Monthly Archives: December 2008

Week 15 Activity 2.1 Mobile learning

Over £7 million was made avalable for mobile learning projects in UK FE colleges in 2007-08 via the LSC MoleNet Project.  The publication GoMobile! http://www.molenet.org.uk/search/resource-30492.aspx highlights the impact these reasources have had on learniers with dissabilities. The following extract identifies some of the oportunities and problems:

  • The easy portability of mobile devices such as smartphones and handheld media players, and now also slimline mobile PCs, means that learners with learning difficulties can have access to reminders and ‘how-to’ tutorials at the point of need. Care has to be taken, however, to ensure that the device suits the capabilities of the user – in some instances,high-spec smartphones have been found to be too complex or ‘fiddly’ forsome learners.
  • Mobile devices can be discreet ways of compensating for learning difficulties, thus maintaining learners’ motivation. Learners struggling with personal organisation – for example, arriving in class on time, following directions and managing learning activities beyond face-to-face sessions – have found devices such as PDAs and smartphones helpful. They also respond well to being entrusted with a ‘cool’ piece of kit. However, loan of mobile devices involves risk assessment since vulnerable learners may be the target of bullying or theft.
  • Instructional videos that can be played in learners’ own time and in different locations have proved transformational, with learners mastering independent living skills faster and with greater confidence. This success depends, however, on the availability of learning resources that are fit for purpose and possibly on the involvement of a familiar tutor – would an off the- shelf tutorial achieve the same effect?
  • The introduction of mobile technologies into a classroom environment can have unforeseen benefits. Learners with communication difficulties who are adept with modern  technologies become more willing to interact with their peers and even share their skills with tutors. Provided their new status is recognised by their tutors, willingness to engage in other forms of learning can ensue.
  • Learners may initially find difficulty in using mobile devices, but experimentation makes it easier to master complex technologies. The opportunity to ‘play with’ a device also engenders a sense of fun which can motivate learners to push beyond previously fixed boundaries.
  • Continuing use of a mobile technology has been shown to improve learners’ self-image and even develop skills valuable in the workplace. Maintenance of contracts with mobile phone companies, replacement costs in the event of damage, and even gifts of personal devices on enrolment, will need to be considered to enable this to become a long-term benefit.
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Week 15 Activity 1. 2 – Positive features of web 2.0

Although I have my own ideas on why web 2.0 resources can be beneficial for diabled people, I have had some difficulty finding supporting

RSS Feeds/Blogs

Rss feeds and blogs have made it possible to easily collate accessibility related information from a wide range of sources. http://www.webaim.org/blog/blog-roundup/ . the RSS feeds can be used in a wide range of rss readers which meet the needs of the user, these include Accessible RSS from webbIE (http://www.webbie.org.uk/accessiblerss/) or Netvibes.

Comunity

“In many ways, social-networking sites can be a boon for disabled people, because they remove some of the barriers faced by disabled people who want to socialise and network,” Paul Carter as cited on http://resources.zdnet.co.uk/articles/features/0,1000002000,39290559-1,00.htm However accessibility issues with mainstream social networks have led to an increase in specialized social networks and online communities for disabled people including http://www.disaboom.com/, http://www.tagdeaf.com/ and http://www.blindspots.net. Web 2.0: hype or happiness (http://delivery.acm.org/10.1145/1250000/1243453/p35-zajicek.pdf?key1=1243453&key2=1864599221&coll=GUIDE&dl=GUIDE&CFID=15446432&CFTOKEN=93539418) highlights the benefits of the BCAB mailing list as a community.

week 14 Activity 1.2 Guidelines for Accessible Testing and Assessment

The guidelines for accessible testing and Assesment builld on the guidelines previously mentioned.  It provides clarification of terminology i.e.citingWillingham and Cole “Validity is the all-encompassing technical standard for judging the quality of the assessment process. Validity includes, for example, the accuracy with which a test measures what it purports to measure, how well it serves its intended function, other consequences of test use, and comparability of the assessment process for different examinees.”

It highlinghts general good practice of accessible desighn “From the earliest design stages, test developers consider accessibility standards.” and it makes good use of examples “But sometimes an accessibility feature can diminish validity. Suppose, for example, that an art test that is intended to measure a student’s ability to write descriptions of artwork (such as paintings), and that the questions present visually displayed pictorial images of the artwork as prompts. Standards for accessibility might require that text descriptions of the artwork be made available to the test taker. However, to do so would make it virtually impossible to detect the test taker’s proficiency in producing the text descriptions, thereby posing a threat to validity.”

I suggest that all the guidelines mentioned in previous activities are relevent to assesment, however the additional requirements and validity required for assesment must also be considered.

