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H810 Activity 35 Chapter 12 Tutor Forum Response

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 May 2014, 13:25

Hi Adam, yes I agree that 'responsibility' comes up and that is what I come across even before people start to look at the tools - eyes glaze over on the discovery that there are many tools and lengthy guidelines and they'll conclude that it is potentially not worth the effort for them or the client ... in certain contexts - sports have strict guidelines relating to accessibility, as do places of education ... workplace education is another matter and I sometimes wonder if people just don't think there could possibly be anyone in their workforce who could have a disability that would prevent them using the internet ... otherwise how could they do their job. A number of charities have paid for an insightful video that introduces the viewer to a dozen or so people with disabilities in the workplace to understand where assistance and support comes from. We should remember that many have been on top of this themselves, often being early adopters of the technology for the benefits it brings to them - they don't need help necessarily, but could probably show you a few things if you need to personalise a browser.

I've had an incling that Engestrom has something interesting to say and I've misquoted him and convinced people that it means x, when it actually means y with no one wanting to correct me. As I indicated above to Christopher I wanted to crack this once and for all, especially as I am in the final weeks of the MAODE.

This therefore is essential reading. Find a case history that you might be familiar with and take it from there. These are thorough case studies from beginnign to end of consultancy like projects he and his team have undertaken for, amongst others, a TV production company, a court, a regional health service in Finland - so hospitals, specialist clincs and GP surgeries ... courts and think and several others.

Engeström.Y (2008) From Teams to Knots: Activity-theoretical studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work. Learning in doing: Social, Cognitive & Computational Perspectives. Cambridge University Press. Series Editor Emeritus. John Seely Brown.

This brings it up to date.

Engeström.Y (2011) Learning by expanding: ten years after (last accessed 19 Dec 20-12) http://lchc.ucsd.edu/mca/Paper/Engestrom/expanding/intro.htm

My take on it includes drawing up an activity system on a large piece of board and adding some chess pieces - to get it into my head that all these nodes are people dealing with oither people even if they manifest themselves as tools or rules - someone wrote or designed them, and someone effectively holds the 'keys. Also to remind myself of the historical point of view .. a half eaten Toblerone.

Various manifestations of this in my Blog.

http://learn1.open.ac.uk/mod/oublog/viewpost.php?u=jv276&time=1355917285&post=0

If you want to share thoughts and have time to get your head around it do please get in touch. It is my hope that I can research, construct and use an Activity System for real. I just think it is a way to get inside a subject thoroughly to understand the actions that are working and those that are misfiring or getting stuck, blocked or shredded.

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H810 Using an Activity System to improve accessibility to e-learning by students with disabilities.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 20 Dec 2012, 09:45

 

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Fig.1. The consequences of an activity system - loads of action. Here a tutor group over a period of 27 weeks. 'Activity' is represented by messages in a tutor forum. H810 is an Open University postgraduate course in Education. Technology-enhanced learning: practices and debates

Visualizing actions between people, concepts and things required more than words - models and metaphor start to create meaning.

Why use any model?

A model should be a well-founded visual simplification of an aspect of a complex reality that communicates its concept clearly, is based on thorough research, and is easily shared for feedback and review. Users should find that a model, like an experiment, is repeatable so that in time a body of work including case studies and a critique of the model builds credibility. A conceptual model such as an Activity System is ‘particularly useful when one wants to make sense of systemic factors behind seemingly individual and accidental disturbances, deviations, and innovations occurring in the daily practices of workplaces’. Engeström (2008:27)

Conole and Oliver (2011) mention four levels of description:

1. Flat vocabulary
2. More complex vocabulary
3. Classification schemas or models
4. Metaphors

The vocabularly is inevitable, though talking this through to an audience would be my prefered approach, so that with engagement reponse is invited. The models used here, from Vyogtsy and Leon'tev to Engestrom may appear familiar and set - they not. There is a group that likes to see everything 'triangulated' - diamonds and stars, though evident in the literature on education - maybe akin to complex rather than plain language. From models we move to various metaphors - and you are certain to have your own. While Engeström himself moves on to ideas of 'knotworking' and fluid, organic representations.

Engeström (1987) took a current model - that of Vygotsky (1978) and made it his own and has since offered a metaphor to explain it further.

Why use an Activity System?

Activity Systems derive from a century of analysis of the way people construct meaning (Vygotsky, 1978. Leon’tev, 1978) that later researchers applied not simply to how people think, but how groups of people (Engeström, 1987) act in collaborative ways.

 

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Fig.2. Application of Engeström’s (1987) systemic model of activity featured in Seale (2006)

There are two parts to an Activity System - upper and lower. The upper part is the triangle drawn to represent the interaction of Subject, Tools and Object.

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Fig. 3.  Vygotsky.L.S. (1978) from Mind in Society.

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Fig.4. The structure of a human activity system. Engeström 1987.

Historically this is where Vygotsky began in Moscow in the late 1920s (Fig.3) Engeström and others turned the experssion of Vygotsky's model the other way up. This split of upper and lower serves another purpose - Yrjö Engeström likens this expression of an activity system to an iceberg where the top triangle - Subject - Tools - Object is what we see, while the other actions, that give the system context - he added when developing Vygostky’s (1978) original model, are beneath the surface. Engeström. (2008:89). (Fig.4) It's worth remembering that Vygotsky was working on how people create meaning, while later thinkers have adapted this to help scrutinise how communities or groups of people, tools and sets of guidelines create (as Engeström puts it above, 'sense meaning' Engeström 1987).

When is the construction of an Activity System useful?

Engeström (2008:27) suggests that it is particularly useful ‘when one wants to make sense of systemic factors behind seemingly individual and accidental disturbances, deviations, and innovations occurring in daily practices of workplaces’. Someone needs to think it is necessary to study the status quo - perhaps because there is an awareness that something, somewhere is going wrong, or that there has been an actual downturn in business or collapse in profitability, or a desire simply to look at things in a different way to understand where improvements can be made, a change in policy and law, or a reinvented or renewed.

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Fig. 5. Engeström.Y (2008) From Teams to Knots: Activity-theoretical studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work.

Engeström (2008:207) suggests that there are five principles in relation to theories of activity systems.

  1. Object Orientation
  2. Mediation by tools and signs
  3. Mutual constitution of actions and activity
  4. Contradictions and deviations as source of change
  5. Historicity

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Fig. 6 A White Knight from a Lewis Chess Set (replica) playing the role of the Object - the purpose, motivation and idea behind the activity in the system through whom sense is made or an outcome is derived.

1) Object Orientation

The Object is a problem, the purpose, the motivation and opportunity - the modus operandi behind the activity. ‘Object orientation’ (Engeström 2008:222) is a crucial prerequisite of working with an activity system. In the context of accessible e-learning Seale (2006:165) creates an Activity System in which the object(ive) is ‘to make e-learning accessible for disabled students’. As an exercise considering its widest application this object definition suffers because the object is so broad it embraces a myriad of issues and circumstances, each word is open to interpretation - what, for example, is meant by ‘e-learning’, what is meant by ‘accessible’ by ‘disabled’ and by ‘student’. Rather than an object as an opportunity or goal as Seale uses, a fix, the desired outcome, is more likely to be found where, at least in the first instance, we identify a particular context and a tightly defined problem.

