Accessibility

Magnification for screen reading. Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

How timely is this! WordPress has published a post suggesting ten ways to make a website more accessible. I have much to learn!

10 Ways to Make Your Site More Accessible

Here are a few of the suggestions :

  • Use an accessible-ready theme
  • Display the site title
  • Structure pages with headings
  • Choose fonts and colours for good contrast
  • Describe links
  • Add captions to images
  • Add Alt text to images

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) have compiled accessibility standards and have produced standards and a toolkit for organisations.

Writing for the web

We don’t read web pages – we scan and skim! I have been looking for guidelines to help me write better. Here’s what I found:

  • Keep it short
  • Use simple language
  • Break it up with headings
  • Use visuals

These guidelines and many others are clearly laid out in:

https://www.usability.gov/how-to-and-tools/methods/writing-for-the-web.html
An excellent summary of points to watch when writing web copy from the US Dept of Health

https://www.monash.edu/about/editorialstyle/writing/writing-for-web
Monash University’s guide to clear and concise writing for websites.  This information also includes a guide to accessibility.

https://www.digital.nsw.gov.au/sites/default/files/Writing%20for%20the%20web_public%20version.pdf
NSW Government’s guidelines for writing for the web

https://www.enchantingmarketing.com/writing-for-the-web-vs-print/
A light-hearted blog entry with common sense tips for writing the copy in websites.

Language

This surfaced recently!   For those of us interested in the use of language, it’s an interesting look at the Shakespearean origin of some of our well-known idioms. Who would have thought!

The Great Hack

Recently, we watched The Great Hack (Netflix, 2019) which investigates the murky world of data mining by Facebook/Cambridge Analytica.

This documentary traces US Professor David Carroll’s attempt to exercise his right under UK law to have access to his personal data, and UK Observer journalist Carole Cadwalladr’s continuing research into the scandal.

Yes, we are all aware that companies like Facebook mine our personal information and target very specific advertising tailored to our seeming interests.  What upsets me the most is the apparent ease of manipulation of people. The film makes clear that the 2016 US elections and the Brexit vote targeted “the persuadables” by repeatedly forcing news feeds of specific information and denying access to the contrary views.

“We know that these elections [Brexit, US 2016 election] were fought and won and lost on FaceBook” – Cadwalladr

How did these companies find their targets? They used a well-designed “know your personality” survey on Facebook, analysed the data and chose those who could be persuaded.

Brittany Kaiser, ex Business Development Director of Cambridge Analytica, calls the data mining “weaponising” and states that data are the new arms.

Carol Cadwalladr’s Ted Talk maintains that it is not about privacy but about power and is leading to the demise of democracy.  She asks if this is what we want.

The Economist, however, labels this film “misinformation”and is scathing about it.  I would like to think that we all exercise a high degree of cynicism about information fed onto Facebook.

The Great Hack is worth watching…and a bit scary!

 

Migrant English Program

I am enjoying the change!   From full-time learning technologies consultancy to very part time “interesting challenges” and volunteer work with the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP).  

Did you know that new immigrants are entitled to 510 hours of English learning?  In New South Wales, this program is run by TAFE.  The NSW program offers classes at the TAFE Centres, and also tutoring, where students are matched, one-on-one, with volunteers like me.

I meet with my student, a lovely young woman from Iran, weekly for one hour or so.

Although I completed the Certificate IV Teaching English to Speakers of Other Language (TESOL) in preparation, the program in NSW provides a much shorter course for aspiring tutors.

It’s fun! And I’m the one who’s learning!

Focus on ESL

This month the focus is on resources for teaching English to non-native speakers.

For some time, I have followed Larry Ferlazzo’s websites of the day and the resources he shares.  Larry is a Sacremento, California based teacher who publishes “best of” lists on any topic – there are hundreds of these lists.  He has written for New York Times Edutopia and Education Week Teacher, amongst others.

