16. January 2014 · Comments Off on Accessibility, LLN, personalised learning and flipped classrooms · Categories: Accessibility, LLN
 Some thinking is starting to come together in lava-lamp like clumps for me about accessibility, LLN, personalised learning and flipped classrooms and where good practice in these areas overlap.

Accessibility is about provide equal access to online experiences regardless of ability. Like universal design in buildings where wheel chair ramps are also great for people with prams or temporary disabilities using crutches, thinking about making content accessible to the most people possible opens a lot of doors.

LLN (Language, Literacy and Numeracy) pre-testing allows educators to look at students’ scores across 5 Core skills – Learning, Reading Writing, Oral Communications and Numeracy – and compare those to the level at which the formal qualification is written or they’ve decided their non-qualification course needed to be written.  Educators can then identify any gaps between the students’ core skills and those required to succeed in the course. From there, if the qualification is formal, the educator can recommend or provide interventions to help the student skill up. If the course was written in response to a training need at an organisation or for a target group of people and the majority of the learners fall short of the LLN requirements, the training needs to be reviewed and adjusted.

Flipped classrooms (and apologies to friends who dislike this term), are about getting students to prepare before they come to class, then spending class time on great interactive learning and identifying and intervening in any comprehension gaps that come to the fore. “Yeah right! Learners are really gonna prepare before they come to class!” a lot of educators are wont to say. Yet we expect them to be able to complete homework in their spare time or prepare for assessments, why not tell them the class is part of their assessment and they need to prepare for it?

Personalised learning – or differentiation – is a concept I’ve heard of but kept relating back to what they did in my school days. They tested us early and filtered us into groups where we knew what they thought of us early on. Level 1 people knew we were going to uni. Level 2 people were probably going to go into vocational training. Level 3 people were probably going straight into work or marriage or both. Looking back, I can see what a horrible class system it set up. I remember asking my maths teacher to be moved to level 2 maths as I struggled with spatial concepts and word problems about bloody trains. He told me I wasn’t trying hard enough and that I tested well. Guess what? I STILL hate most maths.

However, an article from the December 2013 edition of Educational Leadership  really made the practice of differentiation come into focus for me. A short, targeted pre-assessment is given at the start of a lesson, then students are assigned to one of three different activity groups based on their answers. No levels or stigmas –just groups. And the kids who showed the least comprehension are set the task of creating flash cards to share with the rest of the class for reinforcement for others. Learning through preparing to teach: something I do quite a lot.

In the Moodle, course creators can create groups and provide access to content based on group membership. In face to face classes, group work is part of the norm. Would pre-assessment and then differentiation it really be that hard to do for blended learning? Could we make a skilling up intervention mandatory for certain groups within the course? Or should skilling up be something apart?

Finally, from what I understand of adult learning, the perception of self-efficacy is key to success. In other words, if you think you can’t, you can’t.

So should educators ask this final question on any pre-assessment: How confident are you that you understand this material? This would allow any learner who scored well but wasn’t confident to learn at the level at which they were most comfortable, with guidance from the educator’s pre-assessment.

Image: Taylor’s lavalamp at work CC by nc sa Brederous on Flickr

18. August 2013 · Comments Off on Alternative to click here · Categories: Accessibility

This is one of those snippets of info I’m saving for myself to inform a policy I want to write.

From WCAG basics –

Success Criterion 2.4.4: Link Purpose (In Context)

The purpose of each link can be determined from the link text alone

Technique: Links must not rely on the surrounding text for a meaning, so always use descriptive text on links and linked images. To avoid confusing users, make sure that the link text and the main heading on the target page are the same where possible, or at least contain similar words. Never use ‘click here’, ‘learn more’, or similar phrases as the link text, and avoid URLs as links. Poorly written links make it difficult for the screen reader and the screen magnifier users to navigate the page.

Example from Uni SA:

‘Additional information can be found on the Future Students section of the school website.’

Markup example:

Additional information can be found on the <a href=”http://www.school.edu.au/future/default.asp”>Future Students section of the school website</a>.

WCAG 2.0 reference: Understanding Success Criterion 2.4.4

06. August 2011 · Comments Off on What I learned from writing tutorials · Categories: Accessibility, Moodle
Play this article as audio: Right click to download: What I learned from writing tutorials (MP3, 1.9 MB) Play back on site:

This week I’ve been busy creating tutorials for learners on how to use Moodle. I looked on YouTube and couldn’t find any generic enough to suit my needs. As I explored what students were likely to need to know and some ideas for tools instructors weren’t using, I found that some of the ways we had things set up were making things harder than they had to be. Other things have been fixed in Moodle 2.1 which we’re moving to in January. Two things that really struck me were: More »

Audio version of this blog post:

Download: Universal Design for learning (MP3, 3 MB)

Play here on the blog:

Wow. Did I have it wrong.

