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Published by api-3705993
TechDis contribution to CEL publication on future for elearning
TechDis contribution to CEL publication on future for elearning

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Published by: api-3705993 on Oct 17, 2008
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e-gazing in action 2007 - Thinkpiece Questions
TechDis response
Teaching and learning \u2013 more inclusive; more universal?

Professor John Hattie\u2019s work on influences on student learning identified several
factors that correlated very significantly with improved student performance.
Many of these high-value-added strategies are difficult and time consuming for
traditional teaching approaches but lend themselves to blended learning. For
example, effective use of technology allows

direct, rapid, diagnostic feedback to be given
all learners to have access to the best available resources in the institution
(or even the world..)
able learners to progress at a faster pace
a range of resources to suit different learning preferences and needs
collaborative work to be managed effectively

From Hatties research, each of the above is associated with a benefit roughly
equivalent to a 1 to 2 grade leap at GCSE\u2026yet for too long, the use of
IT/eLearning has been didactic and convergent, focussing on teaching resources
rather than learning experiences.

But in the most creative institutions \u2013 often using minimal training with existing
software/hardware - highly effective learning can take place giving the students
divergent, creative and collaborative tasks that develop subject skills, learning
skills, IT skills and teamwork skills. Many young people have richer technological
environments at home than they do in their places of learning. Many of them are
skilled at informal learning, using the Internet for everything from downloading
music to comparing best value for a music player or printing directions for a visit.
This doesn\u2019t undermine the need for effective formal education; if anything it
makes it more urgent and important.

Increasingly learner needs will be based around access and skills \u2013 the ability to
get to information and to use it critically and effectively. The historical model of
education has often been about transmitting knowledge from experts to
recipients with the recipients trusting everything they are told. This is no longer
appropriate when Google is the answer to any question. Learners need to be
able to analyse, critique and synthesise and this implies active learning
experiences. The old model of education was also very exclusive \u2013 information
transmitted by text and examined by writing. A new model is rapidly emerging
where knowledge is available to anyone with an Internet connection; information
can be presented in many media and assessments are possible in a wide range
of ways. Education can become truly inclusive and therefore truly universal.

The role of leaders in synthesising trends
Moving focus from a distant utopian future to just beyond the present, three
major trends in current education policies include
increasingly sophisticated technical infrastructures,
the personalisation of learning
the inclusiveness of learning \u2013 particularly for disabled learners

Leaders in educational institutions need to recognise the synergies between
these three and to capitalise on their investments \u2013 both thecapital investments
(kit, connectivity and software) and thequa lity investments of staff training.
Traditional teaching and learning resources tend to be inaccessible to many
learners. Whiteboards are wiped at the end of lessons, books and photocopies
are inflexible and overhead transparencies cannot be personalised to individual
need or pace. By contrast, digital resources are very flexible and can be:

Available for download at anytime or place.
Reformatted in terms of font size, type and colour combinations.
Converted to audio by appropriate, often free, software.
Converted to alternative outputs \u2013 for example Braille or DAISY.

Presented in alternative contexts (for example, interactive whiteboards,
Microsoft\u00ae PowerPoint or interactive quizzes) to create a range of active
learning experiences.

Each of the options above represents a distinctive accessibility benefit, both for
disabled and nondisabled learners, supporting both the accessibility and
personalisation agendas. e-Learning resources tend to be much more accessible
than the paper-based alternatives that they replace, but more significant still is
the potential of technology to transformpedagogy by adding to the teacher\u2019s
toolkit a suite of new approaches. With minimal training using existing software
teachers can

construct handouts with built-in interactive navigation
include audio in handouts or activities; including audio clips from the
Involve learners in creating diagrams and images with contextualised pop-
up explanations
provide differentiated information for learners of different ability and

involve the learners in recommending alternative links
By investing further in technology \u2013 even if only in modest kit (MP3 recorders,
Mindmapping software, screen capture software), many new approaches can be
added to the teacher\u2019s existing repertoire.

Critical to the process is quality staff development using appropriate training
materials. TechDis has already provided TechDis Staff Packs and the
Accessibility Essentials series to every FE institution in the UK. These
resources have been highly commended for their pragmatic, learner centred

approach which highlights the accessibility benefits of good practice to all
learners, not just those with disabilities. These resources are also available
online athttp: // ww w.t echdis.ac.uk/s taffpacks and

http://www.techdis.ac.uk/accessibilityessentialsrespecti vel y.
Accessibility as a lever for quality

One of the most significant challenges for leaders is changing academic cultures.
Many teachers are reluctant to change their practices, especially if they see no
problem with the current attainment levels of their learners. Many academics
have limited skills and confidence with technology, prefering to stick to the safety
of traditional methods, despite the fact that technology could offer benefits to
themselves, their colleagues and their students.

For subject based teaching staff, it is relatively easy to hide behind the defences
of subject expertise. Phrases such as \u201ctechnology isn\u2019t appropriate for the
teaching of my subject\u201d are heard in most institutions at some time or another,
yet for every teacher making such a claim there are others in other institutions
using technology to push new boundaries in the same subject. Accessibility may
provide a useful neutral ground to introduce technology into teaching.
Accessibility is one of the few initiatives in teaching that will not go away because
it has the weight of legislation behind it. It is illegal for a teacher to discriminate
against a disabled learner by failing to make reasonable adjustments. So what
are reasonable adjustments? It was noted above that simply making resources
available in a digital format confers many benefits of flexibility and adaptability.
This is a significant first step to making a reasonable adjustment and may be
considerably better for both the teacher and the student than alternative
adjustments. Using simple guidelines like the TechDis Accessibility Essentials
series, a staff developer can help subject specialists explore ways of meeting
their legal obligations through the use of technology, without undermining the
\u201csubject expertise\u201d of the teacher. The subject teacher can propose alternative
ways of providing alternative resources and experiences but technology usually
looks to be an attractive option when the alternatives are considered\u2026.

One of the real benefits of technology in meeting the accessibility agenda is that
accessibility is relevant to all learners, not just disabled learners. Colleges
seeking to support disabled learners by providing customisation on their learning
platforms find most learners taking advantage of the features. Peter Symonds
College provides customisation options for their Intranet; 60% of the students
personalise their set up. Dumfries and Galloway College even created a very
plain screenreader-friendly style amongst their options - 21 people used it; far
more than the number of screen reader users in the college. For a fuller
exploration of the benefits of technology in meeting the needs of disabled
learners and contributing to mainstream quality processes, see theTe c h D i s

Senior Manager Briefing series atww w. techdis.ac.uk/getbr iefings .

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