Assistive Technology

I’ve just returned from delivering three 90 minutes sessions on Assistive Technology.

Despite its importance for many learners, I’ve always been surprised by the lengths that some teaching staff will go to, to avoid Assistive Technology training sessions. However, two of the three sessions I delivered today were well oversubscribed with almost 30 in each; the third had a credible dozen in attendance.

So well done Abingdon Witney College, you made my day.

I’d been invited to attend the college’s staff training day by the delightful Ellen Lessner. It was my first visit to Abingdon (hopefully not my last) and although marred by a few technical problems, it was a great day. I had hoped to start off by showing the SimDis website and then allowing those attending some time to explore the simulations on offer. However, the shockwave plugin could not be updated by anyone without ‘admin’ rights, so staff were unable to explore the site. The techie people told me that there was some hold up or other with their request to Adobe. Hey ho.

So, instead we explored http://wordle.net (see previous post – https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2011/07/12/wordle/), which many thought they would find useful. Then Victoria, a talented member of staff, showed Inspiration (http://www.inspiration.com/) to each group and allowed them chance to explore its basic possibilities.

Then finally, I introduced MyStudyBar.

Ellen had always wanted her colleagues to explore the potential for this collection of FREE software, but had never been able to make it work in the college until Windows 7 was installed. Despite the numbers, we only had 8 USB sticks as the 8 I’d brought with me were quickly quarantined by the very keen virus protection software (it didn’t just quarantine the file – it deleted it!). Anyway, we still managed to explore MyStudyBar’s potential in groups of three or four.

It was disappointing not to be able to experience the delights of the TechDis Voices, which have been downloaded but not yet deployed. These two new voices are better for most learners than Microsoft Anna and as MyStudyBar provides two text-to-speech software items, they would have been given every chance of an airing. Hopefully, learners will shortly have an opportunity to experience the new voices if they are deployed sooner rather than later.

I think that everyone enjoyed most of their session and suspect that each person took at least one thing away with them for further exploration or immediate use.

Thank you to everyone at Abingdon Witney College for your interest in the sessions and to Ellen for her kind and generous hospitality.

Who checks the checkers?

Once again this week, I’ve heard of F.E. teachers receiving less than good lesson observation reports, because of their improper use of technology. Tut tut!

Apparently, each of the teachers in question hadn’t used the interactive white board (IWB) that was installed in their classroom. For goodness sake!

Why is it that lesson observers think they have to point out defects in the use of technology, when they patently haven’t a clue what they are talking about. If they HAD half a clue what they were talking about, they might first ask ‘is there a reason why you did not employ use of the IWB?’ and anything short of ‘I didn’t see it there’ might be considered a fair enough answer. Why would you use an IWB to teach PowerPoint, or how to fillet fish? Why?

I know a teacher whose use of ILT once got marked as less than satisfactory when in fact she had half the class working on PhotoStory3 presentations and the other half preparing blogs. It was the lesson observer who needed a kick up the arse, not the teacher in question.

I’ve always said that ILT, information LEARNING technology should be exactly what it says – IT (information technology) that surrounds and supports LEARNING. It should not be used simply because it’s there. Where the use of technology is planned and applied appropriately, it can enhance the learning process; even ad hoc use if applied appropriately can have the same result. But the use of technology for technology’s sake is evil and should be wiped out.

Who checks the lesson observer’s ILT competence? Who checks the checkers?

ISSUU – SugSnips

Some readers will remember my previous SugSnip posts.

Well, I have now published all of the 400 #SugSnip ‘tweets’ in book form on ISSUU, the digital publishing platform.

I’d originally tried to author the book via the Amazon Kindle website, but to no avail. The instructions seemed clear enough but as it turns out, were too demanding for the technology I had to present. Most of the content consists of tweets, with a link to a collection (a collation really) of other links supporting and expanding the #SugSnip link. I just couldn’t see how this would work on a Kindle book (and it didn’t).

So I set it aside and got on with my life.

Just the other day though, I got an email from ISSUU reminding me of their presence and, given a two hour drive from Nottingham this week, I got to thinking about how the book would look and feel on ISSUU. Well, it looks ok and as a bonus, all of the #SugSnip links work.

For example: Tweet 195 on page 35, about Levi Jackets, still has the Bitly bundle https://bitly.com/bundles/dsugden/R available for viewers to read.

Please let me know what you think.

Other info from http://cpwilson.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/embedding-issuu/ – with thanks.

Passwords

Do you have a good password for use on the ‘net?

Do you use the same password on more than one website?

Picture of Blog words

Would you tweet it, or add it to your Facebook status? Or might you simply write a blog post and tell everyone what it is?

Well you can do that now, because as sure as eggs is eggs, it will be stolen by hackers any time soon. 

How do I know?

Well, mine has been hacked twice in the last six months. Each time it was the same social network site that permitted the breach, despite my password being unique to the site in question and being as ‘strong’ as I thought it needed to be.

For years, I had used the same password on many different sites because at the time, I’d thought that the unusualness of my ‘word’ and the fact that it contained both letters and numbers would make it safe to use. Actually, over time I began to employ several ‘words’, depending on the type of site I used. This made the passwords easier to remember.

About two years ago, I started to change all of my passwords to include a mixture of capital and lowercase letters, numbers and the odd non-alphanumeric character. However, the problem with this meant that I just had the one password again and despite being ‘super-safe’, there was a danger of it being picked up on one weaker site and used again and again by evil people.

My password system had, until today, evolved to be 50% ‘super-safe’ stem plus 50% aide-memoir, applicable to the site being used. However, for the second time this year TWITTER has allowed my 10-character mix to be cracked and once again my password regime has had to be re-visited.

Some Tips

5 Rules for Secure Passwords:

  • The password must consist of random characters that aren’t anything recognizable.
  • Each site gets a unique password.
  • The greater the number of characters you can employ–upper and lower case letter (s, numbers, and special characters like punctuation and symbols–the more difficult it is for someone to crack your password.
  • The longer the password, the better. A bare minimum should be 8 characters; 12 to 15 should be preferred.
  • Never write down the passwords where other people could get them.

From: http://www.inc.com/erik-sherman/avoid-the-next-linkedin-password-disaster.html

Now I will have to develop double digit, multi-capital, multi-lowercase, multi-number, multi-non-alphanumeric passwords. And how do I remember them?

I write them down! 😦

See comments for this link: http://xkcd.com/936/ (Thanks James).

Let this be fair notice to Twitter: This happens one more time and I’m gone!

TechDis Ambassadors

Ever since the first meting in August, I’ve been working with some delightful colleagues on the planning of a new initiative being undertaken jointly by the JISC TechDis and the JISC RSC SE.

The intention is to create and develop a community of TechDis Ambassadors in the south east of England. The TechDis Ambassadors can be students or staff.

In the first instance, interested parties have been asked to fill in a short form by 12th October and to then attend a face to face meeting at Guildford College, on 8th November. Invitations are offered to all areas of post 16 education [the further education sector] based in the JISC RSC-SE region.

The aim is to promote and celebrate the use of technologies that help the learning process, especially for those who experience difficulties with their learning. Our meeting on 8th November will explore ways in which this can be done and begin the project planning process.

A Facebook group has also been set up for TechDis Ambassadors and the hope is that this will form the basis of an ongoing, collaborative community. Anyone with tips or tricks that promote and celebrate the use of accessible interventions is welcome to join. Or, you can follow the TechDis Ambassadors on Twitter.