In 2016, the British Council and BBC’s Teaching English site published a post by Larry, in which he names his “best of the best”  web tools and resources for teaching ESL.  Larry maintains that it is still up-to-date.

Last week, his newest post,  The Top Blogs and Resource Sites For Teachers Of English Language Learners was published by The Council and BBC.

It’s well worth browsing!

Posted in ESL

Integrating learning design research and practice

I want to recommend Matt Bower’s 2017 book Design of technology-enhanced learning; integrating research and practice (Emerald Publishing).

The focus is on design thinking and learning design, and how they can be enhanced by the use of technology. Matt delivers a solid analysis of the evidence-based research on educational technology.  He provides useful suggestions and examples for practice at the “coalface”, that is, in the classroom.  This book outlines the underpinnings for good pedagogical practice and for designing exemplary learning experiences using Web 2.0, social networking, mobile learning and virtual worlds.

What makes a good online tool?

Tanner Higgins, Director of Commonsense Education, posts a paper, What Makes a Good EdTech Tool Great that is, well, common sense!  With experience in editing many reviews of online tools, he outlines seven points that developers would be wise to heed and cites examples of good practice:

  1. Listen to teachers and students
  2. Identify a real, solvable problem
  3. Do an exhaustive competitive analysis
  4. Create clear, concrete messaging
  5. Focus on learning design
  6. Make privacy a priority
  7. Give teachers and students agency

It’s worth a read!

Google, FaceBook and you

With the tech topic of the fortnight – the use of Facebook data to manipulate the American elections –  dismaying even those in the industry, I have been sharing the article  Are you ready? Here is all the data Facebook and Google have on you  (Curran, The Guardian, 3 March)  with friends who are not knowledgeable about technological concerns, security, privacy.  It’s worth reading, and sharing.

Elements of good practice professional learning

It’s always good to confirm what we know about our own learning!   Although there is nothing new in this article, For PD, the days of one-and-done are dead and gone! (eSchool News, September 2017) it is a sensible summary of good practice and steers away from the one-session-fixes-all approach.  We know that approach does not work, and usually, we know what works for us.  Four best practices are suggested:

  • Collaborative learning
  • Creative engagement
  • Goals that feel important
  • Online access

Lloyd and Cochrane (2006) in their paper Celtic knots; interweaving the elements of effective teacher professional development in  ICT, suggest that effective professional learning relies on four elements, which are said to be interdependent:

  • Context – relevance and immediacy
  • Community – collaborations
  • Time – prolonged, ongoing and sustained and as well, just-in-time and providing adequate time
  • Personal growth – giving the learner opportunities for increasing knowledge, skills and understanding

There are definite correlations with the eSchool article.

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership’s (AITSL) 2014 report Designing professional learning is aimed at producing the “how to” of professional learning.  The report provides guidance on designing professional learning that suits the context in which you are working, with an over-riding view that:

“Research has found that job-embedded professional learning is proving  to be more effective in improving teacher practice in schools than many of the ‘traditional’ external professional learning opportunities. This means a shift towards professional learning that is primarily school-based and focused on improving teacher practice, where schools become learning communities and professional learning is part of teachers’ everyday work. This change creates a need for a greater understanding and awareness of learning design.”

References:

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (2014) Designing professional learning. Vic: AITSL. Accessed from: https://www.aitsl.edu.au/docs/default-source/default-document-library/designing_professional_learning_report.pdf?sfvrsn=83c1ec3c_0

Drake, C. (2017). For PD, the days of one-and-done are dead and gone! eSchool News. Accessed from: https://www.eschoolnews.com/2017/09/21/pd-days-one-done-dead-gone/

Lloyd, M and Cochrane, J. (2006) Celtic knots: Interweaving the elements of effective teacher professional development in ICT. Australian Educational Computing 21(2), p.16. Accessed from:  http://acce.edu.au/sites/acce.edu.au/files/pj/journal/AEC%20Vol%2021%20No%202%202006%20Celtic%20knots-Interweaving%20the%20elements%20.pdf