Toolbox

I’ve just completed two more days out on the road for JISC TechDis.

It has been great to get out and meet people again this week: in Leeds on Wednesday and Taunton on Thursday. At both venues, it was good to meet old friends and colleagues and to make new acquaintances.

One of the things I’ve missed about my most recent work (2012) being mainly office based has been the lack of face-to-face human contact. There are various points of view regarding the fitness for purpose and value of online learning/collaboration and I have to say that I have argued for many of its positive aspects in the past, yet I believe that online activities can only be truly effective if there is some planned human contact as part of the process.

Being out and about and meeting people again has been great for me, I thrive on it.

I wrote last week about the new TechDis ‘Voices’ and this week I will touch upon the new ‘Toolbox’ facility. Perhaps later, when I have finished with the RSC summer fairs, I will reflect more on online distance learning and communications.

“[Toolbox] is a collection of resources which give useful hints and tips on technologies that can help individuals work smarter, quicker and more efficiently. JISC TechDis has a history of providing simple easy-to-use resources for tutors and lecturers. Here we have shifted our focus and Toolbox is aimed directly at the end users – the learners themselves.http://www.jisctechdis.ac.uk/techdis/news/detail/2012/ND2012Launch

As the above quote suggests, the Toolbox resources are aimed at learners rather than at teachers (although teachers are learners too!) When I was asked to create one small section of the site, it was suggested that I put myself in the shoes of someone who had never opened a computer before and to try and explain to that person how they might ‘Get started with Windows (7)’. That was an enlightening exercise, I can tell you because I’d never used Windows 7 at the time. I had stopped using Windows Vista in some despair and had become a Mac enthusiast. That ‘distance’ made it much easier for me to imagine the virginal adult user and hopefully, the resources I made are as acceptable and usable as those created by my fellow authors.

The Toolbox page is divided into ‘drawers’. Following the Toolbox semiotic, each drawer contains a different type of tool:

  • Using Technology: features subjects like Working in Windows, Microsoft Office, Working in Mac OSX and many more.
  • Planning and Organisation: featuring; managing your messages, finding information (amongst others).
  • Communicating: Presenting yourself, Reading tools, Writing tools (and so on).
  • Teamworking: Team planning, Team communication, Collaboration etc.
  • Different needs: Vision, Hearing, Mobility to name just a few subjects in this section.

You may well recognise some of the different voices featured in each section (drawer) – and hopefully, you will recommend this site to colleagues and friends who may find something useful amongst the many resources to be found there. Let us know what you think.

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Full Stops

This won’t be a long post, I just want to share something I learned recently.

Yesterday, I visited my friend and colleague Lilian Soon at her home. We were discussing the potential for supporting and delivering the new iTQ in Accessible practice across our region. Part of this discussion was to compile a proposal for the local Regional Support Centre.

During our discussions, and whilst compiling the proposal on a shared Google Doc, Lilian remarked that we should really put full stops at the end of our bulleted lists, as this helps screen readers to know what they were reading and therefore to make the whole list (of bullets) clearer to the ‘viewer’. Aesthetically, I’d always thought that bulleted lists looked better without full stops or commas, but the minute Lilian mentioned screen readers – I ‘got’ it.

This is a prime example of how small changes to practice, often quite irrelevant to most people’s thinking can make significant benefits to the way in which learners access learning. That’s it. that’s all I wanted to say: put full stops at the end of your bulleted lists, to make screen readers function better.

UPDATES:

I forgot that Lilian (in a Tweet of her own yesterday) and then @petejbell (quoted) in a Tweet today said: “Y11 pupil suggested “why not make full stop same colour as background?

Also @didaw said on Twitter: “otherwise screen readers won’t catch a breath!”