I’m pleased to say that my first book contribution, Technologies for Formal and Informal Learning (Chapter 12, pp. 435-464) co-authored with Dr Charles Crook, has been published in the International Handbook of Psychology in Education, edited by Karen Littleton, Clare Wood and Judith Kleine Staarman. The volume is published by Emerald, and is available now via Amazon.
The International Handbook of Psychology in Education provides researchers, practitioners and advisers working in the fields of psychology and education with an overview of cutting-edge research across a broad spectrum of work within the domain of psychology of education. As well as convering the latest thinking within established areas of enquiry, the Handbook includes chapters on recently emerging, yet important, topics within the field and explicitly considers the inter-relationship between theory and practice.
The chapters in the handbook are authored by internationally recognised researchers, from across Europe, North America and the Pacific Rim. As well as covering the latest thinking within established areas of enquiry, the handbook includes chapters on recently emerging, yet important, topics within the field and explicitly considers the inter-relationship between theory and practice. A strong unifying theme is the volume’s emphasis on processes of teaching and learning. The work discussed in the handbook focuses on typically developing school-age children, although issues relating to specific learning difficulties are also addressed.
“This fine collection of key contemporary work by renowned authors represents the state of the art in the psychology of education. The book is ground-breaking, timely and comprehensive, and indispensable reading for scholars and practitioners interested in understanding and promoting teaching and learning in diverse educational contexts.”
Professor Sylvia Rojas-Drummond, Faculty of Psychology, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM)
“This book brings together an all-star cast of international experts, and should be required reading for the large community of education researchers who are studying how to improve classroom instruction by using psychological research.”
Professor Keith Sawyer, Washington University, St Louis, USA.
“A welcome and much needed book.”
Kristina Kumpulainen, Finnish National Board of Education and University of Helsinki
Following reviews from others working in accessibility, inclusion and Higher Education, I’ve been watching footage from the recent Handheld Learning Conference in London. Extensive online proceedings including video are available on the conference website and via iTunes.
I’ve supplied links to videos alongside notes on the first 5 presentations from the Inclusion Session below. Notes from Sal Cooke’s presentation are most complete due to the range of sources she draws on and my own interest in the projects she cites. For brevity, this a descriptive account, not an analytic one. As I did not attend the conference myself, comments are very welcome. Please note all links open in a new window and many presentations feature slides that are not audio-described.
To what problem is ‘inclusion’ an answer? Doesn’t everyone have a mobile?
Is ‘Digital Divide’ an outmoded term? It’s no longer a poor/rich divide, but a series of fractures.
Specifically, here Clark identifies a disjuncture in the UK between ‘analogue’ educational practices in schools and the ‘digital’ world that characterises nearly everything else.
Can inclusion actually result in exclusion? The fact that the few don’t have the technology means the many don’t get anything.
In terms of accessibility discourse, I feel this relates to the observations made by Brian Kelly and others regarding the development of Adaptable and Accessible practices. Video and other media from Brian’s presentation at TechShare are available via his blog.
Has the ‘Digital Britain’ report helped or hindered our digital future? It’s largely about TV, Radio and Newspapers or punishing file-sharers.
Clark also questions policy approaches, making a strong critique of Digital Britain, identifying how a scoping document has become a punitive exercise.
Niel McLean is Executive Director of Becta (the British Education and Communications Technology Agency), here he introduces the Home Access project which seeks to ensure that all pupils in state education in England have the opportunity access to computers and internet connectivity for education at home. The programme supplies funding to achieve this. Aside from McLean’s discussion of socio-economic deprivation as a distinct category within the inclusion agenda, this talk includes a valuable dissection of the political grounds for Government’s role in ensuring home-based access to education.
David Cavello is the Chief Learning Architect at MIT on the One Laptop Per Child project. One Laptop Per Child is a renowned project that aims to create educational opportunities for the world’s poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for learning. Cavallo is a charismatic speaker and news on the progress of the project is always engaging (as is Dr Sugata Mitra’s Hole in the Wall project in India). Questions and answers relate to bandwidth, collaboration and infrastructure.
Cooke’s presentation focuses on mobile device research and relations to inclusion, disability and Special Educational Needs in a wide-ranging talk that draws on multiple projects and resources. She begins by reporting recent ministerial announcements about mobile devices in Education. These include: Funding for 118 projects, 30 significant case studies with 8 to be studied in-depth to examine impact. Projects will particularly focus on:
Field Work, Special Needs, home access, staff and learner capacity
Innovation in the curriculum
Motivation of the learner, particularly the disengaged
Measures of significant improvements in learning outcomes
However, she quickly moves on to point out that much of this research has arguably already happened. Specifically, the ‘Portables in Action’ NCET Project reported outcomes in 1994 and concluded at that time that:
“Educational achievements are enhanced by pupils using portable computers, including the volume and quality of their work, particularly in accuracy and standard of presentation”
“there is clearly a great potential for using portable with special educational needs pupils”
So are the issues the same, or have they changed? Cooke covers several key areas for contemporary deployment of mobile devices and digital content. Specifically she cites issues with assessment and the process of assessment for those who require additional time and assistive technologies. How will these learners’ needs be met?
