Monthly Archives: April 2016

W8 O’connor…Is this really new?

I chuckled a bit when I read the information about Universal Design.  Back in the 90s I was grade 5 teacher in the UK.  We certainly didn’t have all the bells and whistles back then (one computer sheared between two classes with 32 kids in each…and it rarely worked) but we certainly adhered to these principals and were given structures to work within.  For example, in math class… Ok say I was going to work with fractions.  First there would be some type of presentation for the whole class usually involving the old form of a doc cam (over head projector), then the class would be split into three groups.  There was a group that learned best with manipulatives so they maybe had pizzas made of card to split into fractions, then another group who  still needed something more visual would work with say shapes drawn on paper and have to circle which fraction was shaded.  Another group who could think more abstractly could work with the fractions themselves.  Took a lot of thinking and prep but it worked well and all the kids were able to learn.

I have carried this thinking into my classes here.  Although I don’t have my students cutting up pizza in class (although I am sure they would like that) I do always try to use multiple ways to explain things.  If I have written instructions I always explain them as well and you will often see  pictures and diagrams on my whiteboard to explain concepts such as how a certain verb tense works.



W8 – Rodgers – Universal Design and Accessibility

I was first introduced to Universal Design several years ago in ECIT’s Technology, Pedagogy, and Curriculum class (ECIT now being a part of the ECDS, and TPC now including a research component, becoming TPC+R).   I will be candid and say that it took me a while to understand the importance of the concept; while I was thinking of it simply as a way to provide accommodations to a student with a disability, it seemed like a back-up plan, and one that I would implement only in the specific case where a student requested it. When I thought about it more, I realized that Universal Design actually entailed thinking about and accounting for the different ways that people navigate their world (including, but not limited to, their unique learning styles), regardless of ability. Based on whatever combination of factors (demographics, DNA, past experiences) we all perceive, interpret, and learn from our environments differently, so it just makes sense to provide multiple ways to access material, for the good of all of our students and not just those with disabilities.

For me, the three networks were yet another way to think about Universal Design, and one that I had not encountered before (previously, I thought of it more in terms of sensory modalities). One thing I particularly like is that it breaks down the strategies by the motivations of the individual learners and provides suggestions for appealing to each set. I think it would be really interesting if there were a self-test to figure out what sort of learner a person was, because I would definitely make a class of students take the test and (anonymously) report their results back to me. It might allow for more targeted teaching strategies, and I think it might be illuminating and beneficial for the students to learn that sort of thing about themselves.

To increase accessibility in my own classes, I think I should definitely record (and then share) our classroom sessions. Providing access to classes after-the-fact would alleviate the burden on students to write down every important thing they hear during lecture, and free them up to engage in discussion. Also, I need to plan my board work in advance and commit to doing it the entire class session—currently, I tend to write things on the board haphazardly when it occurs to me, and that doesn’t do anyone any favors. In an online or blended classroom, I think I would be forced to do both of the things more thoughtfully, which is probably a really good thing. Finally, I’ve mentioned before on the blog how I’d like to incorporate Voice Thread (using it to lay out difficult concepts in small chunks and allowing students to ask questions about the individual pieces), and that is still something I’d like to do, regardless of classroom setting. One thing the readings made me realize, however, is that I’d need to include closed-captioning for any audio recordings I included.

My questions about this topic derive from my own experiences as a student: how does an instructor assess students who might be reticent to engage across a particular medium but very comfortable using another? Should the instructor require participation across every medium (blog posts, asking questions during synchronous sessions) or kind of grade them as a whole (student is very active in the blog but quiet in synchronous sessions)? I ask because I write pages and pages given the opportunity (as seen here multiple times, sorry y’all!) and develop All of the Opinions, but I actually never speak in traditional classrooms, and the mere thought of it makes me nervous. I’m just a lot more comfortable writing than speaking, because there is more time for reflection, and processing, and editing. (I actually thought I’d be a terrible student in an online classroom, but having blog posts as a main component of this class has actually made me engage with the content a lot more than I might have as a student in face-to-face classes.) And that leads to a follow-up question: to what extent should we, as instructors, push students out of their comfort zone, specifically in terms of their mode of engagement?

