Accessibility: Simple Things

In one of my courses, I stress accessibility with my students concerning school library web sites. Since they build mock sites, one of the things they must do before building their sites is to refresh their knowledge on accessibility issues. Some of the sources that we use are:

In addition, as they build their sites using a site builder, such as Google Sites, Weebly, or Webs.com, they should take advantage of the tools that are offered to them. Alternative text and annotations for links and images is one such help. Another is to use the built in headers and formatting features.

Alternative Text:

Each builder offers a similar way to include alternative text with images. When adding or inserting an image, pay attention to the information requested. Many times you will find place holders or areas to enter in text that are called “captions” or “alt text.” When you include text that describes the images in these place holders, you will notice, after saving, that text will appear when you scroll over or hover over the image. Including alternative text is a simple way of making your school library web site more accessible to diverse populations.

Shift Happens…Again

Note to self: I have been waiting for this time to come along. It has been a dry dessert in which I have wandered as I waited about while I searched for the way that technology would finally set a clearer path ahead of me.

It was all good to learn new tools and promote them. It was all good to read research on populations and their use of technology. What has made the shift for me is understanding disruptive innovation theory. This understanding comes thanks to reading Disrupting Class.

The push-me, pull-you circus that has been orchestrated around integrating technology has not revolutionized education for PK-12 students, or even higher ed students for that matter, in many places around where I go. This does not mean that we are not doing great things! What I am talking about here is that the use of technology in schools has not been like the introduction of the iPod compared to the use of a Sony Walkman, or take it back even further, a transistor radio.

In schools we try to utilize technology, but boundaries are encountered. It is how we get around these boundaries that will revolutionize learning for our students. Innovation is key and most likely will not take place in the current educational design that we institute.

And the most interesting thing that I am discovering about this theory is that the costs will be less if we stop cramming the new into the old. Something to think about.

A Juggling Act with Distance Learning

As I move forward to increasing the number of courses that I teach through distance learning, I am finding that there are more considerations to take into account. The one I confronted today was time.  For instance, scheduling becomes a nightmare when you want to meet everyone one-on-one to answer their questions and give that personal touch.

When do you meet? There is no set schedule. All class members are running on different schedules and have signed up for the course knowing that it is online without set times for physical meetings. And if you, as an instructor, desire to add that personal touch or bring students into the online environment for participating through social connections in online meetings or office hours, you must decide how to best schedule the time so as to meet everyone’s needs without creating obstacles or additional stress for the students.

In addition, once you schedule times to meet, you must make sure that you do not leave anyone out or that they do not escape you (or dodge you). Plus, when you have large numbers of students, figuring out how to meet all of them individually may be a scheduling nightmare! Just how many time slots do you have in a day? It is quite interesting to lay this out and realize that time is very valuable and limited, indeed!

The juggling act that occurs with distance learning is setting time to meet with students and not duplicating those same time frames across classes. It may not always be as easy as sitting in your office and leaving your door open for students to drop by during scheduled office hours. Ugh!

School Library Web Sites

It’s that time again: Reviewing school library web sites.

Are school library web sites changing to meet the needs of their users? Over time, I have observed more interactive sites that are attractive. The process of change has been slow, yet steady.

Many of the cute clip art decorations have disappeared. Replacing it are actual photos of users in action within the local facilities of the school library.

Designated areas for research links, reference databases, school-related information, suggested reading, the online catalog, professional development or links for teachers, and miscellaneous are now regular features.

The virtual school library is coming alive. Students and parents have the opportunity to access school resources from outside the school walls to continue the learning experience.

What will be interesting is to watch for what is to come for school library web site content.

Acceptable Use Policies

Having a good Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) for Internet Use and enforcing it regularly are important for your school. In fact, according to Fitzer and Peterson (2002) http://www.ed.uiuc.edu/wp/crime-2002/aup.htm you can have an AUP, enforce it, and not need a filter if you are using software that activates when violations occur to notify of the offense. (I would like to see this software in action!)

In a previous post, I expresses concern over privacy, authentication and access for library systems. For an AUP to work, the network must be able to identify who has access to the Internet. Should this extend to the library’s OPAC?

Data trails and clickstreams may be captured and saved for violators using the software that activates when the violation occurs. All other data trails and clickstreams would not need to be collected and saved.

What about the “ones that get away and don’t get caught?” That is where responsibility and diligence come in. The school community should not be ignorant of what is going on in their libraries or on their computers. The link provided above to Fitzer and Peterson’s article provides some excellent ideas to help the school community prepare, prevent, and handle violations of the AUP.

Common Themes of 2.0

I am attending the Internet@Schools West Conference and Internet Librarian 2008 Conference (Information Today) where the keynote speakers and the workshop presenters are sharing themes. These themes are crossing the boundaries of business and education. They are re-shaping the global society. Take a look at the following list to make a thoughtful decision for yourself if you are uncertain:

  • Blogs have the ability to be searched and mined for vital information, such as to provide answers and solutions
  • The “wisdom of crowds” has presence even if it is not always the correct strategy at the moment
  • The knowledge view is on “social;” i.e., knowledge sharing, where people participate, experts are located, ideas are debated and innovation is key.
  • We need less control over content in the way that content is defined or expressed so that the effort may be collaborative using 2.0, free shareware, that can be placed in a password, protected environment.
  • We should step back and ask, “How can I reach you?” and begin to reach out.
  • Have more forums for participation rather than complaint boxes.
  • Know that there are less people who are experienced in social networking and expect mistakes and to learn from them.

These themes are not new. They are becoming more of a lived reality that can become easily accessible if we allow and encourage them now. If we do not, someone else will. This is what i am hearing. Is this what you see?

Vlogs

This particular vlog by Howard Rheingold http://vlog.rheingold.com/ contains an entry on vernacular that really set the pace for why I will want to add professional vlogs to my “reading” list. With time limited as to how much I can actually spend on professional development, I must select carefully the materials that I am willing to devote my energies to for growth. Even though I am considering this vlog as part of my growth plan, I must not give up print. I have found that print materials, especially scholarly journals, add a richness and thickness to my personal development that other types of materials do not.

What our future holds?

On TED, Kevin Kelly talks about the next 5,000 days of the Internet. He provides some interesting food for thought about how our lives will revolve around one machine. Breaking down how this machine compares to the human brain as far as power and functioning, Kelly’s sci fi predictions appear to be just around the corner. Take a look and listen for yourself:

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/kevin_kelly_on_the_next_5_000_days_of_the_web.html

Happy viewing!