The photo above is my floor at home. Is it familiar? Does anyone else have a floor like this? I seem to have forgotten the slip/trip lesson resulting in a broken ankle and cancelled New Zealand trip two years ago.
The photo below is my allotment, taken last night. The wildness of the chives and limnanthes is lovely but the couch grass has taken hold since my last broken ankle (another one – last year).
I love my allotment. It’s sunshine, exercise, food, therapy, catharsis and sheer delight – most of the time.
It’s also hard work and when everything grow’s like crazy, falling behind can be stressful.
A blog is many things; recording events, reflection, observation, memory jogger, research diary… This blog is all of these and – today – a statement of intent.
A part-time doctorate alongside full-time work feels an impossible challenge. Months pass. The amount of available time decreases as the amount to achieve (research wise) increases. I have my data – far more than I need. In terms of the research model I built ages ago and now sits on an inaccessible server rather than in the cloud (lesson learned!) I’ve moved into the third quadrant. Transferring to Northampton has led to a slight shift in emphasis – for the better – which requires a re-review of the literature. Much of the taken-out initial reading around learning design is coming back in – hence the floor. It might be a digital age but hard copy annotation is how I work best. I need all the help I can get!
It’s a bank holiday weekend. For the next three days this is the plan:
plant tomatoes and get early morning reading onto Mendeley
weed pond area and write up notes from said papers (currently Bart Rientes on learning design)
sow barlotti and purple beans (it’s late – I know!) and revisit the recommended adjustments to an accepted ALT paper submitted with colleague Patrick Lynch (who you gonna call? )
tidy raspberry canes hidden by weeds and mark PCAP assignments (PhD deviation but deadline is Tuesday)
replant pots in the respite area and write/submit proposal to Research Student Conference (deadline Monday)
Allocate time they say.
Rule off blocks of hours for working they say.
Give up all semblance of a social life or R&R.
They’re not joking!!
Research is like an allotment. It needs time. You have to fit it into your life – or build your life around it.
Without attention is gets a mess – like this…
With attention it looks better, you feel better, and progress is achieved. What’s not to like? All it needs is time and commitment.
Alan Hurst opened the Inclusive Teaching and Learning Conference at York St John with a reference to Michael Oliver. Great call! Oliver’s influence with regard to the construction and promotion of the social model of disability in HE was a transformational threshold. This transferred the cause of inaccessibility from the individual to the environment where barriers to participation could be physical and/or cultural; a huge step from a deficit model whereby the ‘problem’ was perceived to be caused by individual impairment. Adoption of the social model led to major changes to the built environment; ramps into public buildings, installation of lifts, accessible facilities and (marking the early days of the internet, when Tim Berners Lee led on digital democracy) the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).
Inclusive teaching needs building in (like the production of transcripts or other textual equivalents) to the learning design, not added at the end. Bolt-on methods can be better than nothing but are never seamless and prone to dropping off.
Inclusive teaching means stop making assumptions. We are all different. Individual needs may be invisible. Where they are public (assistance dog, wheelchair, amputation) associated needs might not be what you think. Start a conversation about preferences for learning.
Prof Ann-Marie Houlton used the analogy of a kaleidoscope in her keynote. It worked well. Turn the tube. Click. Different pattern. Effective learning design is a kaleidoscope. It offers with diversity but all the pieces you need are already there.
The institution of higher education (HE) is a beast; large, old, traditional, eclectic and so on…. Changing the culture of HE presents complex challenges and no where is this more true than inclusion. I worry about society taking backwards steps rather than forward ones. Ideally, inclusion is holistic. The reality is inclusion being seen as something someone over there (not in my place) does for disabled students. Another blog post I think.
Inclusive teaching deserves a scholarly approach. Who is writing about inclusion these days?
Inclusive teaching involves understanding how language matters. Disabled students or students with disabilities? Inclusion as a disability issue or inclusion as universal design, an improved experience for all. The focus of the workshop Fostering inclusive language and behavior in the classroom was gender and sexuality; excellent places to start rethinking the roots of exclusive attitudes and practices (presenters Liesl King and Helen Sauntson used non-inclusive rather than exclusive – is this another linguistic shift? Should I stop referring to a an inclusion/exclusion binary?)
Language is the biggest building block in the world! It constructs self and reality. Perpetuates social stereotypes. Discourse analysis and visual literacies are valuable tools but who still uses them? Science is fighting back. Rationality rules. The further we move from the postmodern turn, the more single sources of truth take centre stage. We need to challenge this. We need to talk.
As always with conferences the best conversations took place around workshop tables and over lunch. I picked up some useful links including the Jisc InStep project looking at curriculum design and graduate attributes. From 2009, it’s judt as relevant today.
So what happens next – after the conference, still in the zone, feeling the buzz. What happens when we’ve thought about inclusion, reviewed programmes and practices, ticked the boxes – when do we stop?
The answer of course is never. Inclusive teaching should be agile, permanently in beta, continually under development. Each year every class and cohort is different. You wouldn’t have a fixed approach to your teaching (would you?) and it’s the same with inclusion.
