Integration not segregation

Given that many advocates argue against ‘add-on’ specialist services that segregate people and issues from the mainstream, there would seem to be merit in considering whether accessibility should be integrated into existing policies or whether existing policies can be applied to e-learning accessibility.

Using this argument, perhaps accessibility should be embedded into a range of policies and strategies including: e-learning strategies; teaching and learning strategies; non-discrimination policies; inclusion policies; widening participation policies and learning resources policies.

FURTHER LINKS

Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) Guidelines
http://www.w3.org/WAI/guid-tech.html

REFERENCE

Anderson, A. (2004) Supporting web accessibility policies: creating a campus e-culture of inclusion at UW-Madison. Paper presented at CSUN ’04. Online. Available HTTP: <http://www.csun.edu/ cod/ conf/ 2004/ proceedings/ 20.htm> (last accessed 23 May 2012).

Burgstahler, S., Corrigan, B. and McCarter, J. (2004) Making distance learning courses accessible to students and instructors with disabilities: a case study. Internet and Higher Education, 7, 233–246.

Byrne, J. (2004) An example: UK university accessible web design plan. Online. Available HTTP: <http://www.mcu.org.uk/show.php?contentid=85&gt; (accessed 5 October 2005 but no longer available).

Katseva, A. (2004) The case for pervasive accessibility. Paper presented at CSUN ’04. Online. Available HTTP: <http://www.csun.edu/ cod/conf/ 2004/ proceedings/ 114.htm> (last accessed 23 May 2012).

Lamshed, R., Berry, M. and Armstrong, L. (2003) Keys to access: accessibility conformance in VET. Online. Available HTTP: <http://www.flexiblelearning.net.au/ projects/ resources/ accessibility-conformance.doc> (last accessed 23 May 2012).

Tinklin, T., Riddell, S. and Wilson, A. (2004) Policy and provision for disabled students in higher education in Scotland and England: the current state of play. Studies in Higher Education, 29, 5, 637–657.

TOWARDS MATURITY (2012) http://www.towardsmaturity.org/static/towards-maturity-benchmark-centre/

WebAIM. (n.d.b) The important of leadership. If not you, who? Online. Available HTTP: . (Now available at http://www.webaim.org/ articles/imp_of_leadership/, last accessed 23 May 2012.)

Wilson, A., Ridell, S. and Tinklin, T. (2002) Disabled students in higher education. Finding from key informant interviews. Online. Available HTTP: (accessed 5 October 2005 but no longer available).

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.

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