Week 14 activity 1.1 Accessible examinations and assessments

Assessment within the FE community can generaly be broken down to assesment of skills and assesment of knowladge.  Assessment of knowladge includes courses such as A-Levels which are assessed via an exam.  The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) have produced guidelines for “Access Arrangements, Reasonable Adjustments and Special Consideration” (http://www.jcq.org.uk/attachments/published/538/29.%20Access%20Arrangements%20Booklet.pdf) which identify when it is appropriate to adapt exam conditions for disabled learners.  This includes the use of transcribers, sign language interpreters, voice input systems and word processors.  This publication also identifies what parts of an exam can be modified

“Technical language and abstract concepts cannot be removed as these form part of the assessment objectives being tested. The aim is to remove unnecessary barriers to comprehension by removing complicated sentence structures where they are not essential to the question itself.”
When the aim of assessment is to asses skill levels, technology is providing a wide range of opportunities to capture evidence.  Instead of witting detailed descriptions of how to perform an action, it is increasingly convenient and affordable to capture audio and visual evidence using equipment including camera phones, basic camcorders, voice recorders and head cams. 
As modifications and adaptions for disabled learners increase so do the difficulties in assessing students on equal terms.  I feel that many of the modifications available to some disabled learners should be available to all learners. this includes students being able to use word processors in exams and capture audio/visual evidence.  The use of adaptive technologies can cause errors when combined with the stress of exam conditions (http://learn.open.ac.uk/local/libezproxylink.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fdx.doi.org%2F10.1111%2F1467-8535.00312)  however this can be reduced by adiquate use of mock exams under exam conditions, which is good practice for all students.

Week 13 Activities 1.5 & 2.1

Activity 1.5

All FE colleges have to have a  Disability Equality Scheme (DES)  as a requirement of the  Disability Equality Duty (DED) (2006).  The DES for Kendal Colleghe is an example of this http://www.kendal.ac.uk/general_documents/disability%20equality%20scheme.pdf along with it’s corosponding action plan http://www.kendal.ac.uk/general_documents/Disability%20equality%20scheme%20action%20plan.pdf.

This scheme is prodiced by working group which is headed by the Head of Business Development and Client Services, and includes a number of the senior management team.
Their website highlights their commitment to include disabled learners in any decision making processes:
Consulting with Disabled Learners 
We are very keen to involve disabled learners in our decision-making processes at the college. You can get involved by attending focus groups, talking to your personal tutor about issues that affect you or informing Student Services about improvements we can make. The more you work with us, the more we can ensure our college practices reflect equality for disabled learners.
Activity 2.1
What action has been taken to make sure that disabled students are able to take part in the same non-teaching activities as other students?
As an example, Kendal colleges website includes a number of ways disabled students are encouraged to participate. these include technical solutions such as hearing loops and equipment available, as well as less technical support from the Study Services tutor. 


What other action could be taken?
The website does not make it clear how assistive technologies, which are available to disabled learners, can be accessed by non disabled learners who may benefit from them.  This includes features such as screen readers and roaming profiles.

Week 13 Activities1.1-1.3 Q&A based on Seale Chapters 6, 7 and 8

Activity 1.1 Questions based on Seale Ch 6
“Accessibility has not been framed as a pedagogical or teaching issue requireing pedagogical responcies and solutions” (pp70)
Although accessibility my be seen as a technical issue, there is a pedagogical move towards personalised learning.  Personalised learning includes giving students choice and a range of options and choices.  This incorporates accessibility issues.
“Today, people want the service to be organised around them, not them around it. They want high quality service, tailored to their specific needs and at a time and place convenient for them…” Tony Blair as cited in http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/consultations/downloadableDocs/DfES%20Personalisation.pdf
Definitions:
“Inclusive design involves designing curricula that aim to include students with disabilities from the outset.” pp71
“Equitable use: the design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.” pp71
Holistic Design:  Various descriptions”Schenker and Scadden (2002), Holistiuc design means starting with the pedagogy first …then addressing accessibility as it relates to collaborative learning” (pp74) “Kelly et al (2004) holistic design means providing accessable learning experiences, not necessarily accessible elearning experiences” (pp74)
“Being proactive involves thinking about the needs of disabilities at the begining of the design….process…”(pp75)”Being flexable involves thinking of appropriate ways to offer equivilent and alternative access to the curriculum…”(pp75)
The definitions seem to overlap and are at times vague and confusing.
Activity 1.2 Questions based on Seale Chapter 7
Debating the responsibilities for accessibility.
I think it is more benificial to decide what the responcibilities are and how they need to be alocated rather than debating who has ultimate responcibility, as this can be seen as an exercise in passing the buck.
“The legislation, guidelines, standards and tools are mearly aechealogical artefacts that have been scattered on the surface of significant archealogical site.” (pp82)
I think that this analogy gives the impression that the guidelines are only a small part of a more detailed process.
I would use the analogy of the guidelines standards and tools being a collection of maps and routes to a particular destination.  The important thing is getting there, not which route you use.
Technical tools Vs. Human Judgement
I think technical tools for specific resources or looking at specific accessibility issues can be useful, however I feel there is a danger when too much responcibility is placed on these tools.  There needs to be a shared responsibility to look at the bigger picture and ensure the resource is truely accessible rather than just pass an automated test

Activity 1.3 Questions based on Seale Chapter 8

When disabled learners are segregated by having designated rooms or computers to use reinforces barriers between them and other learners.  Accessibility is not just for learners who have been identified as being disabled.  Some of the FE colleges I work with have fully intergrated departments where elearning, accessibility and other departments work together to ensure resources are accessable to all.  There are also FE colleges I work with there the Accessibility support department seem to see it as their role to get resources which can only be used by “their” disabled learners, and are very defensive and protective.