Week 7 – Rodgers – OERs

I have heard of specific Open Educational Resources like Project Gutenberg and I know about copyright and public domain (and Creative Commons), but I was not aware of OERs as a category of things, if that makes sense. Mainly, professors in my department have shown us Project Gutenberg as a resource for philosophy texts that are in the public domain (which is a lot of them, as philosophy is pretty old, and they’re still useful, because our discipline is still pretty obsessed with arguing about theories from 2,000 years). However, I also just learned about LibriVox, which is an online collection of free public domain audiobooks read by volunteers. Though I have not used this collection before, it’s wonderful for students who are better audio learners than visual learners (and might be a good way to listen to some classic literature on a road trip). And, I think provided in tandem, Project Gutenberg and LibriVox would make a great resource for online courses beyond philosophy, just in terms of providing multiple modes of access to a text. For my own classes, I might also use TedTalks, particularly in an issue-driven course like Bioethics. I’m sure there are lots of talks on things like abortion, universal healthcare, physician-assisted suicide, organ donation, stem cell research, etc. (a quick search tells me I’m correct), and a video like this might be an easy way to sort of trim the fat from the issue, so to speak. In general, though, I think OERs provide not only more material for classroom use, but also provide it in different sensory modalities, which is helpful for students who have a range of learning styles, and at different depth levels (where some give a very superficial overview and others deeply probe an issue).

As an instructor in a Philosophy department, my feelings about OERs are ambivalent. On the one hand, many works of philosophy are available under public domain, alleviating financial burdens on students and providing them access to many more classroom materials than they might otherwise have. For example, the entire corpus of John Dewey, a very important American philosopher (who happens to feature heavily in my dissertation), is in the public domain and available through Project Gutenberg. However, I am also skeptical because students sometimes fail to critically assess the credibility of the sources they stumble across online, weighting equally the commentary of a foremost scholar of John Dewey and the ramblings of an internet blogger who happens to have read a John Dewey quote online somewhere. I think the solution here is to be very clear with students how they can evaluate the merit of the OERs they find and check their sources before deciding which work merits greater consideration.

Generally, copyright has not been an issue for my classes because my students purchase their textbooks, which are their primary resource for class. (If they choose to get their books another way, I am not aware of it.) However, if I only want to assign a small section of text, I will assign it through Course Reserves, or provide a link if it’s a work within the public domain. We also review proper citation procedure prior to their first paper, and I explain that citation management software like Zotero can really alleviate the burden of having to write your own citations. I also refer them to the Emory Honor Code and provide examples of plagiarism. In terms of delivering content, however, it’s relatively straightforward: I assign the book, they buy the book, I tell them page numbers to read, and sometimes we read aloud from those pages in class. Because I don’t generally use slides or presentations, copyright isn’t much of an issue (though if I were to incorporate something like images, I’d let Creative Commons be my guide).

Week 7 Affordable Learning Georgia

Yes I had heard about Open Educational Resources before this module. In fact a while back I co-presented on Affordable Learning Georgia which is an initiative of the University System of Georgia funded by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. The goal is to promote student success by providing affordable textbook alternatives.

According to “Turning the Page,” a June 2013 report on the textbook market from the Lumina Foundation:
18.62 million full-time college students spend an average of $600 to $1,200 per year on textbooks
these costs have been rising at more than twice the rate of the Consumer Price Index.
approximately 30 percent of college students do not purchase textbooks required for specific classes
94% of students who do not buy the required textbook for a class indicate concern that the lack of a textbook will negatively affect their grade in the course
students who did not purchase or rent the required textbook received a grade that was .57 lower (on an A=4.0 scale) than the class average

Information from

Concerns mentioned by faculty and librarians we interviewed included:
Quality of materials
Impact on publishing industry (plus people who write for profit)

Positives included:
Increased retention/graduation of students