Will we ever become technology?It sounds like a science fiction statement, but it’s actually not too far from reality. Humans rely on programmable devices for every aspect of their daily lives. These devices have transformed from stationary, to carried and worn, to physically implantable. There is no end to this progression; innovations keep evolving. With the ongoing focus of technology in education, and the need for schools to keep up with the ever-changing scope of its use in the classroom, it is essential that we provide students with the knowledge of how technology affects, and will affect, society.
In a recent interview, one of the lead writers of the reading standards explained that the decision was about priorities—and that learning to use technology took precedence. But what does the research say?
Reading this article I learned that California included cursive in our adoption of English Language Arts standards—or, more accurately, “Write legibly in cursive or joined italic.”
Joined italic? I taught third grade for a few years in California and this term was new to me. A bit of googling found this interesting piece, “Handwriting: Methods and Resources.” Its provenance is vague (someone named Brian Hagerty?) but it passes the prima facie test: it’s interesting and offers lots of resources to pursue.
If I were teaching third grade today, would I have the right as a teacher to choose the method of instruction for my students? Would it be a school-wide decision all we third grade teachers would need to reach? Would the district dictate? Regardless, in this instance, the common standards are not so common after all.
I teach online courses for Foothill College. I have not required students to purchase a textbook. Instead, I have curated a set of open educational resources, all available online, that includes websites, videos, and PDF documents. My challenge now is that beginning with this quarter, I must meet a new standard: “Online education courses, resources and materials must be designed and delivered in such a way that the level of communication and course-taking experience is the same for students with or without disabilities.”
Knowing that I needed to meet that standard, I joined a voluntary webinar that the college offered to help us instructors know how to make our courses accessible. I listened and learned. Toward the end, I asked this question: “So from what you are saying, the easiest way for an instructor to make a course accessible is to make it all text-based. No video. No audio. No infographics.” The instructor replied, “Well, I hate to say this, but yes.”
My first reaction was, “Good grief! We have all these new multimedia tools and resources for learning, but I can’t use them in an online course!”
Once I vented a bit and calmed down, I set myself a challenge, “I’ll try! Let’s see if I can create an online course that uses open educational resources and will still pass a review by the college’s accessibility staff.
I scoured the Internet and found a great collection of resources to comprise my ‘OER textbook” for the course. I made sure any video I chose had closed captions. However, I did not do an accessibility check on every website and PDF I wanted to include. My next step was to submit my course for a review by the college’s accessibility people.
My course failed. Every one of my modules had problems. While only one of my videos had inaccurate captions, many of the websites I wanted to use had improperly nested headings, missing Alt-text, and tables without headers. Almost all my PDF files had issues such as “no tag information” or “tables do not have headers.” Fixing any of those issues is completely beyond my current level of skill and nothing that a college instructor has been expected to know how to do. For example, when I emailed the reviewer with a question about how to make the PDFs accessible, the reviewer replied, “Fixing pdfs is no easy feat if you don’t have the source documents.” Of course I don’t have the source documents! I just have the PDF I found online.
Just for kicks, I decided to do an accessibility check of my own. Using the WAVE web accessibility evaluation tool, I evaluated the “Accessibility and Universal Design” page on the college’s website. Oops! It has some issues. Clearly, we all have work to do to reach this goal.
Education, especially education reform, isn’t easy. Yet, does it always have to be so complex? With the help of members of the Ed School community, we found that the answer sometimes is a simple no.
“Reach out” is my latest annoys-me-so much phrase. I get it all the time. People reaching out to me. Wanting to reach out to someone else.
Don’t reach out to me. Contact me. Approach me. Give me a call. But please, don’t “reach out.”
In an era of partisan polarization, the problem isn’t merely a deficit of great leaders capable of binding the nation together; it’s also a shortage of citizens willing to listen.
Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times, July 13, 2016
In today’s globalized information age, an ever-increasing proportion of misinformation accompanies the burgeoning wealth of new and changing information. As students are bombarded with social and news media that blur lines between fact and opinion, they need guided experiences to build their critical analysis of information validity and value.
And to determine the validity of information is becoming a more and more difficult task!