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T(oday) I L(earned)

Found quite an interesting article on the benefits of Personalised Review for students. Would need to investigate further to find out exactly how they used an algorithm to ascertain what material would be best for students to coverbut this should be a good read for anyone looking at study skills or assessment.

This was posted on AAATE’s LinkedIn. This is the Association for the Advancement of Assistive Technology in Europe and provides some useful information and links for anyone whose research might cross over into this area.

However please feel free to say TL:DR. 🙂

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I’ve started so I’ll….

Came across this article on MOOCs from September.

Quite interesting in relation to what we were talking about on Friday. It definitely seems that the idea of real-world universities being ousted by MOOCs is still in the realm of the hoverboard: that is – it’s never going to happen.

I know a big part of this lies in the issue of accreditation but I think, even more so, it’s the fact that the majority of people benefit more from working with others than alone with a computer, which is refreshing to hear at a time when it often seems like things are going in the opposite direction.


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Protected: iPad: Apps and Accessibility – The Model and The Meaning

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Protected: Apps & Accessibility: The who, why and what of our Learning Guide series

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iPad: Apps and Accessibility

iPad: Apps and Accessibility

Picture of an animated lady against iPad background.

Welcome to Week One of iPad: Apps and Accessibility

Welcome to Week One of our series of Learning Guides on all things accessible and mobile. Well, perhaps not all things but certainly all those iPad related.

Why iPad?

We have decided to focus on this because for now, Apple are still quite unrivalled in terms of the accessibility features they offer to their users. Also, iPads are currently still the most popular tablets  and the majority of the 100+  Irish secondary schools that are assigning tablets are opting for the iPad option.

Apple are forward thinking and innovative in their accessibility feature design  but don’t seem to be quite as thorough when it comes to supporting documentation and tutorialsand that’s where we come in.

What’s the course about?

Every week, this blog post will bring you a step-by-step guide to a different accessibility feature. We will also deliver a Learning Guide to an app that relates to that feature. This means that it may be accessible through the feature, accessible to users who would use that particular feature or simply a fun way to put the feature to use.

Who’s it for?

These learning guides are designed for family members, care assistants and OTs, as well as AT users themselves. The rapid growth in technology over the last couple of decades has offered many new accessibility options to people with disabilities but the never-ending stream of new versions and updates can seem impossible to keep up with.                                              

                         Enter → The iPad: Apps and Accessibility Learning Guide.

What does the course cover?

This week’s installment will include…

  • Introduction
  • Learning Outcomes
  • The Assistive Touch Feature Video Demo
  • Dot-to-Dot Num Let Lite Video Demo
  • Dot-to-Dot Num Let Lite Simulation

What do I need to know?

You need very little experience with the iPad to work your way through this guide as our video demonstrations provide a step-by-step process. Each week we will also provide a software simulation on either the accessibility feature or the app, giving you the chance to try it out for yourself. This will give you insight into whether it’s for you before accessing or downloading it on your own device. When you’ve completed the Guide, why not upload your own  self-created Assistive Touch gestures to our Facebook page, along with any other accessibility tips or any feedback you may have. Don’t worry, the guide will give you some ideas on how to get started.

   Simply click on this image to begin. 

iPad: Apps and Accessibility Start Image

Click on this image to start your learning guide.


And there’s more…

When you’ve completed the Guide, why not upload your own  self-created Assistive Touch gestures to our Facebook Group page, along with any other accessibility tips you may have. Don’t worry, the guide will give you some ideas on how to get started.

Further Information and Downloadable Resources

For further information on the thoughts behind the series, check out this post.

For more information on Apple’s IOS accessibility, visit this link. 

For a downloadable PDF text guide to Assistive Touch, click the following link:Assistive Touch on iPad IOS 7

For a downloadable PDF text guide to the Dot-to-Dot Num Let Lite app, click the following link: Dot to Dot Num Let Lite Guide

iPad image sourced from WikiMedia Commons. All other images and text copyright of creator. 

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The times they have a-changed..

