Panic buttons and transitional states of being

Don;t Panic text
Don’t Panic image from http://www.deviantart.com/art/The-Hitchhiker-s-Guide-To-The-Galaxy-3-447884334

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has the words Don’t Panic on its cover. Douglas Adams described the text as being in ‘large friendly letters’. This juxtaposition of panic and friendliness suggests being scared is nothing to be afraid of. Last week I was introduced to Senninger’s Learning Zone model. The bright red ring labelled Panic Zone caught my attention. I’ve been in transition between institutions and been asked to write about the impact of this on learning development, in particular from an ecological perspective and with reference to Senninger.

red, yellow and blue rings of Sennnger's Learning Zone Model
Senninger’s Learning Zone Model from http://www.thempra.org.uk/social-pedagogy/key-concepts-in-social-pedagogy/the-learning-zone-model/

Ecology is the scientific twin of sociology. They both study the diverse, complex relationships between both people and their environments. With regard to my own areas of work, applying the principles of ecology to digital learning environments is an underused approach. How people interact with technology is critical to effective design yet the gaps between the experience of designer and that of the end user are often ignored. I’d looked at ecology in relation to e-teaching and thought writing the piece might be a useful on a number of levels. Not only as a CPD reflection but also an opportunity to disturb some PhD dust and blow away the words Don’t Panic which constantly reappear on the draft thesis chapters.

Cartoon strip about writers block
Cartoon strip from http://www.nextscientist.com/writers-block-phd-students/

The core of Senninger’s model is the Comfort Zone. Disrupting this shifts you into the Central Stretch Zone. The analogy is a good one. Change stretches you in all directions but like an aerobic workout, what’s tough at the time aims to make you feel better afterwards. Leaving Comfort Zones can have impact. There’s no going back. It’s  like trying to recreate a fabulous holiday by returning the following year. People and places might appear the same but the moment has passed. As Heraclitus tells us, you can’t step in the same river twice.

Surrounding the comfort and the stretch circles is the Panic Zone. This gives the model a dystopian feel but I found the concept reassuring. However familiar you are with the symptoms of Imposter Syndrome, or have taken time out for meaningful self-reflection, it’s easy to take it personally if something doesn’t go quite as planned. Senninger gives us permission to feel a range of negative emotions and – more importantly – to contextualise them within the bigger picture of change.

graphic showing imposter syndrome thought bubbles
Imposter Syndrome Image from https://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/events/impostersyndrome.html

Fear of change can keep us stuck in situations which are past their use-by date so we trade familiarity for comfortable security. It’s easy to see why. An essential element of dismantling an old world and accepting a new one is to invite temporary fear into your life. For a while you are the outsider, a stranger in the familiarity of others. Change can stretch you to the edges of what you know and this is a challenge. It’s good to remember being in transition is a process with stages. For me, the travel aspect is missing from the Learning Zone model. Norman Jackson’s Learning Ecology Model gives a better sense of the journey and a combination of the two would best represent the change-route travelled.

Learning Ecology Model from http://www.normanjackson.co.uk/learning-ecology.html
Learning Ecology Model by Norman Jackson from http://www.normanjackson.co.uk/learning-ecology.html

 

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Tweet-tips on #lthechat digital inclusion and accessibility

This post follows Wednesday’s #LTHEchat on digital inclusion and accessibility. The tweetchat rationale is here http://lthechat.com/2016/02/15/lthechat-no-46-sue-sue-watling-digital-inclusion-and-accessibility/ and there’s a list of the shared resources at the bottom of this post for those in a hurry.

If you have a little more time, then freed from the limitations of 140 characters or less, I thought it might be useful to give some background.

It was around 2010 when I first experienced vision impairment. I thought it’ll be fine. I work with technology. I know the theory. The internet is fully accessible – right? I could enlarge text, change contrasts, use text to speech and train my Dragon. It was the beginning of a new journey which included volunteering with a local organisation for people with sight loss and seeing first hand the frustrations of digital exclusion. I worked with VLE but had no real practical application of the principles of accessibility. Now it all changed. I began to write about the risks of what Ellen Helsper at the LSE had called a Digital underclass. I knew how the social impact of the internet was as potentially exclusive as inclusive. It all depended on how you used a computer and accessed the internet. I devised the MEE Model of digital exclusion. This reflected common usage. I  refers to using a Mouse for navigation, Eyes to see and Ears to listen. When all around you follow the MEE Model it becomes easy to assume everyone else does too. The MEE Model has sequential layers of barriers.

  • The high cost and narrow market of alternative navigation devices or adaptations to make the best use of existing physical, sensory and cognitive abilities. You can’t buy assistive technology (AT) at Tesco.
  • The need for specialist training and support. AT can involve a steep and unique learning curve and it can be challenging to keep AT aligned with sequential developments in operating systems and browser controls.
  • Even with the AT plus training and support in place, if online content has not been designed and delivered with inclusive access in mind, you will remain excluded. Try using iTunes with a screen reader. Try any online shopping site with text to speech. You may be able to browse, select and move to the payment section then find it’s an add-on where text fields are not labelled and drop down menus don’t work. Turn off the volume and use YouTube with automatically generated captions, or any subtitled video where the titles cover the picture rather than sitting in a separate footer. Try zooming in (Ctrl+) and watch frames overlap , fail to resize or left to right scroll bars disappear. The list goes on.

