Archive for June, 2008

WAVE

Web Accessibility is so important. I have a friend who is visually-impaired and of course, since he has never seen what a Web page looks like, it is so hard to explain to him what is on a Web page, the layout, navigation, etc. It really opens up my eyes to the barriers on the Web for the disabled after sitting with him for an afternoon trying to help him get around on the Web.

There aren’t many free tools out there to help with checking for Web site accessibility. Bobby used to be free, but was taken over by IBM last year and is no longer offered for free. I have since come across a great tool to check your Web site for accessibility. It is called WAVE. It was created by the WebAIM organization.

WAVE is available as an add-on to Firefox so that it is readily available in your toolbar at all times. You can also go to the WAVE site and enter a URL and ask it to “WAVE this page”! It will evaluate the page for you and tell you if there are any accessibility errors on that page. It does not evaluate the whole site, just that page. You have the options to upload a file and copy/paste HTML code to be evaluated. You can also provide a link on your Web page to the WAVE report for your page.

Although this tool is in Beta it is worth checking out.

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Podcasting

We are getting ready to roll-out podcasting here at our university. It has been over a year in the making. We began with a pilot last summer, but it has taken this long to work out all of the kinks of technical and policy. We had intended on using iTunes U but that has been put on hold for reasons I won’t go in to. We ended up developing our own internal solution. We got the idea from Mississippi State University but ended up developing are own from scratch. We use LDAP authentication so that only our faculty, staff, and students will have access to the application. Only faculty and staff have access to create podcasts and students have access to view podcasts.

We hope to be able to implement iTunes U at a later date, but we have run into road blocks with that so we are not sure when that will come about.

Many discussions of policy about use, accessibility, and best practices went into this before we are arriving at this point. We are set to release our solution university wide July 1st and so now I am feeling the pressure to finish all of the documentation as we will be offering our first training in just a few weeks.

In training, I plan to not only talk about the technical side of podcasting, but also include information about the pedagogy as well. I think it is is important to emphasize certain best practices and using the technology appropriately for their courses.

As we get materials up on our Web site, I will post links to those.

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Technology Showcase

Last week we put on a technology showcase for our faculty. We called it the Tools for Transformation Showcase. We designed the event to be fun by using different types of technologies to play different types of games. We opened up registration for the event to 60 and much to our surprise it was completely full within 2 days. Due to the great feedback from the faculty we now plan to do a technology showcase twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring. We plan to incorporate different types of technologies each time.

This time we showcased our Course Management System (Blackboard), our video conferencing tool (Wimba Classroom), social networking using Facebook and collaborative workspace using GoogleDocs.

In our CMS we played “Name that Tune” using the assessment tool. We created a quiz that had 5 questions with each question playing a different piece of music. The faculty were in groups of 3 and took the quiz together. They had to listen to the music that was played and name the artist and title of the song. The faculty had a lot of fun doing this. We had the music randomized so no 2 groups were listening to the same song at the same time.

In our video conferencing tool, we used the content area to display baby pictures of famous musicians and they had to guess who the musician was. Then, at the end they had to figure out what all of the musicians had in common (they were all musicians from Mississippi). Then we used the Break-out room feature to break them out into 5 groups and they had to work together using the whiteboard and text chat to come up with as many more Mississippian musicians as they could. The winning group won a prize.

We introduced social networking and collaborative workspace to them by having a faculty member who uses these tools show how they use them for their classes.

Throughout the event we gave them prizes and treats and served them lunch at the end. The event was an overwhelming success. One of the things that we do stress when doing things like this for our faculty is that it is not all about just using technology but using it in an appropriate manner. We also stress good instructional design techniques.

Our local news did a TV spot on the event: http://www.usm.edu/lec/tfts/t4t.mp4

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