Brooklands

This post is an extended version of that published by me on the TechDis Ambassadors Posterous Space


picture of a well-sprutted potato

Mr. Potato

I recently visited Brooklands College in deepest Surrey.

The supported learning team there is working on one of the JISC TechDis Ambassador programmes and my role for the day was to observe, report and deliver a little training.

The department action plan’s main aim is for the team to make better and more effective use of the (Blackboard) VLE and our prime objective for the afternoon training was to explore uses and tools for creating and editing audio. No problem.

Except:

Except I’d forgotten to ask if they had any microphones. I often carry my own 15 sets of ‘Pound Shop’ Headphone/Mics with me, but on overnight stays like this (I was elsewhere the day before) my suitcase and my backpack are so crammed full that I’m unable to fit my Mics in. Hey ho.

The college had very kindly downloaded Audacity for us, so I knew we would all be able edit audio – but the trainer-machine was as useless to me for traditional audio creation as all the other machines (no Mics remember?).  My own PC laptop’s Mic is currently playing silly beggars too so I demonstrated www.vocaroo.com via my MacBook Pro. I showed the interface on the trainer-machine (connected to the projector) and then went through the (very easy) audio creation motions on the Mac. Ditto, editing with Audacity. Despite being a bit Heath Robinson, this all seemed to work.

During this part of the session we explored:

As ways of creating audio files.

Then I introduced MyStudyBar as a means of creating audio by using Text-to-Speech (TTS) and BANG – they were blown away.

Everything on MyStudyBar (nearly) was taken up, played with, discussed and copied for immediate use by staff and learners. Wow, it was amazing just how our colleagues took to this and how they came up with creative ideas for use.

We ended up with discussing ways that the learners could create their own audio using any of the tools we’ve discussed and submitting it via – any of various ways. Also of showing learners pieces of text in PowerPoint and the having the text read to them (insert audio).

Phew.

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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.

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.