Make learning more convenient, accessible, inclusive and sensitive to learners; individual needs and circumstances
Encourage non-traditional learners and learners who have not succeeded in traditional learning to engage in learning and to improve in confidence and self-esteem
Help teachers to provide different learning activities to suit different learning styles or preferences and different ability levels.
Cooke stresses the need for this approach to be transferred into other educational sectors. She also refers to findings from MoLeNET research to refute common myths that mobile technologies might ‘somehow be inappropriate or too difficult for learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities‘ or that ‘allowing the use of mobile technologies, particularly mobile phones, in schools and colleges would make it difficult for teachers to control classes and would encourage inappropriate behaviour‘. To support this, Cooke cites evidence and best-practice case studies available via MoLeNET and describes how mobile devices can assist in a multitude of different situations. She also lists the publication GoMobile as a source highlighting many innovative uses of handheld devices.
Next Cooke illustrates how technologies have moved into the home and represent an untapped learning resource that arguably represents the crux of the Inclusion agenda. One slide depicts a toy pen from ToysRUs that helps children learn to read. Cooke observes that this is the same technology that was being given to dyslexic students as an assistive technology only a couple of years ago. She indicates how assistive technologies are now cheap, mainstream and in the home and broadly conceived as ‘gadgets’.
Cooke links to further evidence from the ongoing ‘Me and My Mobile Phone’ survey by Ian Milliken at Iansyst, the University of Southampton and JISC TechDis, listing highlights from learners with additional access needs. A graph (difficult to see on video) shows that screen size and text size, though significant, are a not considered an overwhelming problem by users with access needs because there are other things that they do with a phone. She quotes one participant:
“…more mobile phone companies should be aware of the software available to help those who are sensory impaired and either offer to put the software on, suggest where to get the software or make sure…their phones are compatible with the latest software”
This research also shows that the vast majority of participants do not want to speak into their device to navigate content, but they do want to hear it.
Cooke concludes with thanks to industry for the huge leaps made in mainstreaming accessible platforms and apps. Apps that could not have previously come to market are now available and ready to use, breaking barriers that were insurmountable in the past . She cites several strong examples including:
Yahoo collaboration with Reading University to provide automatically captioned video
Rix Centre (University of East London) work on symbol card recognition, enabling users to surf the web and listen to emails using only symbols.
The addition of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) to new phones in 2010. RFID has been used by the RNIB for years. With international roll-out immanent, educational applications of RFID are being developed.
Cooke goes on to refer to ‘Independent Specialist Colleges: Specialists in Innovation citing the innovative work undertaken within Special Education. She asks how this wealth of knowledge can be married to mainstream practice to for mutual benefits in national programmes. How can we make a real difference? How do we equip staff with the necessary skills? Will mobile learning require new kinds of teaching?
Here Cook returns to the push of new technologies that are changing inclusion work, using the example of RoboBraille, winner of the European Access-IT award.
Robobraille is a free ‘phenomenally powerful resource’. Users send a word processed document to an email address, the document is returned in DAISY format. DAISY, the Digital Accessible Information System, is a format for digital audio books for people who wish to hear and navigate written material presented in an audible format.
Cooke states the institutional focus must be on Continuing Professional Development. What do people do with technologies in their roles? Do people create mobile resources? Do they apply different teaching techniques? Or do they use mobile devices predominantly for collaboration and communication? How many people know what is in their Single Equality Duty Scheme about Mobile learning? How do we upskill this workforce?
Cooke closes the presentation re-asserting print impairment as a major access issue. Under this topic she refers to contemporary developments in e-books and e-publishing within Education. Finally, in response to previous presenters, Cooke asserts Digital Inclusion a matter of rights, not politics. For some people it is life. She quotes a learner in a specialist school to underline this fact: ‘I cannot speak but I use my phone all the time, because I want my mum to be able to see me and see how I am’.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had a lot of hits from people looking for online learning materials to support a new term of CACDAP courses in British Sign Language (tap BSL into the search box if you’re looking for links to video resources). As a result I’ve been thinking about the BSL resources found online more generally. On Tuesday I was at AbilityNet’s ‘Accessibility 2.0: a million flower’s bloom’ conference. An early tip was Australian presenter Lisa Herrod (@ScenarioGirl), a consultant from Scenario Seven, and expert in User Experience for Deaf users. Her talk ‘Understanding Deafness: History, Language and the Web’ blew this subject wide open.
