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educational technology

As High-Tech Teaching Catches On, Students With Disabilities Can Be Left Behind

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Credit to James F Clay

 

In our digital day and age learning is an opportunity granted to almost everyone. The internet has given us a medium of information transfer that can touch millions of people, anyone can learn anything now. These advancements in learning have been adapted to the college classroom in many ways as well–teachers will use videos, PDF documents of texts, as well as devices like Clickers to further their student’s understanding of the topics addressed in class.

But this can prove to be a difficult feat for those who are disabled.

In an article on the Chronicle of Higher Education, by Casey Fabris, the issues of discrimination against those with disabilities in the classroom is examined.

Students who are blind or deaf are having difficulty gaining access to resources that are offered to their other classmates. One instance of this is the flipped classroom model that many classes are adapting, assigning students videos to watch or texts to read outside of class then coming prepared to discuss them. Unfortunately closed captioning on all videos is only just starting to emerge. Many people are making an effort on sites like YouTube to close caption their videos, but sadly most still aren’t. This leaves behind students who have disabilities, and in some cases professors just excuse them from the assignment, leaving them out of a great learning opportunity.

There have been numerous lawsuits against Universities who have failed to supply their students with proper materials to perform their duties in class. Things like PDF documents being incompatible with their reading software, videos without closed captioning, and the lag time between translation of questions and students using clickers have all been issues that people with disabilities have to deal with.

This is an issue that continues to plague many campuses, sadly leaving many students behind. Many universities are fighting back against this, doing everything they can to accommodate those who need help, but the issue still persists. There needs to be more of an effort to include everyone in classroom activities, and one good way to start would be to spread the word of this problem.

For more information on this topic visit the link above.

One Reason to Offer Free Online Courses: Alumni Engagement

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Photo Credit to Texas A&M University-Commerce Marketing Communications Photography

It is assumed that once you graduate from college you will no longer need to spend time in the classroom. A diploma from a university is a pinnacle moment of your educational career and once that has been obtained there is no use in spending any more time in a classroom. This idea is incorrect.

Casey Fabris examines the benefits of offering free online courses to college alumni in his article on The Chronicle of Higher Education website. This article examines the experiment conducted by Colgate University over the past few years in which they invited back alumni from the school to participate in MOOCs (massive open online courses). The courses offered ranged in subjects from “The Advent of the Atomic Bomb” to “Living Writers”. In a course offered last spring pertaining to atomic bombs they even invited veterans to participate in class discussions online to give the students a better perspective on their experiences with the war, since many of them weren’t even born at that time.

By offering free online courses to alumni from the school they are able to keep them connected with the community of both former and current students. During the first enrollment period Colgate University was able to enroll 380 alumni, when their original goal was only 238. The numbers grew to a whopping 800 online participants as the courses continued. The alumni participating in these courses were asked to share their feedback on the university’s experiment with online learning, and officials behind it considered it a success.

Other universities are now trying to engage their alumni using free online courses, offering former students a way to learn throughout their lives after university. The courses offer ways for alumni to engage each other if they wish and increase their knowledge even after their education has ended.

For more information on this topic visit the article above.

Class-Sourcing

In an article on Stanford’s Center for Teaching and Learning website Gleb Tsipursky examines the benefits of teaching using a new set of tools in our digital age, namely those that are available through the great invention of the internet. Today students are able to take advantage of website creation and artifact archiving to demonstrate the new information they have gained through their classroom experience. Tsipursky calls this phenomenon Class-Sourcing.

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Class-Sourcing is the integration of technology into the classroom through the use of website creation, artifact archival, blog writing, video creation, podcast creation, or any other media related design used to express ideas, research, or content they have gained from the class. Class-Sourcing takes advantage of group activities to help promote team building and prompts students to get creative in their expression of information.

Class-Sourcing has many benefits to the students who take advantage of it. They gain skills in digital literacy, data management, digital design, digital communication, collaboration, and public presentation to name a few. Each of these skills proves useful not only in the classroom but outside of it as well. Our age is becoming increasingly tech-oriented and employers are seeking tech-savvy individuals to fill the limited positions available. Students are able to create content they enjoy whilst learning the ins and outs of website creation which will benefit them for years to come.

Here at the University of Washington we have already integrated Class-Sourcing into our classrooms. Through the use of Canvas, Catalyst, Google Sites and much more professors are now able to offer their students an alternative to classic pen and paper school work. Students are able to create their own personal media content that they can upload directly to their teachers. Many professors have abandoned the use of physical papers and have adapted wholly to the online resources available to them. Students can archive all of their work from their college years onto their own personalized website that they can reference for years to come. This proves useful for students who graduate from this University, leaving with a portfolio full of experience to show to potential employers.

 

For more information on Class-Sourcing and its benefits visit the link above.

Thomas L. Friedman and MOOCs

The prominent and effective uses of MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) has been both encouraging and illustrative of the wide acceptance, nationally and internationally, of integrated technology within the areas of higher education. It also presents a very promising perspective of how conventional classrooms and educational systems have welcomed and utilized these tools in creative ways that work to continually enhance the distribution, reception, and overall experiences of teaching and learning.

One instance of such use was explained in an article written last week by Thomas L. Friedman for The New York Times. Friedman speaks about his experiences learning about those who have used MOOCs in their own courses, including his friend Michael Sandel, and the impact that has come from being exposed to such a democratized approach to higher education.

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Comparison of Student and Academic Technology Use Across Disciplines

A new report by Educause has revealed some interesting insight in to how students and faculty are using technology in the classroom. With technology such as Learning Management Systems (LMS a.k.a. CMS), response devices (“clickers”), and web tools (Google Apps, Youtube, etc.) being used daily in classrooms around the nation, both students and faculty have come to expect such technology to be used in classes, albeit for different purposes. Excerpts from the article below:

Some of the key takeaways from the report:

  • Students and faculty use course management systems much more frequently than any other technology.
  • Professional students use classroom response devices (“clickers”) and Education students use e-portfolios more often than students in other fields use either.
  • Faculty in all disciplines rarely use blogs, collaborative editing tools, and games and simulations.
  • Students and faculty have different expectations and use technologies in different contexts, which can create tension and misunderstandings between the two groups.
  • Finally, we must explore potential differences in how students and faculty view and use academic technologies — they are two very different populations who use these technologies in very different contexts.
  • Second, we must understand their experiences in the contexts in which they live them. Arguably, one of the most pervasive contexts is the structure of academic disciplines that permeates American higher education. (more…)