Learning about inclusive design with Josie Gray

February was Inclusive Design month for BCcampus! Josie Gray, Coordinator of Collection Quality for Open Education, facilitated all four sessions and left us with a rich collection of ideas, tips, examples and guidelines of how we can all improve our practice when preparing / delivering / sharing information and ideas in our teaching or instructional design efforts. Check out the BCcampus video channel Open Education http://bit.ly/2HutAen

I reviewed Part 1: Inclusive Design webinar in some detail in a previous blog post as Jess Mitchell of the Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCAD was setting the context for the series. The remaining three sessions focused on: Presentations, Pressbooks and Inaccessibility.

Part 2: Presentations webinar was reported on by Michelle Reed from University of Texas at Arlington – see Presentation Recap http://bit.ly/2NXoqc6. Josie’s webinar recording (http://bit.ly/2u2xPGg) in the Open Education channel of the BCcampus video collection includes links to the resources she used to ground her exploration of four main elements: Slide setup, Slide content, Inclusive presentation strategies, and After the presentation. One of my personal “I didn’t know that!” moments was learning that text boxes are NOT accessible and, in fact, should always be accompanied by an ALT text description. Lots of other helpful tips and tools are covered by Josie Gray during the session.

share written version of keynote
provide multimodal options

I found Josie’s example of Robin De Rosa’s before- and after-sharing really inspiring! Robin shared a written version of her talk (http://bit.ly/palakeynote) via Twitter before she delivered her keynote. The written version included image slides with written descriptions for screen readers and her video of the talk included captions. And Jess Mitchell also makes a practice of sharing her presentation slides with slide notes and a transcript through her Slideshare channel (http://bit.ly/2UsiBpj). Something to strive for – I often feel that I just don’t have enough time when it’s a new presentation or topic.

Part 3: Pressbooks demonstratede Josie’s expertise with the tool as she provided sevveral constructive ways to approach the complexity (from my perspective) of Pressbooks publication requirements. As a newbie to Pressbooks, I found it helpful but can only suggest you watch/read Josie’s presentation (http://bit.ly/2Heu0pZ) yourself before you start your next Pressbook’s publication!

Part 4: Inaccessibility began with a design thinking approach as Josie challenged participants to think about making an OER inaccessible. The resulting suggestions demonstrated that her audience had been listening during previous sessions (or were very experienced with issues of accessibility.) Some of the challenges the group suggested:

  • Money/cost – find OER to reduce the barrier
  • Limited access to digital devices – provide multiple formats
  • Limited access to Internet – design learning events that limit the time students need to be connected
  • Varying levels of digital literacy – demonstrate/teach about ways to utilize basic tools like pdfs – help them to navigate, highlight important features of course environments, provide access to alternative formats
  • Language-comprehension – use key terms, glossary lists, avoid jargon and figures of speech, structure topics, highlight main ideas, provide audio

Josie reminded us of Jess Mitchell’s advice to go beyond checklists for accessibility and to try to think ahead to challenges that the next presentation, course, book or any activity might cause. If we could think of disability as relative, subjective and dependent on context, we would be more likely to ask more questions, to be curious, and to try different solutions.

Thanks to BCcampus for offering such a meaningful professional learning opportunity, and to Josie Gray for her clear explanations and examples.

Helping us see differently – Jess Mitchell

BCcampus, launched an important webinar series on Inclusive Design in February…and I missed all of them (sigh). But because the folks at BCcampus are digitally-aware and focused on openness and accessibility, they provided recordings of each session so I’m digging in to discover what I missed. If you are curious, here’s a brief overview of my take-aways from the first in the series: Inclusive Design, Jess Mitchell, Snr.Mgr, IDRC webinar recordingSlideshare presentation slides

Inclusive design means changing how you see; you need to take the time to reflect, to look around, to see what doesn’t work and think about why? Inclusive design works best when it happens before something is designed but, even afterwards, you can strive to make your course, your teaching, your presentations, whatever you create – more inclusive. It seems that, from Jess Mitchell’s perspective, it’s about the “why and the try”.

Inclusive Design is design that considers the full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, culture, gener, age and other forms of human difference.