Not only that, but to contain the likelihood of ‘ruptures’ across the activity system clarity and agreement is required on the problem that needs to be fixed. In relation to accessibility to e-learning for students with disabilities there are multiple problems, many unique to a student with a particular disability or, where feasible and appropriate, a group that can be identified by the nature of their disability, for example, deaf students who are seen as, and many want to see themselves as a ‘minority language’ group. What is more, a disabled student may have several impairments and the degree to which these are a barrier to e-learning is fluid, perhaps ameliorating with treatment, or getting worse, transmogrifying, or simply being intermittent. As these are known issues that would cause problems or clashes within the activity system and prevent its working it seems futile to build an activity system on this basis - knowing that it will fail.

A problem well stated is a problem half-solved’. (Charles Kettering)

This may be an aphorism, but it rings true. Problem scoping is necessary but where a problem remains elusive, or is ‘messy’ rather than ‘tame’ (Rittel and Webber's 1973, Ackoff 1979, Ritchey 2011) a variety of creative problem solving techniques (VanGundy, 1988. Griggs, 1985). Knowing what the problem is enables innovation - identifying the problem and devising a fix, and in communications, where, for example, advertisers prepare a creative brief that begins by clearly identifying the problem.

‘Object orientation’ and in this context, problem definition and refinement, is the first in five principles set out by Engeström (2008:207) for using activity systems. The drive, purpose and motivation for all the actions between the six identified nodes depends on the object ‘that which is acted upon’. A key component of activity theory is the transformation of this object into an outcome i.e. to solve the problem. If solving a problem is the goal, and recognition of a successful enterprise undertaken, then all the more reason to get the definition of the object correct - the process can be repeated for different problems, at different scales and over time. Without absolute clarity over the object you may find that different people in the system have differing interpretations of what it is. Kuutti (1996) found that having more than one object under scrutiny was a reason for an activity system to fail.  An answer where there are two distinct problems may be to treat them as such and attach them to separate activity systems. Whilst for the sake of scrutiny it is necessary to isolate an activity system, they do of course interact - indeed it is by looking at how two activity systems interact that you may reveal how problems are solved or innovations produced. However, if the object is wrong, or ill-defined or ambiguous then the motives may be out of kilter and it would therefore be necessary to transform all of the components of the activity system, especially and including those at the bottom half of the ‘iceberg’. Engeström (2008:87)

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Fig. 7. The black Queen from a Lewis Chess Set representing 'Tools'

2) Mediation by Tools and Signs

Tools might be evaluation and repair tools and assistive technologies, software or legislation, guidelines or staff development. Tools are a mediating factor between the Subject (student, lecturer, facilitator of the desire outcome) and the Object - the purpose of all this activity.

Tools play a significant role in the history of tackling accessibility issues, to undue, out do or transform resources or interpret platforms in a way that communicates their meaning offering some if not all the affordances of the tools as designed for students, who, having gained a place to study a degree  in Higher Education might be thought of as some the most able’, not simply the ‘able’.Tools in this role at the apex of the Activity System and can include guidelines and legislation where they are an applied ‘tool’ rather than a rule or standard. ‘ A functioning tool for the analysis of teams and organisations’. Engeström  (2008:229) Of course the category includes evaluation and repair tools, assistive technologies and software and equipment. Tools ‘mediate’ between the Subject - the facilitator of change through activity and the outcome of the activities - the Object. ‘To build a website that complies to level AAA’ may be achievable whilst ‘to make e-learning accessible for disabled students’ Seale (2006smile sounds like wishful thinking, rather ‘to build an e-learning module that when scrutinised by a representative range of people with dyslexia’ receives a grading of ‘satisfactory’ or above’. This would suggest the involvement therefore of dyslexic students in the testing of a navigation interface for the virtual learning environment as an ‘action’ between subject and object.

There is a particular congregation of ‘contradictions’ stemming from the relationship between Tools and both Subject and Object:

  1. The array of design and evaluation software applications (Seale, 2006)
  2. The mastery of external devices and tools of labour activity (Nardi, 1996)
  3. No rules of practice for use of that tool (Isscroft and Scanlan, 2002 )
  4. Tools that are overly prescriptive (Phipps et al, 2005)
  5. How do you choose from amongst such a plethora of tools?
  6. The context in which tools are introduced (Seale, 2006:160)

3) Mutual constitution of actions and activity

The links between each component - object, tool, subject and so on - should equate to a burst of electricity or perhaps a chemical induced response between a synapse and a neuron - Engestrom (2008) goes as far as to liken an activity system to a type of fungi - mycorrhizae like formation  Engestrom (1997).

 

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Fig.8. Mycorrhizae - one way Engeström sees an Activity System

An Activity System should be seen not as a concept of a static entity, but rather a living and growing thing. The actions, the double-arrows between each concept, are what gives an activity system structure  - it’s the management  of the disturbances, contradictions and conflicts along these lines of action that disturb effective flow where the role of an activity system comes in - identify then fix these and you move towards achieving the object orientation or outcome. Knorr-Cetina (2003) talks of 'flow architecture' and if neither of these concepts ring true for you in realtion to activity systems then Zerubavel (1997) talks of 'a mindscape' while Cussins (1992) talks of 'cogntive trails'.

4) Contradictions and deviations as source of change

I would have opted for Subject as the third issue, but reading Engeström made me think again. Subject, Tools, Object reduces the Activity System to the far simpler upturned triangle Vygotsky devised to explain how people create meaning (Vygotsky, 1978:86)  without further thought to the deeper and wider issues once learning is put in context, that Engeström (1987, 2008, 2011) added by broadening this way of showing how ‘meaning is created’ in the workplace by adding Rules, Community and Division of Labour.

Rather than picking one more of these concepts at the expense of leaving the others out I think that the ‘Actions’ the double arrows that indicate something happening between the elements is of interest. I believe this would be the fourth of Engeström's five principles - Contradictions and deviations as source of change. This after all is, literally, where all the ‘action’ takes place, what Seale (2006:164) describes as ‘problems, ruptures, breakdowns or clashes’.  (I need to go back and to understand what is meant by Engeström's third principle - ‘Mutual constitution of actions and activity’) I think this is the principle that the Activity System has to be seen as a complete, self-contained entity, that any break or failure or misunderstanding in the system would call it to fail so you’d be better of starting again from scratch until the scale or context works. Engeström uses the metaphor of a very particular kind of lichen (‘mycorrhizae’, Engeström, 2008:229) to describe Activity Systems - he doesn’t suggest however that you attempt to work with this kind of complexity, rather it is a reminder that an activity system is fluid and changing and depends on activity taking places between the defined nodes.

5) Historicity

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Fig. 9. A discontinuous series of Activity Systems ... like Toblerone at Christmas.

'Historicity' - Engeström's experssion (2008) - is a term referring to 'the historical actuality of persons and events',(Wikipedia, 2012) suggests the need to see an Activity System as a snapshot, a sequence and a discontinuous one at that. So take the familiar equilateral triangle of the Activity System model and run a line of them. Seale (2006) suggests there is value to be found by doing some 'archaelogy' - I think 'historical research' would be an adequate way to think of it, for what this may reveal about how these 'rupture, conflicts' Seale (ibid) or 'contraditions and devistions as a source or change' Engeström (2008:223) along the lines of activity. Seale (2006) talks of how an activity system 'incesstanly reconstructs itself. Engeström (1994) talks of an ideal-typical sequence of epistemic actgions in an expansive cycle.

Subject

By definition here the ‘non-disabled’, particularly in the cognitive sense though sometimes with athletic promise too. Ironically whilst ‘non-disabled’ is not a favoured term it does at least relate to a homogenous group, while ‘disabled’ does not given the range, scale and potentially shifting nature of impairments to learning from hearing, to visual, cognitive and mobility.

