Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Higher Ground Accessibility Conference

I recently attended the "14th Annual Accessing Higher Ground, Accessible Media, Web and Technology Conference" that is sponsored each year by CU Boulder. It was very informative and I plan on sharing a few posts on this blog that address some of the tips and best practices that I learned about.
Some of the topics I focused on are: captioning videos (best practices and how to do it), tips on Adobe Connect, Acrobat and Captivate for accessibility, strategies for implementing a campus wide policy, and best practices for accessible graphics/images.

stay tuned....


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Another Great Sloan-C Annual Conference

This year's Sloan-C conference had close to 1,500 attending in person and another 600 virtually. Impressive. The conference was well organized and had two outstanding keynote speakers. Here's a summary of some of the better sessions I attended.

Second Life is Dead, pre-conference workshop
John Rogate, Champlain College, U.S.
Marjon Klapwijk, Creative Twists Designs, Netherlands

Second Life costs $3,540 per year and recently rescinded the academic discount. The session discussed a free alternative called OpenSim that is based on an earlier version of the Second Life development engine. OpenSim has undergone several versions and is currently a stable environment. The co-presenter was a former Second Life designer from the Netherlands. She may be a good resource for information on development of the nursing sim at Regis. Alexandra Pickett from SUNY also provided information on the Second Life Medical Center used at SUNY. The workshop was more of a rant against Second Life than a session for learning about virtual worlds. I had hoped for more practical information on the use of virtual worlds for medical sims.

Several resources were mentioned during the presentation:

Online and On the Move
Ray Schroeder & Emily Boles, University of Illinois, Springfield

Ray has been one of my favorite presenters for years and this session was no exception. Ray and co-presenter Emily Boles featured a number of mobile technologies for interacting with content.  A humorous but telling YouTube clip showed a toddler attempting to interact with a magazine like one would an iPad. They used an online polling site called for audience participation feedback on a number of questions. Ray mentioned that moving to thin clients and smaller devices improved accessibility and sharability while providing quicker bootups. Most of these devices also provide online cloud-based backups. Two technologies were real eye-openers. The first was a technology that uses face recognition to unlock your smartphone. You look into the device, the device recognizes your features and your phone is unlocked. The other technology is headgear developed at Dartmouth that uses brain waves as an input device. You wear headgear that picks up neural activity which in turn acts as a keyboard-like device. By thinking of a location on the keyboard your mouse pointer moves to that location. This has tremendous applicability for the disabled and hands-free applications. Other resources mentioned:

Seven Futures of Online Education
John Sener, Sloan-C

John Sener distributed a worksheet titled Sixteen Propositions about the Future of Online Education. He mentioned the 10% annual growth rate in online education and the importance of cybersymbiosis, where we will be fundamentally dependent on online and other digital technologies. Online education will soon be an integral part of the educational world and disappear as it becomes part of the everyday classroom. He points out the danger of cyberdystopia, where big business takes over online education and devalues human interaction. Great food for thought.

Wednesday keynote
Lee Rainie, Director, Pew Internet and American Life Project

Wednesday's keynote was presented by Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Pew research studies are closely watched for their insights into American usage of computers and the internet. Lee began his talk by mentioning "tweckling", which is heckling the speaker with disparaging tweets. Funny stuff! Some of the latest research by Pew (Pew is someones name rather than an acronym) indicates that 95% of 12-17 yera olds uses broadband, as well as 41% of those 65 and older. He also mentioned the importance of analytics for making sense of "big data" and information from multiple sources. Analytics helps sort these data into understandable and usable chunks. Lee continued by saying that over half of those using social networking are over 35 years old. Older users use social networks to cope with life such as discussing life changing events. Also, Facebook is used to reunite long-lost friends such as high school classmates. Social networks provide a method of determining relevance of information while providing an audience. Some of the most interesting data came from mobile technologies. 85% of teens take their phones to bed with them. And there are 327 million wireless subscriptions to accommodate the United States population of 315 million.

These data point to some interesting possibilities. For example, users are becoming more adept at real-time and just-in-time sharing of information. Users are becoming better searchers of information rather than remembering more information. This is leading to a new kind of learner, a learner more reliant on feedback and response, one who is more inclined to collaborate, and a learner more oriented towards being a node of production rather than a sole source.

