To celebrate, from Friday April 1st onwards, I will introduce and link a selection of papers that have been hugely influential in developing and challenging my thinking on disability, technology and education. This curated compilation represents a guided tour of some of Routledge’s ‘Greatest Hits’, to inform readers outside universities (in particular, techies, geeks, accessibility professionals, and others) and, I hope, help open up and apply disability theory and digital inclusion research for debate amongst new audiences. The list will also have relevance for scholars and academics in the field, and those whose universities do not currently subscribe to these journals (for example, my own institution, the University of Nottingham, does not supply access to the Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research, I have my associate lectureship at Sheffield Hallam to thank for this particular literature hack!).
Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research
Studies in Higher Education
Disability and Society
So, over the course of April I invite you to join me as I introduce each paper. You can subscribe to the blog to receive an alert via RSS feed or email when each post goes live, or simply drop by in over the course of the month and see what my suggested bibliography has to offer. If you are considering compiling a similar list in conjunction with Routledge’s Education free-for-all, be sure to signpost below. Comments and suggestions are welcome!
Springer describe the book as constituting the refereed proceedings of the 4th European Conference on Technology Enhanced Learning, EC-TEL 2009, held in Nice, France in September/October 2009. The 35 revised full papers, 17 short papers, and 35 posters presented were carefully reviewed and selected from 136 paper submissions and 22 poster submissions. The papers are organized in topical sections on adaptation and personalization, interoperability, semantic Web, Web 2.0., data mining and social networks, collaboration and social knowledge construction, learning communities and communities of practice, learning contexts, problem and project-based learning, inquiry, learning, learning design, motivation, engagement, learning games, and human factors and evaluation.
I’ve just received notice via the Association for Learning Technology that the first two chapters of Dr Jane Seale’s Teaching and Learning Research Programme -Technology Enhanced Learning (TLRP-TEL) commentary on Digital Inclusion are now available to view online.
Interested individuals are invited to add their comments and opinions on the online version of the commentary. These comments will then inform the writing of the final published document. For more information and to get involved go to:
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’.
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.
NEWS FLASH: I’ve just received word that today JISC have published the final report for the JELS project (full title: ‘A study of effective evaluation models and practices for technology supported physical learning spaces’). This is great news for me and the team. You can read the final report on the JISC project pages, or visit the Learning Sciences Research Institute project pages.
In 2008 BECTA‘s Disadvantaged Learners Report observed that the lack of a single voice in UK policy championing disadvantaged learners has led to unhelpful fragmentation – particularly in addressing digital disadvantage across education. Hopefully this Forum will help to draw together disparate resources and streams of research and practice to give more cohesion to those seeking to mitigate exclusion within technology enhanced learning.
The Digital Inclusion Forum has two key purposes:
To identify key inclusion-related questions and issues for research into digital inclusion issues in education
To discuss and evaluate the contribution that the TEL research programme can make to the digital inclusion research agenda.
According to Jane Seale, the group convener, there will be two main phases of activity:
The first phase (May-November 2009) will be the development of an online space for sharing digital inclusion related resources, discussing inclusion-related issues and scoping priorities for digital inclusion research. It is hoped the online space will be a platform for the collaborative writing of a web-based document that starts to draw together what the key issues are in relation to digital inclusion research.
The second phase (December 2009-September 2010) will involve the setting up of a commentary group who, drawing on the web-based document will co-author a TEL branded publication which offers a commentary on digital inclusion research and highlights the contributions of the TEL projects to the field.
The forum welcomes input, with invitations being issues specifically around contributions to an emergent Digital Inclusion Reference Library and posts to the new discussion forum.
The forum also notably draws on blogs and other resources tagged with ‘digitalinclusion’. This marriage of expertise and materials will hopefully accrue into a valuable resource for everyone working to achieve access and equity in technology enhanced learning.