Subject to be of most importance - this is the person, actor or lecturer, indeed a student - anyone who is responsible for facilitating and supporting the student’s learning experience. This may be a practitioner who works with a Higher Education Learning Technologist or the digital media access group if there is such a thing. Engeström (2008:222).

Any of the team members may be a novice, which may be a positive or negative influence for the actions in the system. A novice is inexpert, on the other hand they are free from the habits that may be causing problems and creating barriers. Because of the way a novice learns they are more inclined to innovate as they are not bound or even aware to rules, guidelines and beliefs that may hold them back.

Rules

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Fig. 10 A collection of pawns from a Lewis Chess set representing 'Rules'

These can be formal, informal or technical rules. They are institutional and departmental policies and strategies. These are rules of practice, and legislation, as well as strategies and research. They are explicit and implicit norms. These are conventions and social relations. These in the context of accessible e-learning are the various guidelines related to web usability and legislation related to accessibility and equality. Universal Design and User Centred Design are rules too. Rules mediate between the subject and the community. The actions, the 'doing in order to transform something' or 'doing with a purpose' are the activities that link Rules with Subject, Rules with Object and Rules with Community.

Community

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Fig. 11. An Activity System represented by chess pieces.This 'Community' comprises the King and two bishops from replica of the Lewis Chess Set.

These are 'people who share the same objective' - their being in this activity system is dependent on their wishing to engage with the object, the opportunity, to strive to achieve the stated outcome. Any ruptures are therefore not a consequence of having the wrong person in this community - this grouping, this loose gathering of like-minded people, is what Engestrom has come to describe as a knot and the actions these people take as 'knotworking' Engeström (2008:194) - latent, informal, sometimes impromptu gatherings of people who assemble to address a problem or to take an opportunity - what Rheingold (2002) describes as 'smart mobs'.

Division of Labor (sic)This concept, or node as an ethereal entity is 'how people are organized to realise the object'. Not one to represent by a chess piece and one may think that this ought to be the link that joins people together ... this is where working with a model as the beat of a heart, not the heart itself, requires acceptance of the way a model is designed to work. Division of labor (US spelling for a Finnish academic ... who has bases in Helsinki and San Diego). This is planning and funding, designing and developing, implementing and evaluating, using, specialists vs. the mainstream).

Conclusion

Digitization of assets is akin to the creation of an ocean in which the binary code are the molecules of water - apt then with the shift from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 and our adopting the use of ‘the Cloud’ and ‘Cloud Computing’ to take this metaphor into a more dynamic form and think of it as a water-cycle. This system is shifting continually horizontally with currents and tides, but also vertically - the exponential growth in computing speeds and memory capacities the energy that drives the system. This global system hasn’t taken adequate account of people with disabilities - as in the real world there are barriers to access caused by visual, hearing, mobility and cognitive impairments - just as these have been addressed in a piecemeal way through legislation, funding, programmes and promotions, by disability groups or holistically, so too with adaptations or changes to the digital world - there is no panacea that will remove all barriers for all people with any disability, of any kind, type or stage of deterioration or amelioration.  Stretching the metaphor further I wonder if at times this digital water-cycle, again like the real one, is polluted, that translucence as well as flotsam and jetsam in this ocean are the barriers - on the one hand the pollutants have to be removed - the barriers taken down - but at the same time, cleaner purer water, in the form a universal design that is simpler and usable would gradually cleanse some of system. Once again, a mirror to the real world responses, specialist schools and associations, say for those with dyslexia are blind or deaf, become an oasis or island in this digital system. 

‘Those not engaging with technologies or without access are getting left further and further behind. We need to be mindful that the egalitarian, liberal view of new technologies is a myth; power and dynamics remain, niches develop and evolve. Applications of metaphorical notions of ecology, culture and politics can help us better understand and deal with these complexities'. (Conole. 2011:410)

FURTHER  READING

Cecez-Kecmanovic, Dubravka, and Webb.C (2000) "Towards a communicative model of collaborative web-mediated learning."Australian Journal of Educational Technology 16. 73-85. Towards a communicative model of collaborative web-mediated learning  (last accessed 20 Dec 2012) http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet16/cecez-kecmanovic.html

Hardman, J (2008) Researching pedagogy: an acitivty system approach Journal of Education, No. 45, 2008. PP65-95 (last accessed 20 Dec)  2012 http://joe.ukzn.ac.za/Libraries/No_45_Dec_2008/Researching_pedagogy_an_Activity_Theory_approach.sflb.ashx)

Engeström’s (1999) outline of three generations of activity theory (last accessed 20 Dec 2012) http://www.bath.ac.uk/research/liw/resources/Models%20and%20principles%20of%20Activity%20Theory.pdf

Engeström.Y (2008) From Teams to Knots: Activity-theoretical studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work. Learning in doing: Social, Cognitive & Computational Perspectives. Cambridge University Press. Series Editor Emeritus. John Seely Brown.

Engeström.Y (2011) Learning by expanding: ten years after (last accessed 19 Dec 20-12) http://lchc.ucsd.edu/mca/Paper/Engestrom/expanding/intro.htm

REFERENCE

Ackoff, R.L. (1979) The Art of Problem-Solving, New York: Wiley

Conole, G (2011) Designing for learning in a digital world. Last accessed 18 Dec 2012 http://www.slideshare.net/grainne/conole-keynote-icdesept28

Conole, G. and Oliver, M. (eds) 2007 Contemporary Perspectives on E-learning Research, Themes, Tensions and Impacts on Research. London, RoutledgeFalmer.

Cussins, A. (1992). Content, embodiment and objectivity: The theory of cognitive trails. Mind, 101, 651–688.

Engestrom (2008-04-30). From Teams to Knots (Learning in Doing: Social, Cognitive and Computational Perspectives) (p. 238). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.

Engeström, Y. (1987) Learning by Expanding: An Activity-theoretical Approach to Developmental Research. Helsinki: Orienta-Konsultit.

Engeström, Y. (1994). The working health center project: Materializing zones of proximal
development in a network of organizational learning. In T. Kauppinen & M. Lahtonen (Eds.) Action research in Finland. Helsinki: Ministry of Labour.

Engeström.Y (1999) Learning by expanding. Ten Years After. http://lchc.ucsd.edu/mca/Paper/Engestrom/expanding/intro.htm

Engeström.Y (2008) From Teams to Knots: Activity-theoretical studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work. Learning in doing: Social, Cognitive & Computational Perspectives. Cambridge University Press. Series Editor Emeritus. John Seely Brown.

Griggs, R.E. (1985) 'A Storm of Ideas', reported in Training, 22, 66 (November)

Issroff, K. and Scanlon, E. (2002) Using technology in higher education: an Activity Theory perspective. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 18, 1, 77–83

Knorr-Cetina, K. (2003). From pipes to scopes: The flow architecture of financial markets. Distinktion, 7, 7–23.

Kuutti, K. (1996) Activity theory as a potential framework for human–computer interaction research. In B. Nardi (ed.) Context and Consciousness: Activity Theory and Human–Computer Interaction. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, pp. 17–44.

Leon’tev.A.N. (1978) Activity, consciousness, and personality. Englewood Cliffs. NJ. Prentice-Hall.

Moessenger, S (2011) Sylvia’s Study Blog (Last accessed 19 Dec 2012) http://sylviamoessinger.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/h809-reading-oliver-et-al-chapter-2-a3-6/

Phipps, L., Witt, N. and Kelly, B. (2005) Towards a pragmatic framework for accessible e-learning. Ariadne, 44. Online. Available HTTP: <http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/ issue44/ phipps/> (last accessed 19 Dec 2012).

