Tag Archives: e-standards

Accessibility – it’s for everyone!

 

Disability ramp leading into a building
Image from: Daniel Lobo https://www.flickr.com/photos/daquellamanera/377766377/

I know that so many people do not even consider accessibility when it comes to Digital Citizenship, but really for online environments it is not just about “accessibility” but it is about “good design”.

Let’s look at an accessibility ramp for instance. A ramp is not just for the few. Everyone can benefit from it.

Accessibility is not just about a physical impairment, but also about good media design that ensures everyone benefits regardless of the technology available to them.

Images, video, audio should all have text alternatives. If a button or navigation control is an image, the alternative text should describe where the button will take the user, or what it will do. Where the image is part of the learning material, you must ensure that the same information is given in text form.

Remember this is not just for people who are sight impaired, but for those users  with issues loading the image due to poor connection speed. This  will also help to cover different learning styles.

The only exception is an image that is just there as part of the page design, for example a blue line with dots in it, might appear as part of branding and design on a webpage. The learners are not “disadvantaged” if they do not see that design element. So for the alternative text, it should be given a null value of “”.

With video/audio, your original planning material/script can form the basis for your closed caption file or text document. Be sure to describe what is “happening”, not just what is being said.

Think about it – have you ever seen a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation where you can’t make out the words because they clash with the background image/colour?

Image shows a poorly designed slide from a Microsoft PowerPoint slide deck. The background image is a a poorly lighted shot of lightning, which has patches of dark and white space over the whole background. Words have been added over the top of the image, which is extremly hard to read as it is white font, in a handwritten style over the wide colour spectrum back image.
Demonstrates poor colour and layout choices.

If you are struggling to read your own content, even in part, then others will also have the same issue.

Furthermore colour-blindness, which is common, can affect the visibility of some colours over others. You really need to make sure you use high contrasting colours to support learners.

You can test colour contrast for accessibility using some freely available tools such as this one: http://webaim.org/resources/contrastchecker/

It is important to mention that these checkers only check colours for Accessibility. They will not tell you if it is a good colour choice from a design point of view, so always ask a designer if your colours work together.

As always it is best to check your organisations branding department and ask for the corporate colour palette as this can take some of the guess work out of choosing colours that match your corporate materials.

For video and audio, ensure that the learning material can be clearly heard over any background noise or background music you have added in.

Test your online content and see if you can navigate around it easily and in a predictable fashion using nothing but the keyboard. Most learning management systems take care of this for course navigation, but any content you create yourself in it should also be navigable in this way. Look out for Keyboard traps. Items in a webpage that keep you “trapped” once inside them when using Keyboard only navigation.

Any timed events should have plenty of time for all users to complete and contain controls for the user to pause, step back and step forward.

The pages of your course/site should be navigable through several methods. Again, your organisations Learning Management System will take care of much of this by providing both main navigation links, and also bread crumbs. Make sure you use titles in your pages so that users never feel lost, and ensure that “Home” takes your user to the first page they saw.

For those navigating by Keyboard, there must be a visual indicator as to what area of the site is currently selected. Ensure that where you repeat your navigation links on sub-pages, that they are consistent throughout the site.

You should also use the section heading and heading hierarchy functions in the software that you are creating in, again talk to your organisations deign department or look at your corporate style guide as this should indicate fonts and heading styles to be used.. It is helpful to know how to set section heading and heading hierarchy up in HTML or the CSS.

Text should always be aimed at pre-secondary education reading level. Any complex terms and wording should be explained or an explanation made available via a link to a glossary of terms.

Web pages should never “auto load” new content and links should always jump to the page relevant to a title link. No random links.

Most importantly content should work on ALL devices and not be created for a proprietary device. To ensure this you should test your online course on all web browsers and mobile devices.

Remember that a user must not be disadvantaged because of their personal choice of device nor their access speed.

At the end of the day accessible web design refers to the philosophy and practice of designing web content so that it can be navigated and read by everyone, regardless of location, experience, or the type of computer technology used (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2014).

References

Australian Human Rights Commission. (2014). World Wide Web Access: Disability Discrimination Act Advisory Notes ver 4.1 . Retrieved, from http://www.humanrights.gov.au/world-wide-web-access-disability-discrimination-act-advisory-notes-ver-41-2014#whatis

Daniel Lobo. (2007). Ramp [Image]. Flickr. Retrieved, from https://www.flickr.com/photos/daquellamanera/377766377/

WebAIM. (2016). WebAIM: Color Contrast Checker. Retrieved, from http://webaim.org/resources/contrastchecker/

 

 

 

TPACK framework

TPACK image
The TPACK framework and its knowledge components from www.tpack.org

As part of my delivery I present training sessions on both designing and facilitating vie digital technologies. Thanks to this I have heard and worked with TPACK for the past few years.

Harris, Mishra & Koehler (2009) stress the importance that all three domains technological, content, pedagogical should be viewed as interconnected and not in isolation as these interactions create the ‘sweet spot’ or the TPACK zone in the center of the three domains.

The heart of TPACK is meeting students needs so every class will look different even though you as the teacher is the common denominator as the PCK needs to be considered on an individual class by class basis. By being able to integrate knowledge from all three domains an expert teacher bring TPACK into play when ever and where ever they teach.

Due to the diverse nature of my work and that I am no longer just a classroom trainer I do sit more towards the middle (or the sweet spot).