One of the first assignments we were set on my BA course, was to create a photo storyboard for a film. It was strange to use these same techniques again in a very different context so much later. I guess what’s stranger still…and a bit frightening because it reminds me how long it was since I was last a student…is that when set that task first time round, we took the shots with a film camera, had it developed and rather than scanning them into laptops, we stuck them on big A3 boards. It was only possible to have fancy titles if you were naturally artistic. In fairness, it wasn’t the actual dark ages. We could have taken stills with our video cameras and uploaded them to Premiere in the college editing rooms…but it was so early in the year that we were not yet familiar with the software. 

There was such a marked difference in our experience last week, with everyone having access to a camera and laptop not to mention software, music, graphics etc. And if you aren’t already familiar with any of these…just Google it. I used to think that techie friends were just being unhelpful when this was the answer they gave to my questions but then I realised that knowing the best How to sites and the quickest way to trawl through forums means that you can fix not just your present problem but any other problem you might encounter along the way. 

Having said all that, last week was a reminder to me that if you don’t stay familiar with the applications you have used, the knowledge you have gained may go as quickly as it came. I have a tendency to always want to turn to something new. I am fairly familiar with Final Cut Pro and used to teach iMovie and Movie Maker to younger age groups in workshops. I haven’t used these in a while and have been focusing on learning some authoring tools. When it came to using iMovie last week, I seemed to have forgotten most of what I knew. 

I also noticed that, because I’m self taught, I have probably developed some long work arounds that aren’t the most efficient way of doing things. This can go unnoticed when working alone but really becomes highlighted as a cumbersome habit when you’re working in a group. 

Having said that I really enjoyed the task, particularly getting back to working with a group to come up with a story. And, although it’s been quite some time since I was first at college, maybe the differences were more to do with the accelerated rate at which technology has changed within that time. Perhaps this also accounts for forgetting some of what I’ve learned. The focus now is on the fluidity of information and there is always so much more to learn. However, this was a good reminder that sometimes it might be worth revisiting and cementing prior knowledge because you never know when it might come in useful. 

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Turn on, Tune in and Drop out…A very useful iPhone App

Tunein is a free app available for iPhone. (Also available online and for Android.)

When you launch the App, you are brought to the Browse screen which gives a long list of categories. However, you don’t necessarily have to use these  – I never have – as a Search bar is located at the top of the screen and your eye is drawn to this first. In the Search bar, there is the icon of a magnifying glass but there is also text which reads ‘Search stations, shows, songs, artists.’ In this case, the icon used is consistent with what the user is already familiar with but in case there is doubt there are also clear instructions. If you preferred to browse rather than select a specific station, you can choose stations by the categories ‘Trending/ Music/ Sports/ News/ Talk/ Top Podcasts’. The first two options listed are Local Radio and Recents. Having your recent searches located at the top is beneficial as it is immediately visible and saves time.

When you select one of the categories above, you will be brought to a screen of sub-categories so, for example, if you choose Music, the sub-categories will be 60s, 70s, etc, Alternative Rock to New Age to Spanish music and myriad categories in between.

When you have selected a radio station, you are brought to the Now Playing window. In the corner is a heart symbol with a plus sign on it. Although it may not be immediately obvious to a completely novice user that this is the way to add something to your favourites, it is easily learnable. When you select it, there is immediate feedback. It asks if you would like to add that Radio Station, the band that is currently playing or that particular radio show to your favourites. Once you have chosen which to add however, there is no feedback and I did go back and check that it had actually been added to the Favourites tab. 

On the left of the playing now screen, is an envelope icon. By selecting this you can share the channel through email, Facebook or Twitter. Again, I think this symbol is consistent and predictable. By sliding to the right you can see related stations and sliding left brings you to your recent searches.

The Now Playing screen also has a small menu icon which gives you many options. You can Report a Problem, Set an Alarm so you can wake up to that radio station or set a sleep timer. You can also view the radio station’s schedule. This is the only aspect that seems to be unpredictable. If the station has radio on demand this seems to be available through the schedule but quite often, you can’t actually listen to the shows and there is no visible reason for this.

Overall though, it’s one of those apps that’s so good you can’t believe it’s free. I actually didn’t even realise half of the functionality that was available through it until I reviewed it for this blog. I now have a new favourite Mexican radio station!