Rheingold, H. (2002). Smart mobs: The next social revolution. Cambridge, MA: Perseus.

Ritchey, T. (2011) Wicked Problems - Social Messes: Decision support Modelling with Morphological Analysis.Springer.

Rittel.W.J., Webber.M.M. (1973) Dilemmas in a general theory of planning Policy Sciences, June 1973, Volume 4, Issue 1,

Seale, J. (2006) E-learning and Disability in Higher Education: Accessibility Research and Practice

VanGundy, A.B. (1988) Techniques of Structured Problem Solving, 2nd ed, Van Norstrand Reinhold. Techniques 4.01, 4.06, 4.57

Vygotsky.L.S. (1978) Mind in Society. The development of higher psychological process. Cambridge. MA.

Wikipedia (2012) Definition of 'Historicity' - (last accessed 19 Dec 2012) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity

Zerubavel, E. (1997). Social mindscapes: An invitation to cognitive sociology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

 

 

 

 

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H810 - Navigation Tips for students with visual impairments

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 4 Jan 2013, 16:50

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Fig.1. Google Docs help center - navigation

I was looking for a way to an an Umlaut to the name 'Engestrom' in Google Docs help but instead stumble upon something far more valuable in relation to access to e-learning for students with disabilities - navigation short cuts. These apply to how a person with sight impairment might move through a text and so, like basic web usability, informs on best practice when it comes to writing, proof reading and lay-out, i.e. editing with a reader with a visual impairment in mind.

Somehow the clear way the guide is laid out caused the penny to drop in a way that hasn't occurred in the last three months however many times I have observed, listened to, read about or tried to step into the shows of a student with a visual impairment.

Web usability recommends a way of laying out text that is logical, clear and suited to the screens we use to access content from the web. This logic of headings and multiple sub-headings, let alone plain English in relation to short sentences as well as use of paragraphs makes reading not only easier for those with no disability, but assists those with varies degrees of visual impairment as content is then better able to respond to standard tools of text enlargement and enhancement, but also of screen readers that work best when reading through text.

What assistive technology does, a control that doesn't require a mouse and keeps a manageable set of keys under the fingers rather than needing to run back and forth across the keyboard, is to reduce the above commands to actions that a visually impaired or blind person can then use to control their web viewing experience.

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H810 : Conflicts in an Activity System

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 May 2014, 13:23

Fig. 1 Seale (2008) chapter 12 on activity systems in relation to accessibility in e-learning as an Activity System

The six potential areas of conflict Seal identifies occur, from the Activity System, between:

  1. Objects and tools - if we agree that the tools currently available are weak (or too many of them, or too specialist or too expensive)
  2. Objects and division of labour - a fragmented division of labour that is pulling the different stakeholders apart and preventing them from working together to meet the objective.
  3. Community and division of labour - a contradiction could be perceived to exist between community and division of labour if the rules that the community develop divide labour in such a way as to mitigate against the objective of the activity being achieved
  4. Community and rules - a conflict with the community whether guidelines are seen as tools or rules. A contradiction may be perceived to occur between community and rules where the community cannot agree on the rules and how they should be applie
  5. Rules and subject - where the rules or guidelines are not specific to the object, or difficulties in interpreting the results having used tools. A contradiction may be perceived to occur between the rules and the subject where the rules are non-existent, weak or inconsistent and so not good enough to enable the users of the rules (subjects) to meet the objective of the activity.
  6. Tools and subject - If the subjects of an activity system are unable to use the tools in the way they were intended, then conflict or contradiction may occur.

There are a further 8 discussed tangetially in relation to the Activity System, some within individual nodes. In total the full list looks like this:

  1. The array of design and evaluation software applications
  2. The mastery of external devices and tools of labour activity (Naardi 1996)
  3. No rules of practive for use of that tool (Iscorft and Scanlon)
  4. Tools that are overly prescriptive (Phipps et al 2005)
  5. How do you choose a tool?
  6. The context in which tools are introduced (Seale, 2006:160)
  7. The array of guidelines and standards and lack of information on how to use these.
  8. Constraints caused by formal, informal and technical  rules and concentions of community (Seale, 2006:161)
  9. A framework for desscribing current practice both individual and social (Seale, 2006:160)
  10. More than one object (Kuutti, 1996)
  11. When different but conntected activities ahre an object or an artefact but place a very different emphasis on it (McAviia and Oliver, 2004)
  12. Conflict over who does what within 'Divisions of Labour'
  13. Novice or expert ... good thing or bad? The novice is more likely to be the innovator - if brought in from outside the system, while the expert in the system may be too set in the ways of the 'community'.
  14. Excuses about the lack of information. Steyaert (2005)

I like Seale's concluding remarks - Subject and object, object and community, subect and community - Contradiction in any or all of the relationships described in the previous section has the potential to threaten the central relationships between object and community, subject and object and subject and community.

And the over all thought:

‘Design for all’ probably requires a commitment to ‘design by all’.

According to Activity Theory, any or all of the contradictions will prevent accessible e-learning practice from developing and therefore accessible e-learning will not develop or progress unless these contradictions are resolved.

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Activity Systems are repeated, uneven and discontinuos

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 17 Dec 2012, 17:51

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Fig.1. Activity Systems as a chronological, though broken sequence. Fruit & Nut Toblerone (Kuutti 1996)

To understand Activity Systems I produce tables and charts - I annotate these then revise initial drawings until I have something that is clear. I may fill several sheets. My conviction is that Activty Systems have a great deal to offer when it comes to trying to understand how actions are playing out, producing contradictions and confict.

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Fig.2. A detail from an annotation of the Activity Sytem I am working on in relation to accessibility and e-learning.

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Fig. 3. Detail showing where the idea of the half-eaten Toblerone came from. An Activity System has to be seen as a broken chronology of Activity Systems.

REFERENCE

Engeström, Y (2008) From Teams to Knots. Activity-theorerical studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work. Learning in doing: Social, Cognitive & Computational Perspectives. Cambridge University Press. Series Editor Emeritus. John Seely Brown.

Kuutti, K. (1996) Activity theory as a potential framework for human–computer interaction research. In B. Nardi (ed.) Context and Consciousness: Activity Theory and Human–Computer Interaction. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, pp. 17–44

Seale, J. (2006) E-learning and Disability in Higher Education: Accessibility Research and Practice

 

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H810 : Accessibility in e-learning as an activity system

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 4 Jan 2013, 16:32

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Fig. 1 Seale (2008) chapter 12 on activity systems in relation to accessibility in e-learning as an Activity System

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Fig. 2 From the chapter - annotations, animation and notes

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Fig.3 Another way of looking at Activity Systems 1

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<Fig.4 Another way of looking at Activity Systems 3

REFERENCE

Engeström , Y (2008) From Teams to Knots. Activity-theoretical studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work. Learning in doing: Social, Cognitive & Computational Perspectives. Cambridge University Press. Series Editor Emeritus. John Seely Brown.

Kuutti, K. (1996) Activity theory as a potential framework for human–computer interaction research. In B. Nardi (ed.) Context and Consciousness: Activity Theory and Human–Computer Interaction. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, pp. 17–44.

