Website with Accessibility Function

Hi all,

One of my previous blogs had indicated that my organization was moving towards a new website that satisfied the Accessibility Standards.  It soft launched today and although not all the functionality is in place yet, you can see some features by clicking on ‘Accessibility’ at the top right.  Three types of font changes and contrast color options for the visually impaired. The latter is a new feature for me….but interesting to see how it starts to come together.  Cheers!

 http://healthcareathome.ca/central/en

Kathy

 

What an Amazing Journey it’s Been!

Hi everyone,

Wow; I can’t believe this course is almost done!

A look backwards over the past 12 weeks has been insight to me; a journey where I continued to foster growth and locate new knowledge on an individual level and collectively with all of you in our blogging community.  This course, laden in opportunities to experience social media and technology, has challenged me to consider my own beliefs and understandings about learning and pedagogy in an online environment; both on local levels and even stretching to more global perspectives as I relate back to my healthcare environment.  

 In particular this has proved to be a fascinating course for me to complete my graduate degree with; this being the first time I saw ‘facilitating online learning’ offered in three years and equally one that I have been patiently waiting for.  When I began this course I truly was naive to how much modeling and experiences of the tools we would encounter.  Utilizing blogs, reviewing other online tools and the vast array of other mediums used in the blogging community brought for me a heightened learning opportunity that I had never experienced before and to be honest, opening a curiosity in me that I never knew existed.  I can look back now to previous courses and understand the pedagogy of the course design, understand why facilitators chose particular activities and also understand why I felt so socially isolated in my first graduate course.  Sadly, a story that I shared in a blog and one that almost caused me to drop out of the program was it not for a classmate who came to my rescue. The creation and sustainment of social presence is a critical factor for me moving forward and equally important is the community of inquiry that I can understand so much more clearly.  The importance not only of social presence but how teaching and cognitive present intersect and can be powerful in creating a meaningful and engaging learning experience.

 Facilitating online learning is a future goal of mine; with my workplace moving forward in the process of online learning with use of webinars and eLearning, I believe that a future state (fingers crossed!) will include more in-depth online learning and skilled facilitators will be required.   Reflecting on the course objectives allows me to understand that I have broadened my understanding of online learning include role of facilitator and how to engage learners in an online community, however I will need to challenge myself to stay abreast of technology and the rapid associated changes.  The challenge will further lie in exploring and testing new mediums of online learning; professionally connecting with others who work in this environment and learning from their successes and areas of improvement. 

 It’s been wonderful learning with all of you; thank you for all of your insights, perspectives and stories!  Best in all your future studies!   Kathy

Harnessing the Power

When I reflect on digital literacy I am quickly reminded of the connectedness to being a responsible digital citizen; what I consider to be those perceived norms and appropriateness of using technology.  The twenty first century has opened the door to a new digital society; a place where we desire to access information anytime, any place…ultimately resulting in workplaces that demand just in time information that is speedy and correct.  Resultantly, I believe educators and society have a role in promoting information literacy skills to people of all ages as technology continues to progress.

digital-natives

Jones and Hafner (2012) described the affordances and constraints of digital literacy and what particularly struck me was the discussion on how technology can influence the social identity that as humans we adopt.  Individuals locate their identity in relationships that are formed with families and communities and that identity has now extended to include the Internet and technology.  The question that I am left with surrounds has we now started to modify and change our identities in response to the fast and changing pace of the technology? And what becomes the impact on the larger community? Do we actually feel more connected or perhaps even more isolated in the virtual realm?

I found an interesting article from the UK that described ‘hyper –connectivity’ as resulting from near-continuous access to the Internet.  The author Professor Beddington suggested that this hyper-connectivity does in fact have a critical effect on how individuals define and identity themselves and with their larger communities.  Does our need to constantly seek information suggest that we are always waiting and ready to be interrupted; in turn what impact does this have on our overall well being and persona?  I can honestly state that I have a tough time not being connected; sadly admitting to carrying two iphones (work & personal) and always hoping I remember to bring my charger if away.  I read recently that airlines are now considering allowing people to use their smartphones while in the air, opening up yet another space where technology can be constantly present.