I have been gung ho on researching ways in which the organisation for which I currently work can meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines because it will cater for people with physical and cognitive disabilities as well as mobile device users. I really didn’t grasp the profundity of Universal Design principles until I watched a YouTube video this afternoon.

I went to YouTube seeking answers because I wasn’t in the mood to read the text readings assigned in my Universal Design class. My head hurt and my eyes were tired.

I was fortunate that the Federation for Children with Special Needs have a YouTube channel and that they were kind enough to post a video presentation by Dr. David Rose. In his presentation, Dr. Rose introduced the notion that when we consider disabled people and education, we look at things incorrectly sometimes. We make assumptions that all people who are ‘normal’ have brains that function in pretty much the same way when doing certain tasks.  Yet research shows that multiple areas of the brain fire up when doing tasks and the degree to which particular areas fire up varies like a thumbprint.

We look at ways to fix people with identified cognitive or physical disabilities by providing them with assistive devices. What we should be doing is looking at the four elements of education
  • Standards and objectives
  • Curricular materials and tools
  • Teaching methods
  • Assessment techniques
In fixing standards and objectives, we should be providing multiple pathways to success. Don’t LOWER standards – keep them HIGH. Fixing curricular materials and tools. Don’t dumb down books – smarten them up!

Dr. Rose showed a digital textbook that teaches. It not only provides the option to read out the text (in a human, not robotic voice) but provides the option of mood music for kids with Aspergers so they can get clues as to the emotional subtext, allows kids to choose male or female voices, provides definitions for more difficult words and terms that are linked to popups that show visual as well as text-based ways of defining the term – and in more than one language, and more.  Advice, helps and assessments are all set to the child’s reading, comprehension and analysis level with real-time feedback as to why a choice may or may not be the best one.

What made the most impact when I had time to think about his presentation were some points he made at the beginning about fixing the disabilities of a book or environment. He gave a few examples such as sloped sidewalks at crossings that make it easier not only for people in wheelchairs to cross the road but also for people with visual and ambulatory disabilities.  

He mentioned that in the US all TVs have to have the ability to display close captioning, yet the people that get the most value out of it aren’t the deaf – but people in noisy environments such as gyms, airports or bars who wish to watch television.

So, why am I so excited and what do I think I got wrong? After watching Dr. Rose’s presentation, I thought about the plight of adult learners. People with kids who are tired after a long day and often a long commute. People who might work at organisations that frown on the use of computers for personal use – even education. People who are visual or for whom English isn’t their first language who are asked to read virtual reams of PDFs and web sites. And I thought of me. Today. Who had set time aside to study but due to a headache and back issues didn’t want to sit down and read papers.

Thanks to options, I was able to sift through some videos on YouTube, find a real gem that gave me not only an overview of universal design, but how it applies to all aspects of teaching and learning and how it can benefit all learners. I get now that Universal Design – and WCAG compliance – isn’t just about
  • whether or not there may or may not be people with physical and/or cognitive disabilities or literacy  or language barriers accessing the online learning spaces we create,
  • thinking about whether activities and content can also be accessed from mobile devicess
  • ensuring people with internet connectivity issues can access online learning spaces, content and activities.
Universal Design is about learner-centred-design of education. Hell – it provides a blueprint to make learner centred design a reality! Learner-centred education is why face to face, individual instruction when done by an effective teacher is the most effective way of learning. The effective teacher can adjust choice of materials, teaching methodology and assessment to suit one learner. Having to do that for 30 to 60 plus learners is impossible.

WCAG content standards can help to make that difference online. I love that YouTube provides captioning options (AND SHAME ON YOU IE 9 FOR NOT WORKING WITH THEM) – and that YouTube will even translate those captions. Just that one technology makes YouTube videos available to:
  • people in organisations who have disabled soundcards or no headsets
  • people for whom English is a second language who can translate the audio into their native language (would like to know how good a job YT does of this)
  • people who have to try to listen to YouTube videos over noisy children
  • people who find the speaker of the video might be speaking too quickly
  • people who find it hard to concentrate when asked to passively watch a video
and, oh yeah – people with hearing disabilities. Here is Dr. Rose’s video below:


UPDATE:  IE9 DOES support HTML 5. You just need to ensure that it is not set to emulate older versions of the browser.