Seale, J. (2006) E-learning and Disability in Higher Education: Accessibility Research and Practice

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Access to work

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 May 2014, 11:31

Access to work 

Site Improve 

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The Loving Ballad of Captain Bateman

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 14 Dec 2012, 11:28

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Sometimes you have to stop the car and listen

Captain Stewart Bateman is badly wounded in Afghanistan. Sofia gives him shelter and you know they will fall in love ... but with the British Captain in their home Sofia and her father face retributions from the Taliban for harbouring him or from the British army for keeping him prisoner. Sofia's father is about to sell him to the Taliban when ...

Well, that's when I stopped the car - all I could see was a movie playing out in my mind. It was unsafe to drive.

Listen HERE - or Google 'BBC Radio 4 The loving Ballad of Captain Bateman'.

Lines I like 'They say Afghanistan is made of the bits God had left over after making the rest of the world'. Reply: 'Sounds like Killingworth'.

Writer: Joseph Wilde

Music: Tim van Eyken

You've got 6 DAYS LEFT TO LISTEN from today Friday 14th December

Then what happens? Is it archived? Do you download a podcast ... or wait for the movie or TV series.
First broadcast:
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Fighting for a child with autism to attend a school with small class sizes

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 12 Dec 2012, 11:29

In the US laws in relation to provision of appropriate learning for students with disabilities applies to the individual's needs. In this case the Supreme Court eventually upheld the parents of an autistic child's decission to use private education. (i.e. enforceable Civil Rights)

http://specialedpost.com/2012/11/29/courts-uphold-rule-that-fape-must-mean-smaller-class-size/

In the UK the law relates to provision of appropriate accommodations by an education authority. The challenge for appropriate provision is therefore with the authority's to provide rather than with the individual needs of the child to be met. So to accommodate a student with severe mobility impairments the authority would be found to be wanting if it couldn't provide.

Such an issue would play out differently in the UK - provision would have to be made by an education authority in their region and a decission taken centrally whether to accommodate a particular student with disability in a mainstream or specialist school. Policy and provision would be different from region to region leading to what we call the 'post code lottery'.

The interplay between institutions treats the student like a ball that they too often drop, or don't even bother with - policy being what matters rather than the person.

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Design for everybody

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 May 2014, 11:33

Design for everybody from BBH with the voice of Stephen Hawking.

 

 

 

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H810 : Activity 32 Blogs on accessibility and disability in learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 4 Jan 2013, 19:02

BLOGS ON ACCESSIBILITY

Disability in business

http://disabilityinbusiness.wordpress.com/
Jonathan, who has a degenerative spinal condition which means he uses a wheelchair and has carers to assist him, has first hand experience of the challenges faced by people living with disabilities – especially in the business world. “I used to run multi-million pound companies and I’d go with some of my staff into meetings with corporate bank managers and they’d say to my staff, ‘it’s really good of you to bring a service user along’, and I’d say, ‘hang on, I’m the MD –  it’s my money!’ 

Disability Marketing

http://drumbeatconsulting.com/

Michael Janger has a passionate interest in products and technologies that enable people with disabilities to enjoy a better quality of life, and works with businesses to effectively market and sell these products to the disability market.

Think Inclusive

http://www.thinkinclusive.us/start-here/
I think there are two basic assumptions that you need in order support inclusion (in any context)

  1. All human beings are created equal (you know the American way) and deserve to be treated as such.
  2. All human beings have a desire to belong in a community and live, thrive and have a sense of purpose.

The important takeaway…when you assume people want to belong. Then is it our duty as educators, parents, and advocates to figure out how we can make that happen.

Institute of Community Inclusion

http://www.youtube.com/communityinclusion
For over 40 years, the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) has worked to ensure that people with disabilities have the same opportunity to dream big, and make their dreams a fully included, integrated, and welcomed reality. ICI strives to create a world where all people with disabilities are welcome and fully included in valued roles wherever they go, whether a school, workplace, volunteer group, home, or any other part of the community. All of ICI's efforts stem from one core value: that people with disabilities are more of an expert than anyone else. Therefore, people with disabilities should have the same rights and controls and maintain lives based on their individual preferences, choices, and dreams.

Cerebral Palsy Career Builders

http://www.cerebral-palsy-career-builders.com/discrimination-definition.html

How to deal with the following:

  1. Bias
  2. Presumption
  3. Myth
  4. Skepticism
  5. Prejudice
  6. Discrimination
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H810 Activity 31.4 Benefits of mobile learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 14 Dec 2012, 05:49

Is learning support by text messaging mobile learning?

Must it be a smart-phone. I would have called taking an Apple Classic into the garden on an extension cable and using it in a cardboard box to shield it from the sun as mobility of some kind - indeed development of the use of laptops in the last 15 years has been mobile and in 1997 I shot a training video for the RAC on a roadside device called ‘hardbody’ that was a navigational tool to locate the breakdown, a database of parts, a diagnostic for fault finding and fixing and a way for customers to pay.

The prospects for and possibilities of mobile computing have been known for a long time.

Getting them into the hands of students has taken longer as prices have fallen and broadband made readily available.

Was a cassette on a Sony Walkman mobile learning, or more recently is something from iTunes U on an MP3 player mobile e-learning? Yes, surely if its function is educational or it is resource tailored for a specific module.

  1. Convenience and flexibility - the university in your pocket. Ditch the folders, files and print outs.
  2. Relevance - situated
  3. Learner control - mine (personalised Apps, choice of phone and case ...)
  4. Good use of 'dead time' - on the bus, train, passenger in car ... in bed, in front of TV, on the loo or in the bath.
  5. Fits many different learning styles - short burst or lengthier intense periods
  6. Improves social learning (i.e. Communicating with peers and experts)
  7. Encourages reflection - easy to take notes (audio as dictaphone or text)
  8. Easy evidence collection - photos and audio (screen grabs from online research), tag finds.
  9. Supported decision making
  10. Speedier remediation - instant
  11. Improved learner confidence
  12. Easily digestible learning - where 'chunked' though this should be a choice where content has been suitably prepared for web usability.
  13. Heightened engagement - feeds alerts that can be responded to in a timely fashion. Makes synchronous and quasi-synchronous forum feedback possible.
  14. Better planning for face-to-face - organiser, contactable 24/7 (almost)
  15. Great for induction - keeping in touch, easy to ask questions, familiar, universal and everyday.
  16. Elimination of technological barriers - basic, intuitive, commonplace.
  17. Designed once then delivered across multiple platforms - responsive design (using HTML 5)
  18. Easily trackable via wifi - and GPS
  19. Cost-effective build
  20. A means to recoup money
  21. Technology advances with Apps
  22. Technology advances with interface, voice command and other tools.
  23. Everything in one place, including TV, radio, podcasts, photogallery ...
  24. Assistive technology - add a micro-projector, wifi-keyboard, sync to other devices such as tablet, laptop and desktop, augmented learning ...
  25. Replacement technology - starting to replace money, already replacing cameras, MP3 players, address book, organiser, games console, remote control, torch, dictaphone ... pen and paper, art pad ...

(In part from Dr Chris Davies, Head of the e-learning research group, Oxford Prof. John Traxler, Prof. Of Mobile Learning (2011 )

http://www.epicbrasil.com/assets/files/Mobile_learning_NHS_Research_Report.pdf

(last accessed 10 Dec 2012)

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Vegetative patient Scott Routley says 'I'm not in pain'

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 10 Dec 2012, 21:08

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Fig.1. Using scanning a doctor communicates with Scott Routley  who has been in a coma for over ten years (BBC, 2012)

Using scanning a doctor communicates with Scott Routley who has been in a coma for over ten years (BBC, 2012)

Invaluable to this patient but opening all kinds of possibilities in relation to responding to a stimulus through thought alone.