I can open hope that as society advances, so too will digital citizenship, literacy and ethics that frame use of technology.  How should we act when online and what should be taught to the next generation.  Having the knowledge, ethics and skills will be foundational the harness and power and ever growing potential of the digital world that we now live in; roles for educators and policy makers alike to consider.

Reference:

Is social networking redefining identity?

http://www.rsablogs.org.uk/2013/socialbrain/social-networking-redefining-identity/

Exploring the World of Digital Divide and Disability

Exploration of the digital divide comes at an interesting time for me.  Understanding that I am in the midst of supporting our Human Resources with implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)/Employee Standard and this week is our large Occupational Health & Safety Fair; it seemed only natural that I dig more deeply into the realm of disabilities and digital divide.

Moisey (2007) defined the digital divide as involving “inequalities in access to the Internet, extent of use, knowledge of search strategies, quality of technical connections and social support,Digital-divideand ability to evaluate quality of information.” (p.2). Disability is one factor that can contribute to disparity in a person’s ability to access technology.

Information and communication technologies continue to grow at an exponential rate in workplaces however concern exists on whether employers have fully grasped the impact on employees with disabilities such as vision impairments, hearing problems or limited dexterity.  Additionally there is an expected rise in the number of workers with disabilities due to an aging workforce which presents added significance.

The Workplace Visions in 2003 reported that the employment rate on individuals with disabilities has not improved over the past decade and unless barriers to technology improved, a sharp divide and inequality may grow between individuals with and without disabilities.

The internet certainly has the potential to remove disabling barriers and to facilitate inclusion however a tension exists in that the benefits of the internet are not equally experienced by all disabled people.  Often the inaccessible design of websites themselves along with incompatible computer hardware and software become the barriers.  Workplace Visions cautions that accessibility with technology in the workplace is essential for disabled employees to experience equal social and educational opportunities.  Workplaces must look to make changes to better prepare disabled employees in an increasingly computerized workplace; to focus on the future.  One such way is to involve a disabled staff themselves in the problem-solving conversation as often they are the most knowledgeable about their own needs which is supported by AODA.  Policies and procedures must also be examined to find alignment to accessibility protocols and used consistently in the workplace.

For example many elearn modules in my workplace were built only with audio and images; offering wonderful imagery and sounds.  However it is not essential that the modules are examined again with a more critical eye to ensure compliance and satisfy the elearning accessibility guidelines.  Consider use of close captioning, screen magnifiers, slide auto advance, other adaptive devices or perhaps workstation adjustments themselves.

We live and work in a knowledge based society that is driven by web based information and communication technology.  Workplaces must strive to increase organizational capacity to meet the needs of all employees and citizens of their communities to maintain inclusion and social equality.  As a result, I also believe the inclusion extends to the creation of a more global community as disabled staff extend themselves broadly with technology.

References:

Bruyere, S.M., Erickson, W.D, and Schramm, J. (2003). Disability in a Technology-Driven  Workplace. Workplace Visions, 5. p1-8

Moisey, S. (2007). The Inclusive Libraries Initiative: Enhancing the access of persons with developmental disabilities to information and communication technology. The Developmental Disabilities Bulletin, 35(1). p.56-71

 

Paper Abstract: Exploring the Role of Discussion Forums in Promoting Collaborative Learning in Healthcare Online Environment

DiscussionForum The twenty-first century workplace requires innovative online learning and technologies that can offer opportunities for collaboration and flexibility; all with the goal of creating forums for sharing and exchange of knowledge.  In response to advances in distributed learning platforms and the changing nature of  learner demographics, an online asynchronous learning environment is emerging that seeks to engage in activities that support interaction and collaboration.  These activities, which rely on learning, sharing, inquiry and group participation, are emerging as learning communities which can be described as:

“a group of people, connected via technology-mediated communication, who actively engage one another in collaborative learn-centered activities to intentionally foster the creation of knowledge, while sharing a number of values and practices” (Ludwig-Hardman, 2003 in Wilson, Ludwig-Hardman, Thornam & Dunlop, 2004, p.2).

