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Aiming for Annotation

Annotating-with-Qiqqa1

For the longest time the majority of people have considered passive reading the same as active reading, which is not the case. Active reading is more like a discussion between you and the material and therefore involves repeated questioning, critiquing, re-examination and the development of ideas. Whereas passive reading is when you’re reading to just get through the assigned pages and you show little actual interest in identifying and remembering the main ideas. But even the best active readers may find it tedious to actively read about particular subjects.

In an article on Educause Review written by Elyse Graham, she talks about the use of digital annotations to help train readers in the techniques of close reading, textual analysis, and proper comprehension of the topic.

Recently, development of tools to support digital annotation has been the subject of research and development. Some groups are building heavily annotated digital versions of maps, manuscripts, and specimens; others are focusing on developing tools that enable users to annotate new media formats, such as audio files or videos of class lectures. For example, the University of Maryland has teamed with Alexander Street Press to tailor a video-annotation toolkit for scholars. Johns Hopkins University is working with the French National Library on a complete digital library of existing manuscripts of the Roman de la Rose, annotated with the kind of scholarly commentary that normally could not appear in a facsimile. MIT’s Annotation Studio, a web-based application that enables users to create, save, and share annotations to digital texts.

The application was designed to help college readers locate and mark evidence in texts, with the aim of supporting instructors and students in the humanities. To learn more about this application click the link above.

Connecting Start-Ups with Higher Education to meet their needs

In an article written by Goldie Blumsenstyk on the Chronicle of Higher Education, she highlights a company and ed-tech entrepreneur who believes he knows the solution to a few common problems in higher education.

Paul Freedman’s company, Entangled Ventures, is working towards building a solution to the many problems that higher education faces. In order to do this, he hopes to convey these issues to start-up technology companies. He believes that there is a translation issue between what higher education needs and what companies build. The focus is to build solutions, not products that serve the needs of colleges.

The key philosophy of his company is to get involved early in pilot testing by these start-up companies. He believes that he can be the “translator” for higher education and get their needs met by building a relationship between the college and start-up company. He wants to convey the issues that colleges are having to start-up companies to allow them to build around them and adequately target the needs of the college.

This not only benefits the college but also the start-up company that is looking for a break into the technology industry. It would allow for these companies to test out their products and be supported by a higher education institution. Most companies rarely get the ears of someone at an institution. They would also be providing a product that would be used readily.

Companies such as Entangled Ventures not only help to build relationships between higher education and start-ups but they also invest in young companies. By investing at such an early stage, they also have a much larger financial stake.

For more information on this topic visit the link above.

Video-Recording Studio Boom

Now more than ever colleges and universities are providing video studios for general academic work rather than just for film majors or student news organizations.

Pennsylvania State University has created a simple setup that they call the “One Button Studio.” This room allows students and faculty members to simply plug a flash drive into the studio’s computer and press a button rather than dealing with complicated cameras and different editing software. The button controls the green screen, the lighting, and the video recording. Once the user is done, they just push the button again and retrieve their flash drive, with their new video saved. Penn State noticed how popular the One Button Studio was with faculty and students now they provide 19 One Button Studios across its multiple campuses.

Ohio State opened their studio just last fall and an instructor used the room to record a video of herself experimenting with liquid nitrogen and a blowtorch. Other universities, including Abilene Christian and Notre Dame, now use the model for their own in-house studios. Dartmouth College opened their studio called the “Innovation Studio” in May. Instructors can sign up to reserve the production rooms and can bring their own equipment or borrow some from the college’s media center. The rooms are used for a variety of different educational purposes. For example, universities such as Harvard have interviewed guest speakers in their studios to film the interview, so it can later be shared with classes. Other professors have used the studios to prerecorded lectures for students to watch when class is canceled. Now students don’t have to miss a lecture due to bad weather.

Professors are engaging more with tech-savvy students to provide more digital learning material for higher education.

For more information on this topic click here.

Engaging Students to Learn Through zyBooks

Textbooks can often be long and boring to read, making it difficult to keep students engaged. Now there’s a new web platform ‘zyBooks’ that creates a new way to learn from textbooks. ZyBooks mixes learning activities such as question sets and animations with written content. ZyBooks wants professors to use the web-based platform as a new way to help students engage with course material along with helping students perform better.

Students oftentimes have to reread passages in textbooks to actually understand the content. Frank Vahis, the founder of zyBooks in 2012, wanted to create a platform where students could retain more information while giving students an alternative to the wall of text traditional textbooks have. Vahis explains that the company wanted to avoid having “book” in the products name because the word would inaccurately describe what they were trying to do, however eventually they did keep it. Yes, digital textbooks are hardly a new idea, but the ‘next step’ Vahis argues is for textbooks to provide engaging material that helps students collaborate with other classmates while assisting students retain more information. A study done on students using the platform found that students tended to perform better on quizzes and other actives. Students also reported that they felt more engaged with course material when using zyBook products than using a regular textbook. The product also provides professors with a tool to track students’ progress in the course.

Currently, professors in 250 universities, primarily in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics courses, are using zyBooks. Not to mention that zyBooks products cost $48 each, which is cheaper than the average cost of a new textbook. Originally the platform was intended to focus on courses such as computer science and other STEM fields, but now the group hopes to move onto other topics, such as finance, accounting, and sociology.

For more information on this topic click here.

Evaluating Web Page Accessibility

This month is the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disability Act, which is a federal legislation designed “to [eliminate] discrimination against people with disabilities.” Often times students with disabilities can be left out of online curriculum, which is why it is important to evaluate if your webpage is accessible. In an a recent article George Williams discussed how you can evaluate your webpage for accessibility, he noted the best way to engage in accessibility testing is with actual people. However there are also a number of helpful tools that can automatically check your site for the most important accessibility issues:

  • Wave Toolbar
    WAVE can help you evaluate the accessibility of your web content. WAVE is easy to use, you simply enter the web page address or browse to a file on your computer and select WAVE this page. WAVE will then provide you with a report section at the top of your page with embedded icons and error indicators. RED icons indicate accessibility errors and GREEN icons indicate accessibility features.
  • HTML_CodeSniffer
    HTML_CodeSniffer Is a client-side JavaScript application that checks an HTML document or source code for violations of a defined coding standard. It can be extended by developers to enforce custom coding standards by creating your own “sniffs”. This bookmarklet can work with almost any browser.
  • Tota11y
    Tota11y helps visualize how your site performs with assistive technologies. Testing for accessibility is often tedious and confusing, but tota11y aims to reduce this barrier by helping visualize accessibility violations. Your file will have a small button in the bottom of your corner document, once you click on the button you are able to see the accessibility problems your web page may have.
  • Pa11y
    Allows you to check the accessibility of web pages your own or others. If you are more interested in fixing issues rather than hunting them down you can use pa11y-dashboard.

You can also look at W3C web accessibility evaluation tools list. Over 40 tools listed are software programs or online services that can help determine if the webpage is accessible. All these tools will help evaluate webpage accessibility to ensure everyone can enjoy your webpage.