The TPACK philosophy has been of great benefit to me in the development of my skills and expanding my lesson plans to a new level to ensure that the training sessions I present .

An interesting article that delves into TPACK in relation to the VET sector is:  Pipe dreams or digital dreams:  Technology, pedagogy and content knowledge in the vocational educational and training sector O’Brien, T. and Maor, D. (2013). This paper discusses the need for professional development programmes to develop the VET practitioners knowledge across all TPACK domains.

Another interesting journal article, though not directly linked to the VET sector, but does contain many lessons to learn from is: A framework for Web 2.0 learning design Bower, M., Hedberg, J.G., and Kuswara, A.. This article talks through the conceptualization of Web 2.0 enabled learning design, which can be then applied to the VET sector.

 

References

Bower, M., Hedberg, J., & Kuswara, A. (2010). A framework for Web 2.0 learning design.Educational Media International, 47(3), 177-198. doi:10.1080/09523987.2010.518811

Harris, J. & Mishra, P. & Koehler, M. (2009). Teachers technological pedagogical content knowledge and learning activity types: Curriculum-based technology integration reframed. Journal on Research on Technology in Education, 41(4), pp. 393-416.

Mishra, P & Koehler, M. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), pp. 1017-1054.

O’Brien, T & Maor, D. (2013).  Pipe dreams or digital dreams:  Technology, pedagogy and content knowledge in the vocational educational and training sector.  Retrieved from http://www.ascilite.org/conferences/sydney13/program/papers/O’Brien.pdf

Digital native or immigrant?

I vividly remember seeing a presentation by Marc Prensky about his research into Digital Natives and immigrants. It was then an eye opener but research that I have always felt went to compartmentalize society into pre and post the digital technology revolution.

Driving simulator with digital immigrants
Testing the text and driving skills of a client in classroom.

By my age I am a digital immigrant, however, I have to say I do understand and use technology better than many digital natives that I know. I train VET practitioners in the use of digital technology in the training environment with a variety of skill levels.

The majority of people are not always very good at  assessing their level of expertise when using technology  (McFarlane, 2014). I rarely look at a persons age to be a solid indicator of their digital skill set, but have learnt that age does not mean that the person either does or does not have the skills.

I am currently the Chairperson of an Independent Public School in Perth, WA and often find it amusing to sit in meetings with the teaching staff and hear them complain about technology and the lack of professional development to teach them how to use it. I then reflect on students, who rarely get professional development to use any technology but muddle through.

It is the negative attitude in the VET sector that sometimes comes from left field, with the comment (often from trade areas) saying that technology is going to take their jobs. I often will point out it is there to augment their work and if they are a good facilitator then they have nothing to worry about. I also make it perfectly clear that technology will do nothing to improve ineffective teaching and will not turn a sows ear into a silk purse, but in the hands of someone who wants to augment their training then it can become a tool to assist in life long learning.

 

Jasinski, M. (2006). Innovate and integrate: Embedding innovative practices. 1st ed. [pdf] Canberra: DEST, Commonwealth of Australia. Available at: http://flexiblelearning.net.au/wp-content/uploads/Innovate_and_Integrate_Report1.pdf [Accessed 6 Oct. 2014].

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., Freeman, A. (2014). NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

McFarlane, A. (2014). Authentic learning for the digital generation (p. 27). New York: Routledge

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants part 1. On the horizon, 9(5), 1-6.

Why we should use technology in the classroom?

As educators it is always important to understand what is happening outside the classroom in the ‘real world’ in terms of being able to contextualize lessons to reflect current attitudes and utilize contemporary tools to achieve our desired outcomes. In the Australian VET sector training packages are now on a continuous upgrade cycle to reflect current industry practices which means that students expect that technology will form part of their learning.

When you review the dramatic changes over the past 5 years that the VET sector has undergone it stands to reason that information and training methodologies that we once held close to our hearts are now outmoded.

Banning mobiles in the classroom sign from RTO in Perth.
Banning mobiles in the classroom sign from RTO in Perth.

The Industry Skills Councils and industry in general demand as part of the training packages that trainers have and maintain currency in chosen fields. This includes the use of current technologies within the industry space. Therefore not only do our students expect to use technology but the curriculum documents ensure that as trainers we must.

The Waldorf philosophy of not utilizing technology within the classroom or training environment it is not practicable for a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) in Australia. For a training organisation to not to accept that they need to train students with current workplace skills using technology to fulfill some of that requirement would be a critical issue. Adult learners learn is different ways to school students and bringing in ‘life experiences’ including the use of technology is and always should be just another way to ensure that the students needs are being met.

All RTO’s do need to build skills and abilities in their staff and students with technology. Being aware of the E-Standards for Training is critical to ensure that digital literacy skills are addressed as part of the training that students receive from an RTO.

For me it is critical that we do establish solid digital literacy for our VET clients/students, with solid skills to evaluate, find use, share and create content using technologies and the internet. Without these digital literacy skills we are not equipping our VET students and practitioners with the ability to operate in the relevant industry areas.

E-standards.flexiblelearning.net.au,. (2014). E-standards for Training. Retrieved 12 January 2015, from http://e-standards.flexiblelearning.net.au/

Training.gov.au,. (2014). Skills: training.gov.au. Retrieved 12 January 2015, from http://training.gov.au/