ITQ for Accessible IT Practice

I’ve just finished another enjoyable day. This time, I’d gone to Bolton Arena to speak at a JISC RSC Accessibility event about the new ITQ for Accessible IT Practice.

Earlier speakers had discussed Visualisers and Audio Pens (e.g.) as well as the use of My Study Bar: MyStudyBar is a tool which helps overcome problems that students commonly experience with studying, reading and writing. The tool consists of a set of portable open source and freeware applications, assembled into one convenient package: See also MyStudyBar On-line Training. I’d found these inputs quite invigorating and because of the audience responses to the inputs, I’d found the event as enjoyable as (and for much the same reasons) as last week’s accessibility event. https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2011/02/06/accessapps-workshop/.

My presentation had been agreed weeks ago, when I’d expected the ITQ to have been launched and well under way, so it was a relief to finally get hold of marketing materials from TechDis just yesterday. The ITQ gives practitioner’s a way of being rewarded for the work the do every day of the week. It has been developed by TechDis over the last 12-18 months and is authenticated by City and Guilds. Because ITQ’s allow a spiky profile to be certificated, it means that most workers (e-Skills UK say that 92% of jobs advertised in Education require IT skills) can easily achieve the qualification. In these uncertain days, the more qualifications we have, the better?

This ITQ has been developed around the use of those accessible techniques made available by IT. The level 3 has 3 core units:

  • User Fundamentals
  • Text to Speech
  • Improving productivity with IT

Plus three from seven optional units.

See these and learn more here.

There are four stages to the ITQ.

  1. Update skills gaps and knowledge
  2. Create evidence portfolio
  3. Have portfolio assessed
  4. Submit completed assessment for certification

TechDis have created a bank of learning materials and advice strategies that are available for a small charge:

(current indicative prices – subject to change)
Less than 100 FTE staff – £225
100 – 249 staff – £325
250 – 500 staff – £425


Which includes 90 minutes online IAG from TechDis Accredited Trainers who have already undertaken the qualification. I am one of this very small group.

Should your institution find assessment of the ITQ a problem, those same advisers/trainers are able to undertake assessment activities too. They can even arrange for City and Guilds registration and certification. But these activities are outside the TechDis pricing deal and need to be negotiated with them individually.

Contact me for more information: dm @dsugden on Twitter.

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!”

File storage and e-Portfolios

One of today’s topics of discussion was file sharing and the use of various facilities to create personal e-Portfolios. The e-Portfolio aspect of this discussion is certainly something that has taxed me for a long time and one that I have had a few goes at creating.I used to use e-Snips (http://www.esnips.com) http://grab.by/57O0 (Screen shot) and to promote it as “my own VLE” but over the years it has become unsuitable for use due to the way it has evolved. It now has a tremendous amount of adverts http://grab.by/57Oo (Screen shot) not all of which are appropriate for use in an education setting. So, although it is there and although it offers up to 5 gigabytes of free storage (with sharing options), I choose not to use it. This is a real shame because it used to be the way I easily shared files with colleagues and people who had attended sessions I’d delivered.

Instead, I now use Dropbox (https://www.dropbox.com/) for storing most of my files. The benefit of Dropbox, is that I can access my files from any computer I use, provided it is connected to the internet. Where one has the software downloaded and installed on computers (I have mine on my Mac, my XP machine and my Vista machine) even the internet isn’t needed. Files altered or added to the offline version are synchronised between all machines as and when they do go online. If we like, we can share individual folders on Dropbox (which I have done on several occasions) for all sorts of reason. I have a folder I share with my wife, because it’s easier for us to share particular documents that way (easier than email or saving to external media); I have a folder I share with colleagues when working on collaborative projects and an further folder I share with my iTQ assessor. Furthermore, I have the Dropbox App on my iPhone – which allows me to view most of my documents pretty much anywhere T-Mobile allow me to have a connection! This is my real portfolio now.