If this patient 'learns' how to communicate further than this surely is technology enhanced learning on the very out fringes of the extreme. In practice an engineer might describe this as 'testing to destruction' - lessons are learnt from such cases.

See more on Panorama http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01ny377

Asked to think about the future of learning and for disabled students in particular, I couldn't help but consider the most extreme forms of e-learning with severely disabled patients - those beyond our reach the 'brain dead' while those in a vegative state coming within reach - and is this state is one we go into under general anaesthetic, one from which a person does occassionally recover.

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Fig.2. A new brain scanner helps completely paralysed people to spell words

I don't want to be a guinea-pig in such a set up, but what if having been kept 'alive' say after a car accident I tell those who have stirred me to communicate that I wish I had died on the roadside all those years ago? Do they remove the technology and well me into a side room until I die of natural causes decades later? (This was the scenario in a black and white ante-war movie of the 1930s ... I think. Recall the detail of the film and would love its name if you know it).

I don't mean to be flippant, but could this technology be used to talk with animals ... or give us the sense that we are ? If attached to such devices in our sleep, might dream actions be turned into real ones?

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Fig.3. Real-life Jedi: Pushing the limits of mind control (BBC 2012) Last accessed 10 Dec 2012

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-15200386

And who gets there hands on this extremely expensive kit? Anyone willing to be a guinea-pig? The children of billionaires? Or in time - everyone with a need.

If in your 90s you are reduced to this state could you or would you want to extend life if it could be enriched in this way? Pushing humans into a stage that is more than just one foot in the grave - you are, in every sense, living as if buried alive? And if this could be realistically be sustained for decades?

Depends on the person I suppose.

 

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Insanity is banging your head against a brick wall - try a pillow, or a pane of glass instead

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 10 Dec 2012, 16:25

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Insanity - doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Albert Einstein.

Where do you come across this? Is it you? Or someone you know? How do you get out of the rut and into the grove? Surely Einstein was describing most people?

To solve a messy or intractable problem often doing something differently or doing something else or different can help find the answer.

But how often do we fall back on or get drawn into old ways?

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Simplicity in all things - less to go wrong

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 9 Dec 2012, 22:12

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Over three months of H810 Accessible Online Learning and I'm reducing the lessons I've learnt to a few words - simplicity is one of them. Why? Might be the second - e-learning that does stuff because it can but is the equivalent to turning the Yellow Pages into a pop-up book with a scratch card for smell might win a pitch, but will it work in the ling term?

 

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Do we use more than 20% of our brains?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 9 Dec 2012, 15:02

Asked this by my 14 year old son. He was a captive audience as I drove him 45 minutes to a footie march - I hope he didn't regret asking. I questioned any statistic that ended in zero and wondered if out of 100 billion neurons we ever used more than 2% of our brains - I doubted that we'd use all our brain if we lived a thousand years, in any case what we remember and how we remember it always changes. Earlier I'd told him how we'd 'wing it' in terms of finding the location for his match saying I'd remember how to get there once we got close - which is exactly how it played out.

I mentioned the App 'One Second a Day' and Microsoft Research into digitising everything. He's now warming up; I am left to reflect.

Recall in 3d is easier that a map or the written word - how would I have given someone else directions through the minor roads of West Sussex? Had I used a Google Self-Drive car last week - or been a passenger, my memory would have been different too. Is this the mistake 'we' are making in e-learning? Believing that a self-drive learning journey is better? Can something be too easy? I've done mandatory health and safety training as a part of compliance, clicking through video, animations and mutlichoice on a laptop 'til I passed. A manager could tick a box, and they would be covered for insurance but how in reality might I perform as a consequence of this 'learning' - surely that depends on how my perceptions and understanding of the learning translates into a real situation. Can you prepare customers for the evacuation of a sinking ship by getting them to do some e-learning - however immersive?

My son has seen a film called 'Limitless' in which the protagonist takes a pill and can then access 100% of their mind - he uses this in a bit of detective work by all accounts. My son said that someone who could or did remember everything committed suicide.

It's about time I revisted 'The Contents if My Brain' - a 90 minute screenplay effort on the subject, but like 'limitless' give it the one word catchy title and Hollywood treatment. US President stores the contents of his brain in case of all eventualities - assasinated this version of him continues to govern ... whith consequences etc: Title 'Back Up' or some such.

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H810 : Activity 30.1 E-learning - key roles for implementation

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 9 Dec 2012, 08:15

Review and discussion

Thinking back to Topics 25 (academic perspectives) to Topic 29 (management perspectives), what role or roles do you recognise from your experience?

  • What roles do you have in common?
  • To what extent do your roles and perspectives overlap?
  • Are any differences because your organisations are of different types or are they because people in the organisations have different priorities?

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Over the last decade I have come full circle, from the belief that the future lay in self-directed gamified e-learning where everything is managed and monitored by the system - even if an avatar is thrown in to make it appear human. (There is current activity doing exactly this - creating avatars to play the role of tutor - perhaps to serve millions of new learners this will serve a purpose!)

The goal I feel should be recreation, where students want it, of the Oxbridge model of tutorial - at least at graduate and post-graduate levels - where the tutor plays a key role as intermediary. 'Where the students want it' implies choice - so in truth a smorgasbord at every step, not just the way a module is presented, but how material is tackled topic by topic. I've reviewed platforms that have the look and feel of a games arcade - resplendent with hyper-gamified activities at every stage - this for me does more than simply exclude the disabled student, it also presumes in error that all learners have or desire this mindset. They do not. Where we have choice I think we do incline to the verbal, auditory or kinaesthetic - I also believe that our moods and inclinations, and especially experience, tip us to one model over another. All this spells out 'C H O I C E' not constraints in the conduits of a gamified series of funnels and tunnels.

The OU may not get the attention of the e-learning awards panel, but they have a more important responsibility to hundreds of thousands of students, tens of thousands of ALs ... and a few thousand staff.

  • A champion - whomsoever this may be someone needs to make accessibility a cause
  • A leader - perhaps an innovator and entrepreneur, someone who can galvanise others into action, raise the funds, assemble a team and get the most out of them.
  • Disabled student representatives - not a token person in a wheelchair, but genuine engagement and involvement from various disabled group communities i.e. involving in particular a student or former student with experience of learning as a disabled person from the 'communities' that include hearing, sight, mobile and cognitive impairments.
  • Legal advice - much e-learning is now offered on a global platform. Laws differ, but it will reach the point where disabled students wise-up to their rights and how to press for them. This isn't about interpreting the law to reduce risk and get away with doing as little as possible, it is about ensuring that the 'bar' where it is currently placed, is reached.
  • Professional Managers - team players. Some educational practices have to change - the lone educator devising their own content for a prescribed curriculum greatly reduces both the greater use of readily available resources and their creation and management on accessible platforms. Even entrepreneurs and those with marketing and communications skills in order to compete in a global market for education provision.
  • E-learning design - experienced and qualified people who have a good understanding of how to construct e-learning, if necessary with people who have a theoretical and/or a technical background and awareness. Personally I would have a minimum of FOUR people representing the following skills: learning theory, e-learning technologies (programmer), visualisation (design in its broadest meaning in relation to functionality as well as look) and the subject matter expert - not necessarily to write original content, but certainly to curate resources where they are readily available and to tailor them to a specific audience's learning needs.
  • Research - it helps to have someone dedicated to knowing where we are with the technology and resources, in this instance with a specialism relating to assistive technology (software and hardware).

To be continued ...