In an increasingly digital society, where public information, health, welfare, retail and leisure are moving online, to be digitally excluded is to be marginalised and disempowered. The vision of the web pioneer for a digital democracy has simply not happened.

 ‘… it is critical that the web be usable by anyone regardless of individual capabilities and disabilities.’  (Berners Lee, 1997)

‘…if we succeed making web accessibility the norm rather than the exception, this will benefit not only the disability community but the entire population.’  (Dardailler, 1997)

So when asked to facilitate an #LTHEchat it seemed natural to bring out the digital inclusion soapbox in relation to learning and teaching.

image of a bar of soap and an empty box representing a digital soapbox

Over the past year or so, I’d been feeling a bit disillusioned. I’d already shifted focus from trying to change the world to making smaller changes such as building accessibility outcomes into my online TELEDA courses e.g. Reflect upon, and demonstrate a critical awareness of inclusive practice in relation to online teaching and learning resources, communication and collaborative working with and between students.  I still accepted any opportunity to raise awareness and did visitor slots for staff and students on a range of courses. Maybe I was imagining it but it seemed audiences a little bit more disinterested every year. Last month I gave a keynote on the social impact of the internet looking through a number of critical lenses, making sure these included digital divides; the hidden millions who had never been online in the UK and those with access but not the means to make essential use of it. One of the follow-up emails said it all.

Digital inclusion/exclusion was a huge topic about 5 years ago, but seems to have been forgotten somewhat now and, yes, it’s still so important.

A consequence of legislation (Single Equality Act) is tokenism as displayed in this photograph. It shows a perfect example of the law being followed but with no apparent awareness of the impossible situation created.

disabled parking road sign next to a postbox

Digital accessibility in learning and teaching is not always the most popular of topics. The response is often raised eyebrows, dismissive comments and barely concealed sighs.  So I wasn’t sure what to expect Wednesday at 8.00 pm but the fantastic #lthechat community come through in great style and by the end of the hour I felt reinvigorated again. This is the power of social media, adding Connect to the BBC mission to Educate, Inform and Entertain.

There are only a few months until the government’s proposed changes to the DSA come into place. This will remove a layer of digital support for new students and shift the responsibility for making reasonable adjustments back onto institutions. The topic of ensuring equal access to online learning resources should be at the forefront but in a way, the DSA itself has contributed to the notion that accessibility issues belong to someone else, somewhere over there, wherever student support is managed  We’re further away than ever to the idea of individual responsibility for ensuring accessible design of digital documents.

But there is hope. At a time when low levels of digital capability among staff who teach and support learning is coming to the forefront, accessibility can be built into new digital baselines and frameworks but the first step is raising awareness of why this matters in the first place.

LTHEchat offered lots of useful reminders and advice for moving forward as captured in this Storify https://storify.com/LTHEchat/lthechat-45-with

#LTHEchat questions:

  1. Why does digital inclusion matter?
  2. Who is responsible for accessible L&T content in your institution?
  3. Audio and video need transcripts. Discuss.
  4. Where to go for help? Share an online source of advice.
  5. Share a tip for creating accessible digital documents.
  6. What does accessibility mean to you?

Shared #LTHEchat resources list 

Lastly, a timely reminder of how a simple zoom can go wrong. Trying to get to the image only succeed in making it appear further away!

black screen with large text and tiny image

Thanks to everyone who makes #LTHEchat happen. Although this week’s session is over, I hope the conversations and sparks of interest and enthusiasm will be lighting bigger fires 🙂

 

Berners Lee, T (1997)World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Launches Web Accessibility Initiative. WAI press release 7 April 1997. www.w3.org/Press/WAI-Launch.html

(Dardailler, D 1997 Telematics Applications Programme TIDE Proposal. Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) http://www.w3.org

ten tips for neat tweets

large blue tweet bird omage

Wednesday  17th February 20.00 – 21.00 I’ll be hosting #LTHEchat on digital inclusion and accessibility. With tweeting on my mind, this blog post feels appropriate 🙂

As rumours of changes in tweet length continue, the art of the ‘neat tweet’ may be under threat. This would be a shame. Good tweets are like poetry. Crafted to a sharp point. Lexical limits should be welcomed. There are enough blurred boundaries as it is. 140 characters is a useful restriction when some digital voices go on….and on….and on……. If Twitter limits change I hope another platform is waiting, one which enables the ability to say something worthwhile quickly and with style. As well as a guide to succinctness, this post is also a plea to leave our tweets alone.

Ten Tips for saying more with less in twitter-speak.

