Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Accessible Technology

After several weeks of exploring new technologies we can use in the classroom, this week we thought about how to make sure our course’s electronic environment is accessible to all of our students. In order to make our course materials accessible, they need to be available in multiple forms. Everything that is read must also be able to be heard. And everything that is listened to must also be able to be read. To achieve this we need to remember to make our documents accessible so they can be read by screen reading software like ClaroRead and Jaws, and we need to know how to add captions to instructional videos. The Center for Accessible Technologies in Shields Library has many resources to help you learn about electronic accessibility issues and test out your electronic course materials. Here is a link to a YouTube video introducing you to the C.A.T. http://youtu.be/LY99FUASKHE
The important thing to remember when making your documents is to use the “styles” feature in word in order to make titles, headings, and body of the text be easily read in a logical order when using reading software. This takes some practice, but with time will make it easier for your documents to become accessible. Next “save as” a PDF, this will make it easier for reading software to read your document. It generally is made “accessible” when saved as a PDF, but you can check the accessibility by looking under the “advanced” tab for “accessibility.”
You should notice this video has captions! If you don’t see them, please click on the “cc” at the bottom of the video. To add captions to your own YouTube videos, upload a transcript file saved as a Plain Text document to the Captions page after you click on Enhancements. You can only do this to your own videos. You can download YouTube videos by replacing the “www.” in the link to the video with “save”. This will allow you to download the video, and then you could privately upload it back to YouTube to caption it. You can also use Amara at www.universalsubtitles.com to add captions to videos if you have a link to the video.
Here are some recommended links regarding electronic accessibility:

Remember, you can’t do everything for everyone, but you can at least get started by making your documents accessible and adding captions to your videos!

Brought to you by Kim Pasene & Melody Schmid

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

This week in GTC, we found ourselves getting a crash course in education-specific technologies. Just as many of us learned word processing, powerpoint, and other “innovative” software platforms at the high school level, students today are becoming familiar with dozens of new programs that can have practical applications in a college setting. By learning what kinds of programs our students are already familiar with, we can vastly accelerate the creation of learning environments that advance our educational and pedagogical objectives.

This workshop offered a general overview of the kinds of teaching technologies that correspond to different levels of the educational experience - those for use by teachers, by students, and by both. After discussing the interesting questions raised by a recent ARS Technica article on the subject with Susan, Sarah guided us through an introduction to instructional technology called 7 Wonders of the Web 2.0 World created by Jennifer Brinson, a high school history teacher and instructional coach for Discovery Education. Covering programs such as Prezzie, Voicethread, Jeopardy Labs, Animoto, Quizlet, lino.it, Collaborize Classroom, and Livebinders, the presentation also included links to even more technological resources, including 20 or so programs described in Web 2.0 Tools to Inspire.

After exploring two of these educational programs with Susan - Piazza virtual classroom and Leafsnap, a plant biology app for smartphones, we split up into groups and explored some of the technologies mentioned above. Going around the room, we briefly discussed what we’d learned about each program and gave our thoughts on if and how such programs might be used in a higher education classroom. By the end, more than a few heads were spinning from all the programs we’d be introduced to in such a short period of time - but as Susan and Sarah demonstrated, having a database of potential programs available for us to access at any time should make it easier for us to explore what intrigues us and, in doing so, open up endless new possibilities for future “tech-savvy” teaching!

Many thanks to Susan Bush and Sarah Messbauer for facilitating, and to Sarah Perrault for her insights during the planning process. Thanks as well go to Jennifer Brinson and RJ Stangherlin for sharing their wealth of knowledge about the many digital resources available for instructional use!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Helping students navigate their thoughts with concept mapping, Robert introduces GTC to VUE.

A difficult, yet essential, part of learning is making connections and describing relationships. Whether we are using this to map genetic interactions or describe the pathway of emotional development, the ability to ferret out how one thing affects another is an asset. Teachers have experimented with a variety of different techniques that encourage students to make connections and understand relationships. Outlines, if ______then ________ statements, descriptive essays, and song and dance have all served the purpose of getting students to draw connections. Many students are visual learners and as we move into the computer age, it is easier to share and create visual data. VUE, a concept mapping software, allows us to do just that. In simple language a concept map is a visual representation of related ideas, processes or objects that depicts how map components are related to one another. Asking students to draw, pen to paper, concept maps in a class can encourage them to learn a complex process, make connections that they didn’t see initially and explore uses for information.

As part of our exploration of technology, Robert introduced us to the virtual version of the pen and paper concept map: VUE. Once a concept map is created in this software it can perform all the same functions as a paper map, AND it can be easily shared and emailed, incorporated into a blog, manipulated by people in different places at different times, and quickly rearranged. VUE can color code things, suggest connections you may not have seen, and rearrange the focus of your map to allow you to think about the relationships around one important component. This tool can get both teachers and students VUEing the world as a connected network as opposed to binning topics into discrete categories. We had a great time experimenting with the tool while Robert gave us tips on how to enhance our concept maps. After playing for a bite, we used the maps we had created to examine the more quantitative side of the program. I never considered that the spider web of connections that I had on my screen could be transformed into an organized grid of 0s and 1s displaying the number of connections each node held. The potential for quantifying students understanding of the connectivity between concepts and topics is an exciting piece of this software. I hope to incorporate this as a tool in part of my teaching and as an activity for my students to encourage them to learn and make connections.

If you have more questions on VUE please contact Robert Lynch at : robert.b.lynch@gmail.com

Here are examples of two concept maps created by the members of GTC in VUE!