I have to say I didn’t start the journey on the Inclusive Technologies for Reading course with any particular thoughts or expectations. I just noticed that it was to do with IT (tick for area of interest), supporting those with print disabilities (tick for an area in which I wanted to learn more), and that as a pilot course it was free (another tick in these times of limited funding for course participation…).
So when I say the course has surpassed my expectations it certainly has – but it would also have genuinely done so if my expectations were set high to begin with.
I was aware that with developments in assistive technology, there was massive potential for improvement in access to the curriculum for pupils with a visual impairment. The pupils with whom I worked I already used various technology eg; VI specific software; certain shortcut keys for use with Word and the general Windows environment; laptops to produce their work; DAISY audio books on a DAISY player etc. However, I was conscious that this was now really the tip of the iceberg. I knew it was important to learn more, but was unsure what direction to take and how to structure the path of any learning.
The road map
The course has moved through a comprehensive itinerary of PLN building, Structured Documents, Text to Speech, Productivity, Ebooks, Print Disability Theory and Practice, and concludes with two additional destinations: for me, Tactile/Simplified Images and DAISY synchronised text and audio, from a choice of a further six options*. These core components (accessed through the innovative mediums of learning stations, videos, quizzes, webinars, twitter socials, google docs and hangouts) provided the framework and direction of the forward travel, with encouragement and support also provided within each unit, for individualised excursions to areas relevant to particular learning interests.
The latter generated a really useful ‘trip advisor’ function, as new discoveries and recommendations from other course members were posted on, through the course shared links, participants blogs and twitter #itr12.
Feedback on posted work from other course participants was also really appreciated, keeping any leanings towards getting off at the ‘Easier Life Stop’ at bay.
Snapshot of the wider impact so far (clicking on the pic opens it in larger form)
The place I am now
Trying to encapsulate what I’ve learnt feels similar to answering that question ‘how long is a piece of string?’. I just know that on reaching the end of the course: how I feel I can now support the VI pupils and staff with whom I work; how I think about organising that support; and how confident I am to do so, has changed exponentially.
Postcard from (near) the end
In my first blog post, I wrote that I hoped to be able to say a ‘wish you were here’ at the end of the course, and having nearly arrived, (rather disheveled and definitely bleary eyed), I can say that undoubtedly reflects my sentiments.
So thanks Dominic and Justine (and to the other course participants)– I hope the course funding is renewed and other educators gain the same experience, for as I am already seeing in practice: for pupils with print disabilities, the subsequent improvements in their access to the variety of assistive technologies, has a real potential to significantly improve both their learning experience and their independence.
*(Optional Units: Software for VI students; Tactile/Simplified Images; Software and hardware for supporting active reading; Speech Recognition; DAISY synchronised text and audio; Assistive technologies for people with physical disabilities).