HE is a rite of passage but the path can be tricky. Sometimes blockages happen or barriers inadvertently reinforced. It would be good to see more inclusive T&L conferences, including opportunities to talk to students about their own experiences. Inclusive teaching is about listening.
Finally, inclusive teaching is about what we do. Let’s have more conferences around learning designs – so long as one of its pillars is inclusive practice. Either way, did I mention this? – we really do need to talk.
Chairs on wheels meet solid floor. Blessing or nightmare?
Easy to move, don’t need lifting, don’t scrape or grate when dragged
…can be difficult to sit on, too easy to slide backwards before you’ve made contact or can fail to provide support if you reach out for them. Chairs on wheels might be good for some but not others.
The conundrum lies at the heart of inclusive practice.
One-size-fits-all models are rare.
Take bobbled surfaces known as textured paving. It warns those with visual impairment of a road crossing but bouncing over them can be uncomfortable for wheelchair users. Shared surfaces where pavements blend seamlessly into roads make crossing easier for those with wheels but can be confusing (even dangerous) – in particular for assistance dogs trained to stop at raised kerbs. The risk is absence of an inclusive solution becomes an excuse for not changing practice in the first place.
Yesterday I attended the Inclusive Teaching and Learning Conference at York St John University with colleague Patrick Lynch. The opening Keynote by Prof Ann-Marie Houghton set the scene; universal design means changes for some which create an improved experience for all. Accessible design is not an activity targeting disability. It’s a state of mind and a practice which can benefit everyone.
Digital exclusion was largely missing from the conference. There was reference to commuter students in rural areas not having high speed internet (true for some areas in towns and cities) but I missed references to inclusive design of documents (headings and styles please) or standard attention to font, text size, colour, contrast etc.
This isn’t because we’ve reached some magic tipping point where all resources are accessible. Any VLE offers a range of poorly designed lecture slides which don’t print well in b/w, have too many words on top of images or my pet hate of grey font on white (I can’t see it!!) or audio and video without text equivalents.
In one session we were told it wasn’t possible to provide transcripts for captured lectures because the technology isn’t there yet. This implies a gap while waiting for the technology to catch up yet Windows ‘speech to text’ is not bad and there’s a range of free apps which will give a workable document for editing. Yes, it’s a digital capabilities issue which is all the more reason for institutional support to develop digital ways of working but any lack shouldn’t be an excuse. Where lecturers create and upload notes and/or slides before their presentation, this is the basis for a textual version of recorded content.
It seems students need to disclose and have their ‘disability’ accepted in order to have a text alternative provided for recordings which in itself feels like an exclusive practice. Audio/video alongside notes and/or images offers a holistic learning experience. Why wouldn’t we want to support students in this way? How many lecturers have tried extracting core information from a 50 minute podcast dealing with an unfamiliar topic!
The exception was Prof Houghton who gave the first keynote with clear, well spaced slides and ‘There’s alt-text on the images.’ Not a phrase you hear every day. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard it. Maybe I don’t go to the right conferences. Most of them are about learning and teaching in particular where it’s online….
Inclusion is about so much more than making reasonable adjustments for some. It’s about the freedom to move independently within the built environment and getting on and off public transport, it’s about dropped kerbs and street art springing unannounced from pavements. It’s about the language we use, consciously and unconsciously. It’s about the social construction of attitude and bias.
Exclusion is created by culture and society and preventing it begins with adopting inclusive design practices.
This pedestrian crossing over a dual carriageway appears to have no textured surface to indicate the road (taken recently in Hull)
Changing the culture of HE is complex and challenging. Nowhere is this more evident than learning and teaching where responsibility for inclusive practice is too often seen as being somewhere else, anywhere else, except with us. TEL-People say it’s within Student Services who say they’re not techies and on it goes. We need to work together on this. The aim is a tipping point where inclusive design and teaching becomes the norm. We’re going round in circles. Conversations at the conference were similar to those from two decades ago. If anything, the issues have become more convoluted.
Knowledge makes so much difference. Simulation has been frowned upon for failing to authentically replicate lived experience, but a day in a wheelchair or wearing glasses which mimic glaucoma, cataracts or macular degeneration can offer transformative insight. We need to remember not everyone with an impairment is registered as disabled and take care not to confuse the issues. Hundreds of thousands of people live with invisible conditions such as colour blindness, dyslexia or some form of sensory difference. While careers and consultancies are constructed from the impact of diversity, most of us want to do what others take for granted, for example use the internet and read what’s on the screen (did I say no grey text on a white background please?!)
I’m stopping now before I get really ranty but will end on a plea – if you were to make one single change, please do think about how you present content, in particular online. Plain font, decent size and good contrast are all essential. For those of you who believe Browser customisation is the answer – it can’t work unless content has been designed to adjust.
Everyone is different. It should be what makes us special rather than a problematic.
Also, if you agree please retweet, repost and reply – let’s continue the conversation.
image from the presentation of Prof Ann-Marie Houghton.
Photos all my own or from the conference presentations.