During the UDAL Forum and Pizza event held June 3, 2016, Dr. Sheryl Burgstahler presented UW Bothell campus with the 1st Annual IT Capacity Building award. This award recognizes the current efforts at the UW Bothell campus in promoting Universal Design for Learning awareness and training.
Andreas Brockhaus, Director of Learning Technologies at UW Bothell, coined the acronym UDAL (Universal Design for Active Learning) as a local effort to integrate Universal Design for Learning principles in supporting student active learning and engagement. The core group leading this effort is comprised of Ana Thompson, Learning Technologist (Learning Technologies), Sara Frizelle, eLearning Planning and Research Specialist (Learning Technologies), Jeane Marty, Web Developer (Web Services), Ashley Magdall, Web Support Specialist (Advancement) and Rosa Lundborg, Program Manager (Disability Resources for Students).
The goal of the CBI is to engage web managers and developers, IT administrators and service providers, procurement officers, disability services providers, and students with disabilities in a discussion that will ultimately lead to improved capacity within the three campuses of our university to carry out our educational mission in a way that is accessible to everyone.
Technology and education have close ties with one another, however, I believe it can be safe to say that technology seems to be utilized more to entertain, rather than to educate. The combination of the two has opened many doors to innovative ways of teaching to the generation of college students that interact with these gadgets and gizmos on a daily basis. I think it’s also safe to say that young adults of this generation love technology and social media. Students are constantly being exposed to a plethora of new games and apps that keep tech within their reach. With all these ‘lovely distractions’ threatening to forever hold the attention of our young minds, educators in higher education must find new ways to integrate these ‘lovely distractions’ in a way that keeps students not only engaged, but actually building knowledge while in the learning space.
In July, I had the pleasure of being able to attend an event that took place at the University of Washington Bothell called the eLearning Summer Symposium. This event was focused on active learning strategies and ideas for creating more engaging learning spaces. There were several engaging presentations and opportunities for educators to share ideas with each other on topics ranging from tech tools, to active teaching and learning techniques, to OER (Open Educational Resources), and UDAL (Universal Design for Active Learning).
There were a two presentations that really stood out because of the utilization of technology and social media in a way the really engaged students. The first presenter, Dr. Dan Bustillos, faculty in the School of Nursing and Health Studies, spoke about the importance of not only getting his students to learn about the mechanics of implementing health policy, but also that it was very important for students to experience the aftermath of putting policies in play and how it affects the overall situation. He explained that experience is gained by having to deal with making those tough decisions in the moment when the stressors are high and having to consider all cause and effect scenarios. Dr. Bustillos described that beyond just teaching these policies to his students there wasn’t really a vehicle in which he could simulate that experience to better engage his students. That led him to creating a game based course, which he built using an Excel worksheet. This game allows him to create simulations that put the players, aka students, in a position to decide amongst different strategies based on their coursework the best course of action for each stage of the game. He claimed that this idea significantly increased student engagement because it was in the form of a game in which students are quite familiar with.
Another instructor, Dr. Jane Van Galen, faculty in the School of Educational Studies, integrates the use of Twitter into her classroom. Dr. Van Galen found it can be a valuable resource due to it being a sort of central hub of the Internet. Twitter connects policymakers, journalists, advocacy groups, professionals, and the general public in the same social space. She explained that Twitter users can share a variety of media including news, opinions, web links, and conversations in a publicly accessible space. She explained how the use of Twitter had several benefits in her classroom. She found that it draws students out into the ‘open’, ushering them into developing social networks for ongoing learning. She sees potential for connections beyond the classroom, and shared an example of how one of her student’s tweets was commented on by a well-known scholar, whose work the student had referenced in her original tweet. Dr. Van Galen also provided examples of how Twitter has the ability to amplify the student voice because tweets can be tagged by other groups or organizations. This ability to tag a tweet notifies members of the group or organization of the tweet and then notifies the potential thousands of individuals that follow that particular group or organization. She found that engagement in her class skyrocketed when Twitter was used as vehicle for her class’s subject matter. From my perspective, a student perspective, these two presentations were the most exciting to witness because of the possible applications in other subjects.
Overall, it was a great time and I hope that these sort of events continue to take place. It is important that as we adapt to new technology we also adapt our ways of using and applying it not only just for entertainment purposes, but also to educate.
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.
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.
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.
In Chapter 4 “Designing College More Like a Video Game” of the book Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning, José Antonio Bowen talks about how to motivate students to think in new ways.
When students make the transition from high school to college, they are asked to alter the way of thinking that had previous led to success. This is a substantial change being asked of them, under conditions that punish failure, and it comes at the start of college, when anxiety about change and failure are at their peak.
It has been shown, through empirical evidence, that the combination of high expectations and low stakes matter for learning; these are the same conditions that make a good video game. However, being approachable and supportive also improves learning.
In order to lower the risk of failure while still maintaining high standards, the means of assessment will need to be reviewed and rethought. By increasing the amount of exams, each individual exam will have less of an impact on the final grade, reducing the risk.
Video games are similar to a series of tests that are innately motivating, unlike most exams encountered in college. Instructors can act like game developers, creating exams that follow a narrative or tackle a problem, as a result tests would become more fun and interesting. By giving consideration to the format of exams, instructors can increase motivation and reduce the stress of their students.
A very informative post was written recently by Sara Lipka for The Chronicle of Higher Education detailing statistical information about parents’ perceptions on the importance and value of a college education for their children, despite the rising and obvious financial costs.
Originally written by the Wall Street Journal, the survey shows some positive and negative viewpoints parents have about the value of their children’s college education when faced with sometimes daunting financial concerns. For example, almost 9/10 parents said that college was an important investment for their children’s future. On the other hand, while parents wanted their kids to go to college, 79% of parents expressed some worry and concern about having enough money to make that happen.
Percentages about how parents fund their children’s college education, the various types of loans available for students and parents to use, and even the common confusion and lack of knowledge parents have about loans were also discussed.
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