This paper seeks to explore how online discussion forums, as a web 2.0 social media learning environment, promote collaborative learning in healthcare environments when enabled by appropriate engagement and motivational learning pedagogy.  As an Organizational Development Specialist working within an Ontario community healthcare organization, I view the workplace through a lens of improving system effectiveness with the goal of influencing and creating positive change for staff and all associated stakeholders. Funded by the Ministry of Health, part of my role is to continually be seeking new opportunities and innovations that promote staff learning and spark organizational change.

Working in an environment that is constantly changing and evolving related to systematic and political pressure drivers, the necessity exists to offer interactive online learning that promotes not only learning but flexibility with a workforce that is predominately decentralized. Scovotti and Spiller (2011) suggested “globalization has fueled the need for collaboration over substantial geographical distances, prompting businesses to adopt technologies that facilitate communication and ongoing interaction among a distributed and diverse workforce” (p.57).  Further, Junk, Deringer and Junk (nd) noted in the Sloan Consortium of Fall 2007 that  “3.9 million students were enrolled in online classes which is a 12 percent increase over the number reported in 2006” (p.1), suggesting that educational materials and resources must be intentionally developed, structured and distributed using pedagogy that best supports an online learning environment.

Further linkages for learning within discussion forums, asynchronous environments, will be explored through the lens of social presence, seen as a key enabler for collaborative and learning communities.   Role of facilitator and learners will be delved into within discussion forums, seeking value add and challenges.  These asynchronous forums, described as computer-mediated communications, will finally be applied and relevancy to the healthcare system discussed.

Draft References:

Berge, Z. (2002). Active, interactive, and reflective elearning. The Quarterly Review of Distance Education. 3(2), p 181-190

Harris, N. and Sandor, M. (2007). Developing online discussion forums as student centred peer elearning environments.  Proceedings ascilite Singapore.  p.383-387

Junk, V., Deringer, N. & Junk, W. (nd).  Techniques to engage the online learner.  Retrieved electronically 13 October 2013 from http://www.aabri.com/manuscripts/10597.

Kanuka, H., and Garrison, D. (2004). Cognitive presence in online learning.  Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 15(2), p.30-48

Ludwig-Hardman, S. (2003). Case study: instructional design strategies that contribute to the development of online learning community.  Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Colorado, Denver

McLoughlin, D. and Mynard, J. (2009). An analysis of higher order thinking in online discussions.  Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 46(2). p.147-160

Scovoti, C. and Spiller, L.D. (2011). Cross-border student collaborations: opportunities for videoconferencing. Marketing Education Review, 21(1), p.57-61

Wang, C.X., Jaeger, D., Liu, and Nie. N. (2013). Using synchronous technology to enrich student learning.  TechTrends, 57(1), p.20-25

Vygotsky, L. (1986). Thought and language.  Cambridge, MA: the MIT Press.

Wilson, B.G., Ludgwig-Hardman, S., Thornam, C.L and Dunlop, J.C. (2004). Bounded community: designing and facilitating learning communities in formal courses.  The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning.  November. p. 1-19.

Following the Emerging Trends!

c4lptlogoA vast amount of information exists on the internet. As a result it becomes increasingly important for educators to be able to identify emerging trends and understand approaches to implementing them whether in the classroom or workplace.
In response, I am thrilled to be able to share with you an amazing website where learning tools are reviewed, demonstrated and stories shared on their impact in the workplace/classroom by those who have trialled them. And what is it? “The Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies”.

http://c4lpt.co.uk/

Jane Hart, who is an International speaker, writer and learning consultant from the UK founded this site as she noted there was an increasing demand for understanding and locating online learning sites. Interestingly Jane herself was recently named the “most influential blogger e-learning blogger”; fascinating as many of us are just dabbling in blogs ourselves!

But what I love about the site is that the directory contains a listing of over 2000 learning and performance tools that are relative to both education and the workplace. The directory is then further broken down into different subtypes including: social and collaborative spaces, instructional tools, web platforms, blogging and wiki tools and many other types. Navigating into these links she provides general information including whether the tool is free and whether or not that tool made the top 100 of that year.