Please add to this mix. If we could or had to create an e-learning platform from scratch who would you want on your team. Put this in your context - say creative writing, or civil engineering, language learning or health care. In the IDEAL e-learning world who would be in it and how would the mix work?

  • IT - there need to be people, a department even, that knows how to make IT sing and keeping it robust, up to date, compliant, reliable and secure.
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Are we too easily seduced?

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I am in all things, though I'm hardly the only one. I came into web design from video production to create rich, video-based interactive content - once the industry got over the indulgence the reality should be and can be more every day. We don't need a RollsRoyce to go to the supermarket, nor do we need Jaws 3 in 3D to give compliance e-learning on health and safety of a water company. I got this thinking from the founder of iRobots.
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H818 - The Networked Practitioner - New for Autumn 2013

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014, 07:50

Fig. 1. The Digital Scholar

Martin Weller's Digital Scholar becomes the basis for H818 - The Networked Practitioner

This new e-learning module from the Open University uses Martin Weller’s book The Digital Scholar is part of a wide range of open access material used for the module and Martin is one of the authors of the module content.

Chapter 1 - Read it here on the Bloomsbury website

Over the last couple of years I have said how much I would like to 'return' to the traditional approach to graduate and postgraduate learning - you read a book from cover to cover and share your thinking on this with fellow students and your tutor - perhaps also a subject related student society.

Why know it if it works?

Fig. 2. The backbone of H810 Accessible Online Learning is Jane Seale's 2006 Book.

Where the author has a voice and authority, writes well and in a narrative form, it makes for an easier learning journey - having read the Digital Scholar participants will find this is the case.

As in the creation of a TV series or movie a successful publication has been tested and shows that there is an audience.

The research and aggregation has been done - though I wonder if online exploiting a curated resource would be a better model? That e-learning lends itself to drawing upon multiple nuggets rather than a single gold bar.

There are a couple of caveats related to this tactic:

  1. Keeping the content refreshed and up to date. Too often I find myself reading about redundant technologies - the solution is to Google the cited author and see if they have written something more current - often, not surprisingly from an academic, you find they have elaborated or drilled into a topic they have made their own in the last 18 months.
  2. Lack of variety. Variety is required in learning not simply to avoid the predictable - read this, comment on this, write an assignment based on this ... but this single voice may not be to everyone's liking. Can you get onto their wave length? If not, who and where are the alternative voices?

 

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What communicating with a person in a vegetative state can do for e-learning

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The self-drive car will allow those with sight, mobility and other disabilities to travel when and where they want for the first time - had accessibility laws been enforced 100 years ago how far would cars have got? The self-drive computer is a decade away - this is a computer controlled by the user's thoughts - something already trialled by communicating with people in a vegatitive state - will this be the ultimate degree of accessibility? Legislation and policy sets the bar overwhich institutions must step - this bar should be raised constantly to strive to keep not too far behind what is possible. From time to time it would be valuable for someone to reach way beyond, this will be achieved by working with disabled students, the case of the patient in a vegative state the most extreme example - knowledge gained in that extreme example offering insights that could be used in the general population and of course with people who are far less disabled than this extreme.
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Lego Education

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 4 Jan 2013, 19:37

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Fig.1. Coach training with Bill Furniss, Nottingham

The Amateur Swimming Association, who train all our swimming teachers and coaches up to the highest level through the Institue of Swimming, have a hundred or so Open Learn like modules that take typically 2-3 hours to do including things like 'Coaching Disabled Athletes' and 'Working with athletes with learning difficulties'. And other important refresher modules such as child protection.

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Fig.2. Learning for disabled students needs to be tailored to their specific needs

As we have now seen on H810 : Accessible Online Learning - far more so than in the general population, there are specific and complex needs. The general disability awareness for sport says, 'see the ability not the disability, play to their strengths' - as a coach you have to identify strengths from weaknesses.

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Fig.3. Using an endless pool to examine swimming technique

Once you are working with an athlete then you find you need more specific knowledge on a, b, or c - which might be an amputee, someone with cerebral palsy, or no hearing. Each person is of course very different, first as a person (like us all), then in relation to the specifics of their disability so a general course for tutors and teachers then becomes a waste of time.

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Fig.4. Lego Education using Lego Techniks

If we think of this kind of e-training as construction with Lego Techniks, then once you're past the introduction a 'set of bricks' should be used to assemble more specific answers and insights - even getting users - in this instance a coach and athlete, to participate in the construction based on their experience i.e. building up hundreds of case studies that have an e-learning component to them. The Lego Educational Institute are an astute bunch, their thinking on learning profound, modern and hands on.

Perhaps I should see what I can come up with, certainly working with disabled athletes the coach to athlete relationship is more 1 to 1 than taking a squad of equally 'able' swimmers. Then apply it to other contexts. And Lego are the ones to speak to.

'Lego Education' are worth looking at.

The thinking is considered, academic and modern - written in language that is refreshingly clear and succinct given the subject matter. The idea of 'flow' - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi - is included while the 'Four Cs' of learning is a good way to express the importance of collaborative, self-directed construction and reflection:

  • Connect
  • Construct
  • Contemplate
  • Continue

 

 


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My personal learning environment

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Fig.1. My Personal Learning Environment

I did one of these for H808 The E-Learning Professional 18 months ago.

The huge difference was first a Kindle, then an e-Book. I don't have a desk and in a busy home finding a place and time to learn was a problem - now I will pick up as I cook, in the bath ... and in bed. I take it with me. As it was described by an OU MBA Student, 'a university in your pocket'.

Not so much mobile learning and slumbering learning ... unless walking the dog while reading a forum message counts?

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H810 : Do you need help getting around?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 7 Dec 2012, 16:54

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Fig.1. Signage plonked in your face as you exit the tube station at Tower Hill

My antennae are out for anything and everything to do with accessibility - this caught my eye because there is no mention of disability or accessibility - nor should there be. I find phrases like 'disabled persons' or, instead of the icons such as these -  words like 'wheel-chair user', 'blind' or 'visually impaired' and 'deaf' as out-moded and inappropriate as efforts to define 'people of colour'.

I rather liked the 'older old' which I say in something yesterday - by anyone's reckoning Rupert Murdoch at 82 is 'old' whereas his mother who died yesterday was certainly 'older old'. Given how long-lived we are becoming Shakespeare's 'Seven Ages of Man' ought to be rephrased as 'the nine (or ten) ages of ... 'persons' (yuk)

I rather like 'oldies' too - but do they?

The relevance of this two-fold: the integration rather than the segration of disability into the population - at many levels we are all just 'people' and the language should reflect this; universal language as well as universal design - so understanding at what 'levels' words also need to be chosen with care. As this sign does so well there is no need or value in defining the need by labelling people with certain disabilities, at deeper levels then yes, clarifying and responding, for example to a visual impairment and then refining this to the blind, legally bling, sight impaired, short sighted and so on is necessary. Getting the context right matters. Giving it some thought - and having people in place to give it this thought - helps.