Lisa’s presentation was a timely reminder of the ways in which Deaf people are often overlooked in internet practice and research:
people tend to group deaf, Deaf and Hearing Impaired users into one big group of people who “just can’t hear. Most of us know someone that has diminished hearing through age or industrial damage, noise etc. But few of us understand Deafness from a cultural, linguistic perspective, i.e. from the perspective of those Deaf who use sign language as a first language and may not be fluent in English as a second language.
British Sign Language is the first language for approximately 50,000 Deaf people in the UK. This gestural language is wholly different to spoken and written English. Lisa highlighted how developments from texting through to video conferencing have had a huge and positive impact on distance communications for the Deaf community. In this sense Web 2.0 provides powerful tools for Deaf people to come together. However, Lisa also showed how internet resources can cause problems for Sign Language users due to an over-reliance on large amounts of complicated text; text that assumes a fluent native speaker. In short, Web 2.0 is effective for Signed collaboration, but the textual basis of content is still a problem.
So far, these observations have clear intersects with accessibility issues for foreign language speakers and people with print impairments such as dyslexia. However, a specific barrier unique to Deaf people online can come in the form of video captioning. In discussion, Lisa identified a vital distinction between captioning and subtitling. Captioning reports speech directly into text, whereas Subtitling is more interpretive and intended for quick and easy understanding. Where a person with dyslexia might watch and listen to a video rather than read a text, with dubbed versions available to French or Chinese viewers, interpretive subtitling allows a Deaf person to understand and take in visual content.
Another powerful message from Lisa’s presentation relates to the global status of BSL more specifically. Early in her talk Lisa refuted a common popular misconception that Deaf people across the world have the same signed language. Spoken English and American English are nearly identical, but British Sign Language and American Sign Language (ASL) are very different. In fact, ASL has more in common with French Sign Language due to a shared linguistic ancestry stemming from the 1800s. As with the development of any language, Sign Languages have grown out of small communities and expanded simultaneously from disparate beginnings. This history forcefully underlines the difference between ASL and BSL, but what does it mean for the web?
BSL speakers are a linguistic minority online. American English is a dominant internet language, and in my experience, American Sign Language also dominate searches and resources. BSL is from the same family of languages as Auslan (Australian Sign Language) and New Zealand Sign Language, but the American orientation of internet culture made it difficult for me as a BSL beginner to find resources relevant to the UK beyond established portals and communities. In these terms, British Sign Language must be prioritised online at every level. Other accessibility concerns may be solved or mediated with international expertise. But the national and linguistic independence of British Deaf culture means that accessible video/text and BSL materials must be prioritised in the UK.
Last week I blogged about the InterFace Symposium in Southampton. As with many events, the organisers sought to enhance delegate experiences and communities using a mix of social networks and other Web 2.0 tools (a Ning social network, Micro-blogging with Twitter, online publishing with Scribd). It can be difficult to quickly assess the accessibility of such services and make decisions as to which service is most appropriate – or at least it was until JISC TechDis and Southampton University pulled together to create Web2Access.
Web2Access is a great reference site for anyone wanting to make more informed decisions about applying web 2.0 tools in an accessible way. The resource allows you to search for information in different ways. You can search by activity (for example, collaborative writing or ) and Web2 Access will then give you a percent score on the success of those applications in accessibility terms. So at time of writing Twitter scores an overall 88% , Accessible Twitter scores 95%, Facebook 69%, Ning 72%. These ratings are subjecting and based on manual and automatic tests. If you follow links for each individual service, you can discover more detailed information about how each service scores for users with different disabilities. Alternatively you can browse by Disability or using the Search box on the website front page. There are also useful pages describing how the sites listed have been tested, answering Frequently Asked Questions and linking to useful e-Learning resources.
If you are involved in organising teaching and learning and are wanting to make more use of Web 2.0 services in your e-learning activities, or if you are interested in how Web 2.0 can supplement your existing methods, or events in an accessible way, Web2Access provides a rule of thumb for most situations.
Caramel Whistle have just published the results of a thorough trawl of the web, seeking out the best Sign Language resources for students of BSL. This round-up includes Mobile Signs and some of the resources and technical vocab sites I’ve listed here previously, but more importantly he introduces some great new finds.
For me, there are two clear highlights. The first is Spread the Sign, a European website that hosts a text-to-sign search. This allows you to translate a word or phrase from a range of european spoken languages into a sign language equivalent. You can search for a term and then view the results in BSL, or see it signed in any of 10 languages, including Swedish, Turkish, Russian, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Czech. Importantly, video is smooth and sharp. This is a great site that rewards exploration.
The second highlight is Qia Resources for ICT. This site offers common and specialist vocabulary on Information and Communications Technology. As with Art Signs, this is useful for anyone working in media, education, computer science or a related discipline.