  • Don’t use a long word if a lesser one will do. A Thesaurus will list synonyms http://www.thesaurus.com/ Pick the shortest one possible.
  • Make use of symbols. Take out linking words and use ampersands (&) or the plus (+) sign. Punctuation such as exclamation or question marks, can say more for less while nose-less emoticons : ) or : ( add meaning for just two additional characters.
  • Ditch pronouns like That and The. They’re over-used anyway. Trimming them from tweets may improve writing overall. Take out personal pronouns too. It’s usually safe to drop the I and you might get away with dropping They, He, She etc. Try it and see.
  • Avoid full URLs. Shorter ones save space and look neater. Tiny URL  http://tinyurl.com/ has a quick button you can add to your browser. BitLy https://bitly.com/ claims to create the shortest links and supports the additional of a plus sign to the end of the shortened URL; this creates a preview of the destination page so users can check it’s safe.
  • Forget the rule of using numbers 1-10 and words thereafter.  Where every character counts, numbers rule. Unless the meaning is critical, it might be safe to drop the commas in larger numbers too.
  • Contractions are in! As a rule, contractions are frowned upon in academic writing but it would be a waste of character space not to use them in tweets. Instead of ‘’it is’, ‘you have’, ‘they will’ etc. you can brush the dust off your apostrophes and go for ‘it’s’, ‘you’ve’ and ‘they’ll’ instead.
  • Take advantage of the growing number of acceptable tweet abbreviations e.g. RT (retweet), DM (direct message), BTW (by the way), TBH (to be honest) and IMO (in my opinion). Know the difference between abbreviations for professional communication e.g. x (extra), b/c (because) and text-talk e.g. U, UR, M8, GR8, etc
  • Images say more than words. They can be useful additions to text tweets but they take up characters. Upload the image to the tweet editor box before writing the tweet.
  • Wherever, possible substitute initial letters for names, in particular if it’s someone well known within the context of the tweet.
  • Craft your tweet in Word (or other word processing software). Not only can you can apply the spelling and grammar check, it preserves work in progress. There’s nothing worse than crafting the perfect tweet when the internet connection blips and you’ve lost it all. The same applies for any direct work in an online text editor.

Happy tweeting.

image of a blue twitter bird

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images from https://pixabay.com/en/twitter-bird-fat-tweet-turquoise-152404/ and https://pixabay.com/en/tweeting-twitter-bird-blue-peep-150413/

Digital Moments because digitality is no longer optional

black and white alarm clock

Traditional technology training workshops can be frozen in time. Useful for networking and gaining inspiration to try new ways of working, once participants return to their desks it’s too easy for the initial excitement to become diluted by demands of the day job. Exclusion is another problem and when it comes to workshops of the digital kind, those who most need them are often those who never attend.

The ‘digital’ can no longer be avoided. Research matters. The quality of teaching and the student experience matters. As does the expectations of prospective employers for graduates who are digitally capable*. Whether students choose pushing the knowledge boundaries in their chosen discipline, becoming teachers, engineers, health care professionals or any other career path including self-employment, their ‘digitality’ also matters. It has become a universal requirement.

drawing of blue digital people

Digital Moments is a fledgling idea which reverses the ethos of the 1, 2, 3 or more hour workshop. Digital Moments are one-off chunks of information based on FAQ. They start at one minute in length (How do I shorten a long URL? What is a QR code? Where can I get copyright free images? What’s an App?) Once the idea is established they can be extended to 5 or 10 minute blocks of learning (How can I design a collaborative online activity? What data analysis software should I use? How can social media help me network?)

Put together 50 DM’s which share a theme (communication, collaboration, audio, video, qualitative methodologies, professional profiles) and they become the basis for a workshop or drop-in session with a difference – eclectic, wide ranging and relevant, based on what you wanted to know but were unsure about asking. There’s nothing like digital shyness to stifle the confidence to admit lack of knowledge, in particular when it feels the world around you is digitally racing ahead.

DM’s will be online and promoted through social media. Like traditional workshops, this risks exclusion so a poster and leaflet campaign will bring DM’s into the physical world of corridors, cafes and other communal campus spaces. Community will be a core part of DM’s as staff and students can contribute, suggest topics and provide answers.

apple with a bite removed

Bite size sessions and short bursts of learning are not new concepts. Underpinning this Digital Moments idea is the transfer of responsibility for becoming digitally literate. Digitality is no longer optional and more DIY style approaches are required. Workshops can be invaluable but limited in their reach. Digital Moments offers a blend of learning, one which mixes the experiential with face to face and offers a proactive, practical approach to developing essential digital cultures.

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See the new Jisc Technology for Employability Report (2016) http://repository.jisc.ac.uk/6249/3/Technology_for_employability_-_full_report.PDF 

Alarm clock image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alarm_clock#/media/File:2010-07-20_Black_windup_alarm_clock_face.jpg

Apple image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/131260238@N08/16793198472

Digital image from https://pixabay.com/en/binary-null-digital-silhouette-1023866/