Jess Mitchel, IDRC,

Why should you try? Some of the benefits that Ms Mitchell shared (of using an ID approach to solve complex problems):

  • solutions have better = longer shelf life
  • solutions work better for more people
  • solutions address the gaps

Often the changes we make to support inclusiveness benefit unexpected or broader groups than we first think about. Jess pointed out the ubiquitous curbcuts that were a simple and widespread change that made navigating city sidewalks easier for people with mobility impairments. People thought it was just for the wheelchair bound but it makes it possible for moms w/strollers, elders with canes or pulling wheeled grocery carts, young kids delivering newspapers w/little red wagon – lots of people benefited.

It’s not just about accessibility – it’s about providing equivalent experiences. So the folks at IDRC talk, think, research about how to help everyone have a good experience – whether learning or working or just doing. She talked about making presentations and information multi-modal – and acknowledged the challenges of doing so – but encouraged us to try. She reiterated the power of taking the first step, and committing to the try.

Disability is a mismatch, between an individual and their goals and the tools they have available to them in their particular environment or context.

Jess Mitchel, IDRC

Thinking about disability – Jess pointed out that it might be more useful to think about mismatches. Walk around your environment and look for what doesn’t work – try to identify why? Talk to the people you’re designing for – “I find it helpful and important to ask…” Often disability is created by a non-thinking choice in the design phase; always think about how you can make your product, process, teaching accessible/digestible/navigable by more people.

Table as a metaphor
  • who isn’t at the table?
  • who can or can’t use this table?
  • is the table welcoming to all?
  • have people been at the table before?
  • when you invite somone to the table, do they know the culture of the table?
  • do they know how decisions are made at the table?
  • do they know how to have their voice heard at the table?
  • is the environment at the table safe and welcoming and open for everyone?
  • how is listening going to be captured at the table?
  • do these tables give people real ways to have an impact?
  • are people empowered to act on what is discussed at the table

There’s lots more – watch the screen recording – browse the slide deck. A great launch to a series on inclusive design. Thanks to BCcampus and Jess Mitchell.

References mentioned during presentation

Mapping connections 4 learning

Mind maps (the term is attributed to Tony Buzan although the idea is much older) are a useful tool to organize knowledge visually and deepen understanding. When drawn on a piece of paper or whiteboard, the maps are easy to create and change, yet provide a clear and shareable record of thinking about a subject.

12Apps of Christmas graphicWhen the maps are developed using an app or web-based service, mind mapping becomes even more powerful and portable. I’ve used various apps over the last few years and thought they might be an interesting addition to the annual BCcampus 12apps for Christmas event. But how to choose an app?

The 12apps event has a simple set of attributes:

  • free (or at least an option to try for free so everyone could try it easily)
  • cross platform (iOs or Android – bonus if it works in a web browser too!)
  • has potential to support teaching and/or learning.

I added a few additional characteristics to help me choose:

  • visually attractive (without a lot of fussing)
  • easy to save or share (even if the saved version couldn’t be edited in other apps)
  • clear terms of use and help to get started
  • collaborative (a big bonus and only available with some)

I chose SimpleMind first as I thought it scored reasonably well and I had used it in the past as an iPad app and liked it. But after initial testing and review of features, I found they had restricted what I felt was an essential attribute of free use – you could no longer save your mind maps in any way – not even with a screen capture!

So I went back to check out Bubbl.us, Freemind, Mindomo, Mindmup, Mindmeister, Popplet, Lucidchart (not technically a mind mapping app). Some were open source and required installation on a server (or didn’t have an app option for mobile devices; other apps had a free or trial version but were expensive (comparatively) if you wanted to continue and expand your use.

I finally settled on Coggle – it was cross-platform, easy to use, produced visually appealing maps without a lot of fuss, and could be used collaboratively. Although the free version had limitations, the price for a basic subscription was in line with other apps.

example mind map - lasers

Coggle Gallery: Lasers

Mind maps are useful for various knowledge building activities and Coggle makes it easy to use to engage learners in online classes:

  • creating a visual map of course themes, topics and learning objectives to help students manage their learning or to help an instructor develop or refine a course;
  • creating collaborative maps to summarize highlights of a week’s forum postings or to share final reflections on learning as a course draws to a close;
  • for individual learning as a way to take meaningful notes during presentations or while reviewing research reports;
  • to support collaborative knowledge building activities by having small groups create and share mind maps of their research and analysis of a relevant topic; and,
  • to support a blended learning activity beginning from individual to small group discussion using a paper-based graphic organizer to capture and refine brainstorming (face-to-face) and then moving tChristmas mind map with Cogglehe discussion into an online session where small groups shared digital mind maps of their analysis to contribute to a final summary of critical perspectives on an important theme or issue.
  • And I had some fun by completing my own “What about Christmas?” mind map!