The website itself is collaborative and can be shared socially through facebook, pinterest, and twitter and RSS feeds; certainly building on the premise of learning community and collaboration.

I was intrigued to understanding more about how she determines the top 100 rated tools for each year since 2007. Her analysis includes voting from over 500 learning professionals (from education and workplace learning) from 48 countries. The top three votes came from USA, UK and Germany and top voters included university teachers, elearning developers and workplace learning consultants.

And what is the implication of this website? I believe understanding where the trends lie can provide a valuable blueprint in strategic technology planning within the teaching and learning domains. As educators it presents opportunities and equips us with tools that deepen the learning experience and expand the collaborative learning community. I also believe staying current of the same trends can provide a path for what the future may hold; as technology and web browsers continue to evolve, the learning must also evolve. Consider the social and collaborative spaces and the impact they have had on the ways in which we communicate, collaborate and share. As the internet continues to expand so will opportunities to foster creativity and expand the way we think and learn; I for one will continue to visit this website frequently and trial many of the tools, looking for ways to integrate and share them within my own teaching and learning practice.

I’ve also included a youtube video of Jane Hart describing 12 steps she believes are critical to creating and sustaining social learning in the workplace.  It is a long video however even the first five minutes offer a glimpse into understanding the value that social learning can bring to work and how her reference websites, blogs and own use of social media can help change learning in the workplace.

How do we Break the Rules?!

I struggled with what was ailing me this week and then the light bulb went on! As the light grew brighter I realized the issue had been growing over the past few months and in many ways, driving me nuts!  And what is the topic you might ask?  Our new learning management system aka the LMS!

Let me give you some history on this which will provide insights and hopefully perspective on what troubles me. All the home care programs in Ontario sit under the umbrella of a provincial body; although not a governing body their program and services drive our technology systems and other events. Although we can choose how to use their products and processes at local levels they do provide structure at a higher level.

Approximately four years ago, local organizations were provided access to a free LMS; free as it came with the vendor agreement. But imagine what a free LMS might look like? I was the administrator and truthfully had little knowledge of how to implement in an organization that had limited experiences with online learning nor did ‘I’ have any experience – told to ‘just do it’. Were we ready? Did we have the right supports & infrastructure in place? But let’s go back to my question of a free LMS first. Although benefits included access 24/7, pre existing learning courses (no we weren’t asked for input) were poorly structured, sometimes didn’t work and the reporting was nonexistent. As I learned much later from our IT department; it really wasn’t a LMS…more of a framework or shell for housing our elearning.

Jump ahead in time now; turns out all the local organizations were feeling the drive and necessity to leverage for flexibility, opportunities and all the other reasons we have noted past few weeks. Fortunately the vendor LMS had a time limit & it ran out. Enter next….an RFP process (request for proposal) & I was thrilled to be a part of the evaluation group. So what was different this time?  Local levels went through a needs assessment, educators were engaged & a product was selected.  But…and here comes my but…although courses are more interactive, tailored to needs and reporting exists; there have been multiple challenges implementing.  Although the vendor promised wonderful things with their learning solution, issues have appeared related to multiple different sites accessing the software as well as firewall challenges from a security stand point.  All in all, this has created excessive workload for those who are administrators and ongoing frustration.

Naturally I was intrigued by Josh Klein’s talk on TedxTalks when he commented that “work is broken” and sometimes our “tools aren’t very good”.  I was quickly reminded that although our new LMS is much better it does continue with bugs which create excessive unnecessary workload for learners and administrators alike.  Klein further offered that organizations will often tote ‘access’ in the workplace as the number one priority however ‘price’ always sneaks back in and there is no question, our LMS was less costly than other systems.  His final thoughts that we must “examine systems and continue breaking rules to make things better” certainly causes me to pause and consider; technology in the workplace can be wonderful enablers of learning however without the right infrastructures, supports and efficiencies in place, it instead becomes a hindrance and blocks the learning process.  I believe as educators we must be tasked to offer stewardship of learning technology in workplaces and work closely with stakeholders to look for alternate ways to ‘break the rules’ when the technology is broken. What are the solutions available but more importantly, how to we use them to enhance our learning rather than becoming dependent on the technology itself.