To make the portfolio have more value and to stop filling up the 2 gigabyte free space, I also use YouTube http://www.youtube.com; to store video and http://www.flickr.com to store images. This saves room because each of these services provide embed and share codes which direct the viewer back to the hosting site – meaning that the portfolio document need only contain the code (URL).

Other facilities I’ve used are Scribd (see in use https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2010/06/09/building-vles/) for presenting word processed files online and Tiny Grab (see http://grab.by/57S7 for example) for sharing screen shots.

Use of these facilities makes my working life, my social life and my learning life much easier, whenever I have a need to share or access any form of digital documentation. They could easily be put to effective educational use if only institutions were able to agree on an acceptable use policy.

CPD for me

One of the advantages, if there is such a thing, to having less work on than usual (and less than I’d like) is that I can actually plan and undertake my own continual professional development (CPD). Given the current governmental hiatus [Saturday May 8th], I suspect I will become proficient at lots of things before opportunities for future work reveal themselves.

I made my mind up to concentrate (I really find this hard because it is not my ‘style’) on three things: assembling and where necessary creating evidence for my ITQ in Accessible Practice, to learn a bit more about the coaching process and to finally download and install my own Moodle. On my own server. All completely different but challenging in many, differing, ways.

I am a JISC TechDis Accredited Trainer. I have an affinity for learners who find it difficult to learn – no matter why; and this has led to me being recognised as one who can help teachers and learner support staff to understand how and which technologies can help the majority of their learners. I would say all their learners – but sometimes that’s just difficult to prove. It therefore follows that undertaking the ITQ myself, before it is launched ‘big time’ in September can only be of benefit to me – and by extension those I work with in the future. Lilian is undertaking this too and we have agreed to work together where we can. Yesterday was the second time we’d attempted this. The first time, I went to her house and we discussed ways forward. Yesterday we worked via Skype.

We are both working on some ‘audio’ developments and as I had never used Garage Band before – we agreed it would be useful to explore it together and to compare it with Audacity. Well, I had not used Garage Band on the Mac before because, to me – it is (was) unintelligible. Lilian had mastered bits of it so we agreed we’d create a combined recording whilst at our own desks 40 miles apart. Brilliant. It worked a treat. I learned about the Garage Band interface, Lilian learned about the difference between the version on iWorks 2008 and iWorks 2009 and how Skype can be used as a screen sharing device. I’ve used the Skype screen sharing facility before but never in the way we used it on Friday. Lils recorded the female track and I recorded the male track before she sent me her recording to ‘knit’ together with mine. She was able to watch me do this and to agree with the final product. She also screen-casted the work at her end (my desktop!) and provided me with the raw film to edit as evidence. What a great and encouraging two hours. I just need to do the wrapping up bits now…


Moodle is new to me.
I’m a competent course creator and have worked on many installations owned and hosted by others, but have never downloaded an installation of my own. Well I have now. I went to Siteground and bought three years hosting. At this stage, I was able to be talked through the download process by a sales assistant – via a chat facility. Everything else I’ve had to do myself, which has been hugely rewarding. There is a lot ‘assumed’ by these hosting sites and they are not the most user friendly places. Anyway, it was soon up and running (I had to move the DNS[?] from 1and1 who host my Village e-Learning web site and despite being warned that it might take 48 hours, it took less than 4). http://www.eduvel.org.uk. I’m not ready for giving guest access yet – but will over time.

My next challenge was to search the Moodle.com web site for modules/blocks and to install them on my site. I searched Siteground for advice, but they were no help and was missing something vital from my research on the Moodle page when Ron Mitchell rang about something else. I simply asked what the process was and he told me. Apart from not having a ‘Moodle/Mod’ folder on the Siteground server (which itself took some searching to find a way in) I now have downloaded and installed the Book module and it looks like it’s working.

I feel immensely proud of myself for this achievement; techie is something I’m not. Once I’ve got the Moodle up and running as I want it I can be a little more adventurous in my experimentation. I also spent quite some time on Friday chatting with James about VLE’s: more on this next time I suspect.