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I I Follow, I’ll Follow You…5 educational blogs that are worth a look

1)   Open Education Europa

I came across Open Education Europa,  during the summer and have been intending to come back to it because it seems to be a great resource on all things to do with technology and learning. It has a database of papers in the area and claims to be the gateway to innovative learning in Europe. It also offers the chance to interact with peers and experts. It doesn’t actually seem to have a blog itself but has a database of related blogs at this link. The first page alone has blog posts on ‘the art and science of learning design’ and  ‘8 Teachers Guides to Free Educational Technology’. The blog posts can be searched as can the other areas of the website so I think this could be a really valuable research tool.

2)   Coursera

With the popularity of MOOCs sky-rocketing, I thought the Coursera blog was worth noting. It is mostly an avenue for Coursera to publicize their new courses but as one of the largest providers of online courses, the blog does give great insight into what’s happening in this sector. Not too far down their homepage is a section on the Teaching with Technology courses that are coming up (there’s no way to link to this directly so lots of scrolling :)) I also spotted an interesting article about Blended Learning. Again it is connected with a particular MOOC that Coursera is running but it puts forward very cutting edge ideas about prototyping rather than perfecting new educational models – just trialling them and seeing what works and getting feedback to improve or change the approach. It ties in with something we discussed in class last week about the fact that technology changes so quickly, it can be difficult to stop and research its effects because by then it will already have moved on. I think what’s discussed here reflects that. (Although not a blog, MIT Opencourseware is also worth looking at in relation to MOOCs.)

3)    JISC

Again JISC is a website, that I have found really useful for research. They are a charity organisation which ‘champions the use of digital technologies in UK education and research’. They provide studies on ‘Effective Practice with eAssessment’ , ‘Effective Practice with eLearning’ and other publications on an extensive range or related topics. Their blog can be found at this link. It covers topics such as augmented reality, open badges and the digital revolution.

4)   TED – Ed

TED Talks have grown massively over the last few years and now, as well as the TED Blog, TED Community, Conversations and Initiatives, there is also a section dedicated to education. TED’s mission (and tagline) is Ideas Worth Spreading and Ted-Ed focuses on lessons worth sharing. Ted-Ed videos are collaborations between the world’s greatest educator’s and animators. You can ‘flip’ the video to turn it into a customizable lesson which you can share with a class or on online. The TED-Ed Blog keeps you up to date with what’s happening at TED-Ed, grouping videos based on topic, highlighting the best ones to flip and sharing other TED-Ed news.
5)   Arc90

I came across the blog of the Design&Technology start-up Arc90. The Manhattan based company started out in an apartment in Brooklyn and seem to be going from success to success, having recently been selected to design the Cornell NYC Tech web strategy. The most recent post mentions a topic that we discussed in class last week – the idea of technology moving more and more towards reflecting human interaction and being user-friendly, in this case Avi Flax discusses gestures on touch interfaces being more intuitive. I’m not sure how many of their posts will be relevant for us but it is a great insight into the technology side and how an add-on or small change of approach can make a technological experience more accessible. It is also worth looking at their Lab where they demonstrate and discuss the ideas they are currently working on. From the work tab, you can also look at the major projects they’ve completed so far.

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One Last Little Post Before I Go To The Valley Below

Before I head off to sunny Wales, I wanted to review my reflections on the project and it strikes that they are very research focused. This project was of course about the use and planned implementation of an eLearning tool. However, before I started the project, I had carried out extensive practical testing on the eLearning authoring tools and the interactive quizzes. As well as creating test modules, I also looked into accessibility issues and had gained insight into how and why some technologies are inaccessible.

The changeover from face to face to online learning is already well under way and really now we are looking to improve delivery based on the eLearning tools available. So this project was a great opportunity to assess the value of those tools from a more theoretical point of view and to see, before we implement them, whether certain aspects, such as the interactive quizzes really do offer value to our learners. I had wondered whether, although I personally find them beneficial, they are perhaps seen generally as time fillers or are too childish to benefit mature learners.

Also, I have had the opportunity to use some creative technologies in the classroom in the past because teaching film lent itself well to this, but I have not had the chance to look into the theory behind these methods which was why this was a great opportunity for me to do this.

I do feel now that we can confidently make use of the interactive quizzes available knowing when, how and for whom they are most beneficial and I feel in this way that, although quite research based, this does tie in with the use and planned implementation of an eLearning tool…I hope. 🙂

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