There’s not been too much participation (at least visibly) in this year’s 12apps event but the daily app blog posts will stay visible throughout the year so you can easily refer back to find a new app to try.

If you’re curious to learn more about the potential of mind maps and other visual organizers and analytical approaches, check out some of these articles:

 

Making marks and dancing feelings at SKiP2018

Sketching in Practice logoOne of the things I love about living ‘down south’, is the opportunity to follow a whim or curiosity in terms of professional development. When I saw some tweets fly by about a Sketching in Practice symposium sponsored by SFU, my interest was piqued. When I poked around a bit I found the pages and pictures from the 2016 and 2017 events and then followed the blog until the presenters for this year’s event were posted. I checked my calendar, figured out travel details and registered.

I’ve explored graphic facilitation and sketchnoting in the past but I appreciated the wider scope of SKiP2018. From a young art teacher, Meghan Parker, who had just completed the first “..thesis of an autobiographical nature in comic book form” to two academics, Dr. Kathryn Ricketts and Dr. Andrea Kantrowitz, who proposed to explore intersections between movement, gesture, and meaning, the day looked pretty full of thought-provoking experiences!

A last minute surprise was my winning a draw for a pre-event workshop with Carnegie Mellon’s Doug Cooper called “Drawing by Touch.” Thanks SKiP!

So…what?

So, what did I learn? what did it change about my ongoing professional development ideas and interests?

Comics in education

I am still ambivalent about the role of comics (as most comics are drawn) in education. After listening to Meghan Parker speak her comic thesis, I realized that part of my resistance to comic strips may have been the structure (connected boxes) and the visual busy-ness I perceive when I try to read them. I was surprised at how much I learned from Meghan’s comics and how some of her simple images and complex messages stayed with me afterwaMeghan Parker's thesis comicrds. I realized I appreciated the variation in presentation of her visual elements – sometimes she drew around boxes while at other times she had a pageful of boxes. I’ll revisit some comic strips and try reading them out loud too – might help me to understand the attraction 😉

 

Hand drawing on paper

I have always found that writing can help me work out ideas but I often struggle with using drawing the same way. I’ve found that the challenge of imagining an image to represent a complex idea takes a fair bit of thinking at times and my lack of any drawing automaticity means that I’m also struggling to think of how to draw the image I can picture. Sometimes that means drawing is a block to understanding rather than an aid. So, the natural drawing exercises (from author/teacher Kimon Nicolaides: The Natural Way to Draw (1941)) that Doug talked/walked/drew us through on Thursday afternoon were really helpful as he introduced me to some new ways of relaxing about drawing and finding ways to feel the shapes of what I see and to let my hand and arm relax and stay connected with the paper. Now, to make drawing a more natural part of my day so that I can use it more effectively in my practice.

drawing scienceDrawing Science

I thoroughly enjoyed Armin Mortazavi’ Lightning Talk. His understated delivery and self-deprecating humour make it easy to miss the impressive abilities of this young science cartoonist. His story about juggling personal crises while holding various government entities at bay while he created a meaningful story to communicate complex health and nutrition information through his comics was hilarious but enlightening. I’m only sorry I couldn’t be part of his session – I heard it was great.

Maps for inspiration; maps for understanding

Two related afternoon sessions: Professor Chris Lanier shared some interesting examples of some of his favourite graphic novels and then pulled us into an exploration of how drawn images can inspire story narratives. An interesting use of this narrative mapping technique that certainly drew some interesting stories from the audience. Chris is currently working on a novel about the Department of Justice’s Ferguson Police Department Report (An Anatomy of Institutional Racism), using comics and infographics.

Erin Fields hosted an interesting session exploring the Information World Mapping (IWM), developed by Dr. Devon Greyson. She involved us in a brief application of the technique, having us draw our information world – mapping the process and connections we think of when we try to resolve a problem. This enriched our understanding of her story about applying this method at UBC when she participated in an application of IWM to try to understand the information-related needs and preferences of student refugees during resettlement. Erin is Liaison Librarian in the humanities and social sciences and the Flexible Learning Coordinator at the University of British Columbia.

Drawing as a form of thinking

I had read about Sandra’s use of drawing journals in a recent article from Capilano University’s Bettina Boyle so I was curious to hear her story and learn more about how she integrated drawing in her teaching. She shared her journey and her efforts to understand the evidence underlying her beliefs and practices in the classroom. Some of her examples were very compelling and a good “push” to start incorporating more drawing and journaling to support my own personal reflective practices!