FURTHER LINKS

Transport for London

Transport and access to public services

Transport for London - Disability Guides

Mayor of London Access Policy

 

 

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H810 Activity 27.4 : Alternative formats

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 4 Jan 2013, 19:49

Read this web page and consider to what extent the six challenges mentioned are addressed in your context:

Mis-Adventures in Alt Format (Stewart, 2007)
http://www.altformat.org/index.asp?id=119&pid=222&ipname=GB

Pick one challenge and write a paragraph in your tutor group wiki explaining how it is relevant to your context.  
____________

Developing a total picture of how Alt Format fits into the broader discussion of curricular reform and modernization will help insure that we do not continue to live on the margins of the educational mainstream. (Stewart, 2007)

'Universal Design for Learning'

Challenges in relation to Alternative Formats:

  1. How does the provision of Alt Format fit into other emerging models for data management and delivery?
  2. How do we build systemic capacity to meet the projected needs for Alt Format and Accessible Curricular Materials?
  3. How do we align the divergent Alt Format efforts occurring on an international bases so that they minimize redundancies and duplicative efforts?
  4. How do we move beyond the current focus on Blind and Visual disabilities to a more holistic model of access for the gamut of print disabilities?
  5. How do we develop the level of technological literacy in students with print disabilities that will be necessary for them to benefit from the technological evolutions that are occurring in curricular access?
  6. How do we involve all of the curricular decision makers in the process of providing fully accessible materials?

In my context


1) How does the provision of Alt Format fit into other emerging models for data management and delivery?

With the digitization of everything a further step to ensure content is also accessible should be taken at the time of conversation or creation. I’m not aware in an agency where this ever occurs and when there is a client request the response is a simple one - word or PDF formats, or look to the browser of platform where the content will sti.

2) How do we build systemic capacity to meet the projected needs for Alt Format and Accessible Curricular Materials?

Is there a more appropriate agent to handle the conversion and delivery of electronic content on a given campus or system of campuses? I’d probably consider the Open University itself, or the Business School where I worked for a while. I know the disability officer, but his role was more to do with access and personnel and visitors to the building then meeting student needs - which I presume comes under Student Services.

3) How do we align the divergent Alt Format efforts occurring on an international bases so that they minimize redundancies and duplicative efforts?

Whilst efforts can and have to be made to improve access universally might the fine detail be left to address either group issues by working with representatitives of associations for, for example, the blind, dyslexia, cerebral palsy and other groups ? Learning from then improving such practices and tackling access for people from these groups for specific subjects and specific levels on a strategic basis knowing that complete coverage is the goal?

‘A plan for the development and incorporation of emerging technologies in a holistic and self-sustaining model is incumbent. These emerging systems must be based on flexibility and economies of scale if we are ever going to get in front of the issues of materials access.’ (Stewart, 2007)

4) How do we move beyond the current focus on Blind and Visual disabilities to a more holistic model of access for the gamut of print disabilities?

Doesn’t cover everyone who would benefit and would benefit other groups, such as non-native language populations, remedial groups and as an alternative for any user who may prefer or benefit from the text record.

5) How do we develop the level of technological literacy in students with print disabilities that will be necessary for them to benefit from the technological evolutions that are occurring in curricular access?

In many anecdotal reports, less than 10% of the incoming students to higher education have ever had any realistic exposure to the access technologies they will need to be successful in adult education and in the world of work. (Stewart, 2007)

Current studies suggest the opposite, that students with disabilities who gain so much from having a computer to access resources, that they are digitally literate. There are always people who for all kinds of reasons have had less exposure to or are less familiar with the technology -whether or not they also have a disability.

6) How do we involve all of the curricular decision makers in the process of providing fully accessible materials?

The original authors never have a say or make a contribution to the reversioning of content for use by disabled students.

This method of access often times results in the retrofit of existing materials, or the creation of alternative access methods that are not as efficient or well received in the general classroom environment. (Stewart, 2007)

For a truly effective model to be developed the original curriculum decisions should be made in a context of understanding the needs of all learners, and in particular those learners who do now have visual orientation to the teaching and learning process. (Stewart, 2007)

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Interview analysis revealed five personal factors that appeared to influence students’ decisions about technology use:

  1. a desire to keep things simple,
  2. a lack of DSA awareness,
  3. self-reliance,
  4. IT skills and digital literacy,
  5. a reluctance to make a fuss.

The three most talked about factors were desire to keep things simple, IT skills and digital literacy. Seal and Draffan (2010:455)

‘The are many ways of making and communicating meaning in the world today.’ Conole (2007:169)

The kind of problems students with disabilities now face are different - less whether content has been made available in a digital format, but how good the tools and services are to access this content.

  • accessibility of websites and course/learning management systems (CMS)
  • accessibility of digital audio and video
  • inflexible time limits built into online exams
  • PowerPoint/data projection during lectures
  • course materials in PDF
  • lack of needed adaptive technologies.

Students also mentioned technical difficulties using e-learning and connecting to websites and CMS, problems downloading and opening files, web pages that would not load, video clips taking too long to download, poor use of e-learning by professors and their own lack of knowledge  working with elearning.

For most groups of students, solving e-learning problems by using non e-learning solutions was also popular.

During the last decade there has been tremendous development and interest in e-learning on campus. While our research shows the many benefits of e-learning, such as the availability of online course notes, there are also problems. Chief among these are problems related to inaccessibility of websites and course management systems. (Fitchen et al 2009:253)

Digital Agility

Results suggest that an important personal resource that disabled students in the study drew on when using technologies to support their studies was their ‘digital agility’. Seal and Draffan (2010:449)

Use of assistive technologies

Many students with disabilities have, since 2007, developed strategies for the use of both specialist assistive technologies (e.g. IrisPro, quill mouse, Kurzweil, Inspiration or Dragon Dictate) as well as more generic technologies (e.g. mobile phone, DS40 digital recorder, Google) Seal and Draffan (2010:450)

Seal and Draffan (2010:451) therefore suggest that disabled students have the kind of ‘sophisticated awareness’ that Creanor et al. (2006) described when they talked about effective learners being prepared to adapt activities, environments and technologies to suit their own circumstances. This contradicts somewhat the arguments of Stewart who argues that disabled students are behind other students in terms of developing digital literacies.

The digital agility of the students, identified in the study, is significant in terms of encouraging practitioners not to view all disabled students as helpless victims of exclusion. Digital inclusion does not always have to be understood through the dual lenses of deficits and barriers. Seal and Draffan (2010:458)

REFERENCE

Conole, G and Oliver, M (eds)  2007. Contemporary perspectives in E-Learning Research. Themes, methods and impact on practice.

Fichten, C. S., Ferraro, V., Asuncion, J. V., Chwojka, C., Barile, M., Nguyen, M. N., & ... Wolforth, J. (2009). Disabilities and e-Learning Problems and Solutions: An Exploratory Study. Journal Of Educational Technology & Society, 12(4), 241-256.

Seale,J., Draffan,E.A. (2010) Digital agility and digital decision-making: conceptualising digital inclusion in the context of disabled learners in higer education, Studies in Higher Education, 35:4, 445-461

Stewart, R (2007) Mis-Adventures in Alt Format

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Blown away by my LAST TMA Result!!!!

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 5 Dec 2012, 06:42

Mowden%2520Swimming%2520Shield.JPG

Fig. 1. Won some team shield - age 12 years and 9 months

Over the last 34 months I have watched as various folk have posted news of a TMA success - the most important lesson and life lesson I have learnt through the OU (this time round) is to stick with it come what may.

This result doesn't win me clients, but as I stop for the day and set out into the night to meet folk who might be part of a team or might even be clients I can so with growing confidence.

'89'

I look at it and want to call my Mum.

We're discussing criticism and feedback in a forum on Linkedin - E-Learning Global Network.

I am inclined simply to shower someone with praise - they can figure out where it isn't up to scratch but the lift will do them wonders.

Stick with it. It takes time.

Somewhere I've posted how I felt going into this. 'In the flow'

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Find the support to get through the stumbles and bad decissions. This either comes from internal strength or external support - this could be the institution, might be your family.

An EMA and the MA is done.

 

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