Thursday keynote
Cable Green

Thursdays keynote was presented by Cable Green, director of Global Learning at Creative Commons. He began his talk by mentioning that the worlds knowledge is a public good. He mentioned several educational resources such as (free education), OCW Consortium (free course content), the Capetown Declaration, and SPARC (open access to scholarly research). Other resources for sharable content include MERLOT, Connexions and OER. A movement is underway at several universities to use sharable content. For example, Athabasca requires faculty to globally search for course content before creating new courses.

The Reality of Virtual Worlds
Art Institute of Pittsburgh

There are a number of virtual environments currently available. Some of these include Active Worlds, Second Life, Meta Place, and OpenSim. Businesses began developing heavily in virtual worlds but have been retreating at a rapid rate. The presenters suggested starting small and building as necessary rather than initially purchasing large plots of land. The presenters then demonstrated a virtual environment created several years ago that was similar to other virtual environments. The environment was developed using the Unity development engine. They also mentioned ReactionGrid, a virtual world development company.

Friday keynote
Howard Rheingold

Howard plugged his new book titled A New Culture of Learning. He mentioned how the questions asked by students are more important than the answers they provide. Social media are very important to students in the classroom. Blogs are read by all students and provide an individual voice as well as a source of reflection. Howard mentioned the importance of "crap detection", or sifting the bad information from the good. One example he used was the web advertisement for the "online pregnancy test." Although obviously tongue-in-cheek, similar results could be interpreted as authentic by the more gullible. Another example was a supposed tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King. However, the deeper one got into the site the more inflammatory the text. Howard dug more deeply into the site author and determined that he was a white supremacist with a subversive message. Know your information sources!


Big Blue Button: free open source web conferencing.
easywhois: find out the owner of a website (free).

Using Mobile Technology to Create Meaningful Learning Experiences
Audeliz Matias SUNY Empire State College

An excellent session detailing a project to bring course content to mobile devices. The project included PC, iPad, iPhones, and Androids. They suggested to not attempt to duplicate PC functions on a smart phone. Rather, develop content around the key features of phones. They started with a student survey asking what students wanted and expected from mobile technology. Mobile features were integrated into standard courses rather than being stand-alone.

Barbara Berg, Regis University

One of the most innovative session topics was provided by Barbara Berg, nursing faculty at RHCHP. Barbara presented a poster session detailing an innovative use of video feedback for student assignments. Barbara used a free video platform to record video feedback which was then attached to an email and sent back to students. The feedback format was well accepted by students. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

WCET 2011 conference highlights

This past week was the 2011 WCET annual conference, held at the Denver City Center Marriott. This was my first WCET conference since 2004 when I presented on plagiarism detection services. Time certainly does fly!

The opening day keynote provided good resources that included:

Rob Robinson, David Cillay and Chris Manriquez gave their perspectives in an interactive panel discussion on the changing roles of today's learning technology leaders. They emphasized the critical need to sift through the ever-expanding amounts of data to find the information needed to make sound decisions. This is the only way for new initiatives to get off the drawing board. They also talked about the importance of the hybrid model and the conversion of seat-based courses to hybrid. Not only does this provide economies of scale for classroom space but places course materials online for greater access. 

Ritchie Boyd, Julie Kelleher and Loyce Pailen represented the WCET LMS CIG. The panel facilitated discussion on the academic technology ecosystem and the expanding role of 3rd party products. Many of the technologies being adopted by faculty are not necessarily formally supported by IT departments. Apps such as Dropbox, YouTube, and Google Docs are preferred by faculty for their ease of use, simplicity, availability and collaborative potential. IT departments are concerned with their long term availability and the potential security issues. Future online CIG discussions will expand on these issues.

Perhaps the highlight of sessions was one presented by colleagues at CPS Learning Design. Dr. Ling Thompson, Sally Cordrey and Jane Johnson presented on their award-winning Passport to Course Development. The three discussed the development of their multi-media course on course development for faculty. The behind-the-scenes look demonstrated the highly talented staff working at Learning Design. The course won the 2011 WCET Outstanding Work (WOW) award for "innovative, technology-based solutions to a significant problem or need in higher education." A much-deserved recognition.