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Posts Tagged ‘accessibility’

Following my attempt to test the use of Google Hangout last week, I have continued to consider which platform to use with my student group. My friend Rachel had a number of things to do in order to get going on the Hangout – this included both setting up a Google+ account, then downloading a ‘plugin’ in order to be able to run the Hangout on her computer. She mentioned that she wanted to do this on her computer, not her partners as his is a work laptop and he doesn’t like unnecessarily downloading any applications onto it. I had also had to install the Google Chrome browser in order to access Google Hangout. This got me thinking about the fact that some students may be accessing the online meeting using placement computers, in which case they may run into similar issues and difficulties downloading applications. This coupled with the fact that the Google Hangout can only host a maximum of 10 participants has prompted me to rethink which platform I use and therefore I am going to use Blackboard Collaborate. One of the audience did ask me about the 10 participant maximum during my presentation, and I agreed it was a valid point, but that I would pilot the project using Hangout, then move to Blackboard Collaborate down the line if necessary. On reflection I now feel it makes more sense to ‘start as I mean to go on’, so that the students can develop confidence in using one particular technology. In addition, having now used Hangout, I believe that Blackboard Collaborate is not that dissimilar to Hangout. As well as setting up the online sessions for support for student support whilst out on placement, there is now another dimension in that I have been tasked by my Programme Leader to deliver a session in how to hand in their practice portfolios online as this group are going to be piloting electronic hand in. I couldn’t risk more than 10 people wanting to attend an important session like that and not being able to, giving additional weight to me choosing Blackboard Collaborate as the most appropriate online meeting platform.

I made enquiries and have contacted somebody about accessing training on setting up, facilitating and moderating Blackboard Collaborate.

Now I need to write a bit more about some of the reading I have been doing, and how it applies to my project….

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I have been thinking about and working on my project a fair bit, but have recorded very little – I need to work out how to install a WordPress app on my phone then I can be more spontaneous with my reflection. I continue to explore which online group meeting tool is going to be best to use with the second years. I have tried setting up a Google Hangout, but am struggling to get it on my Laptop as it does not seem to have the software necessary to install the required ‘plugins’. I have been able to set it up from my work PC but there is no camera or microphone attached, so I would be unable to use it from my Salford computer. I need to investigate this further, but so far I have established that to use it, students need to:

1. Set up a Google+ account

2. Go to Google Hangout

3. Ensure that their laptops are compatible to accommodate Google Hangout.

I have tested using Google Hangout in principle, and as a platform I prefer it to Collaborate as I think it is more accessible. Students need to find technologies accessible in order to participate in them for effective learning – I like the way Beetham and Currant (2008, slide 13) use the term effective learning as characteristic of ‘skilled, digitally aware learners with the capacity to participate on learning using technologies of their own choosing’. If the technology is accessible then students are more likely to choose to use it. Wenger et al (2009) address ‘Community Orientations’, and specifically online meetings. They note that the choice of technology needs to reflect the style of the community so one needs to consider formal or informal, presentation or discussion and so on. These are essential elements that I need to consider for my project – I want the group session to be informal, but its value recognised by the students. Therefore it must not be so informal that people don’t bother to participate or engage. I want the sessions to be mainly discussion, and peer led – but I also want a tool that is going to allow me to present information if necessary. In  addition another benefit of Google Hangout is that it can be recorded on YouTube so anybody unable to participate could always have access to it later (this in itself requires thought around permissions, consent, privacy settings and so on, but it is an important feature that I believe increases the accessibility to students)

Beetham H & Currant B (2008) presentation on Learning Literacies for a Digital Age from the ELESIG symposium, Longridge Technology Park, 20/11/08 online resource accessed from ELESIG website, members area:  http://cloudworks.ac.uk/cloud/view/3434   on 19/11/12

Wenger E., White N., Smith J.D (2009) Community Orientations: activities and tools. In Stewarding Technology for Communities. CPsquare; Portland, oregan.

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