Marks, movements and meanings

I think there is much more to the ideas Dr. Ricketts and Andrea Kantrowitz wanted to share with us than I was able to absorb from their Lightning Talk and interactive three-part session. Although the fluidity of movement, the variation in emotional expression and story conveyed by Kathryn’s movements was interesting, and the use of the projected overlays of line, colour and form that Andrea drew as she was inspired and interacting with Kathryn’s story were eye-catching, I never really felt the two blended or augmented my understanding, although the group I was part of during the “audience participation” piece had a lot of fun trying to use movement to express emotions depicted by tiny drawings on scraps of paper. I was grateful for the small printed booklets Andrea shared afterwards and I’ll be “unpacking” the ideas as I have time.

Whew! It was a full day and a half – had to leave early to catch a ferry home. Too bad I missed the summation and the opportunity to get together with people afterwards. But my hat is off to the hardworking, enthusiastic SFU staff that helped us all learn together – and kept it fun!

Cheers to Jason Toal’s team of sketching enthusiasts – from Simon Fraser University’s, Faculty of Communications Art and Technology; School of Interactive Art and Technology; and the Teaching and Learning Center

 

The risks of “free” tools

Why is it that we are so shocked when our free tools change? While it can be annoying, somewhat sad, or potentially expensive, why are we so surprised?

A recent mini-Twitter storm erupted when Padlet announced changes to their popular collaborative bulletin board service that would see the cost go from zero to roughly $100 per year (and that’s in American dollars – a little tougher for Canadians to swallow). Although the company continues to provide free access, they chose to limit the number of boards – which seemed like a reasonable solution but upset many teachers who had been such enthusiastic users of the serivice. Unfortunately, many school budgets don’t include money for “free” tools and teachers don’t always have the funds to pay for them out of their own pockets. Unlike other “freemium” tools that have changed over the last number of years, Padlet seems to be making every effort to explain the rationale and address concerns in a straightforward way (see recent explanations of the changes by Padlet’s Nitash Goel on Teachercast and Medium.)

A couple of months ago, Wikispaces, the popular collaborative wiki service, announced that Wikispaces would be closing in 2019. They explained in a blog post that updating their service to meet current standards and usage would be too expensive and provided help to users to export their content over the next year.  The brief cloud-flurry of posts acknowledging the value that Wikispaces had provided (e.g., Good-Bye Wikispaces) to making open collaboration ‘doable’ since the service started in 2005 seemed to support the company’s decision. Wikis (most or all – not sure) don’t work on mobile devices so that’s a big detraction when I consider using them nowadays and I’d guess many users had moved off to other options. However, Prof Mike Caulfield took the closure a little more seriously (see The Garden and the Stream.)

Google’s recent announcement that they are shutting down “goo.gl” a URL shortener and QR code generator, was more annoying. A March 30th article explains (sigh) goo.gl faced competition from other popular URL shortneners like bit.ly but the main reason seemed to be that the developers felt that it no longer represented the way that most people found things on the web.  Users of the service (like me!) are assured that their short URLs will continue to point to the same websites but that no new shortened URLs can be created.

But the demise or renovation of free apps and web services is part of the cost and risks of innovation. Providers offer “free” tools to spread the idea and test the functionality of different aspects but the underlying motivation is still to make a profit (and potentially go viral and make a fortune 😉 Some go through the spreading – testing – tweaking – retesting cycle quickly and then disappear. There’s rarely a lot of talk about those; it’s the ones that we get comfortable with because they just go on working (without costing us anything) for a long time are the ones that create consternation when they change (or die).

For many of us who use freemium tools for our work and personal lives, losing a favourite tool is more than just an annoyance. It is a bit of an emotional hit too as we invest a lot of time and get a lot of satisfaction from developing expertise in using a good tool like Padlet, Wikispaces or goo.gl. And, in many cases, we can’t find an equivalent app or web service – that makes it even sadder.

But it’s all part of the ephemerality of the networked lives we lead – change is the constant. The ability to adapt rapidly, effectively and without regrets is what older networked learners like me need to practice constantly 😉

 

 

Research notes:

Padlet

Wikispaces

goo.gl

Google Developers blog:  Transitioning Google URL Shortener to Firebase Dynamic Links  March 30, 2018

Humphries, Matthew, Google is Shutting Down Goo.gl, PC Magazine, April 2, 2018