NY Commission for the Blind College-Bound Day, 2018

I’d like to thank the NY Commission for the Blind for inviting me to once again speak at their College-Bound Day at the SUNY Manhattan Educational Opportunity Center. The attendees, who braved sub-zero temperatures, were rewarded with a great deal of important information regarding college sponsorship, community and school supports, financial aid information, scholarships, and college life. I’d especially like to thank everyone (you know who you are) who enthusiastically joined Echoes Instructional Design’s simulated game show,  “Campus Feud”, where we identified the top issues college students face, the latest technology trends, and the top tips for success. Good luck at school College-Bound students and keep in touch!

Get It Done!

Have you ever had items on your to-do list for more than a few days? a few weeks? Why is it so difficult to Get Them Done? I’m guessing this is why:

  • I don’t know where to start.
  • I’m not confident about how to do it well (and I don’t want to ask).
  • It’s easy, I’ll get to it later.
  • It’s so boring!
Well, then you’re just like most of us. We put the Pro in procrastination.
So how do you put the Pro in productive? Take a look at Forbes’ article How to Make Yourself Work When You Don’t Want To” by Travis Bradberry.
For inspiration, take a look at some women who get things done and keep going in  “Forbes: Americas Richest Self-Made Women”.  That’s the list I want to focus on!

Q: By law, which learning materials need to be accessible to people with disabilities?

A: All of them.

In 2009, a group of institutions including Arizona State University lost a lawsuit because the universities had selected an e-reader for their textbooks that was (at that time) inaccessible by screen reading software (commonly used by blind and print-disabled individuals). As a result, the technology vendor updated their product, which is now accessible.

Since then, numerous cases have been argued and won against large and small universities (e.g., Louisana Tech, Penn State, U. California, Berkely, U. Montana)  in the favor of legalized accessibility.  All of these cases have involved either the institution’s technological infrastructure, actual course content, or physical environment.

Now, even the MOOCS are under scrutiny. MOOCS (massive, open, online, courses) typically are provided for free, have thousands of students, are open to anyone willing to register, and are non credit-bearing. Harvard and MIT are known for their high quality MOOCS, which are often podcast or video-lecture based. Advocates for the deaf are suing for closed captioning of these materials.

The moral of the story: consider inclusive design a necessary, cost-effective, and strategic part of developing tools and content for online learning.



CUNY Disability Conference

Congratulations and thanks to Carlos Herrera of Queensborough Community College and the many professionals across CUNY campuses who hosted the 7th Annual CUNY Disability Conference at John Jay College. This year’s theme was Accessibility as a Tool for Social Justice. CUNY’s attention to Universal Design principles and inclusive learning environments, both physical and virtual, is impressive. CUNY’s faculty development efforts not only address inclusion in the classroom setting, but will also influence future innovators by bringing accessibility and UDL principles to students at the forefront of technological and environmental design.

Designing and Teaching Courses for All Learners

Fellow Instructional Designers, Educators, and Trainers,

I have to pass along information about an exceptional, free, online course hosted by SUNY Buffalo and SUNY Empire State colleges. I’ve just earned the final badge for the Accessibility: Designing and Teaching Courses for All Learners MOOC (Massive, Open, Online, Course). This course is an excellent professional development opportunity for anyone interested in designing, developing, or teaching courses to a diverse audience. It provides theory, methods and techniques, as well as opportunities to apply these strategies to your work. As an Instructional Designer, I found the information invaluable and I applaud the program’s attention to inclusion and accessibility.

Many thanks to Kathleen Stone, EdD and her team for an excellent program.

Facebook and College GPAs

Attention student, you have a new FB notification! If you MUST check in, chances are you MUST be an underclassman.

“Reynol Junco, an associate professor of education at Iowa State University, collected data from about 1,800 students at a four-year college. He found that students who spent a lot of time on Facebook while also trying to complete assignments tended to get worse grades

The correlation, however, held true only for freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. Seniors tended to use Facebook less in general. For them, time spent on the site did not correlate negatively with GPA.”

(“Facebook Addiction and GPA”. Steve Kolowich, Wired Campus, The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 21, 2015.)

Are seniors better at FB restraint, or are underclassmen simply more concerned with establishing their new social connections?

Either way, the message to freshmen is reducing your FB time may improve your grades!

Who Said That?

Many working women will argue that their contributions to business discussions during meetings are less well-received than their male counterparts. Now research is backing that up. From the Senate floor, to Hollywood, to the healthcare industry, researchers have found that women are more frequently interrupted when they speak during meetings, and are viewed negatively for suggesting operational changes. Much of this occurs in very subtle, almost unnoticeable ways, yet it is pervasive.  The impact of this is significant. It  discounts potentially good ideas, alienates a large percentage of the workforce, and significantly limits leadership opportunities for women.

Teaching women and girls to speak up is only half the solution. We need to teach groups to listen appropriately. From classrooms to boardrooms, there are strategies to be sure everyone gets heard.

Obviously, businesses need to find ways to interrupt this gender bias. Just as orchestras that use blind auditions increase the number of women who are selected, organizations can increase women’s contributions by adopting practices that focus less on the speaker and more on the idea. For example, in innovation tournaments, employees submit suggestions and solutions to problems anonymously. Experts evaluate the proposals, give feedback to all participants and then implement the best plans.  (“Speaking While Female”, Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. The New York Times, Jan. 12, 2015.)

Congratulations to the graduates of the 2015 CBVH Pre-College Program!

The English professors and Technology instructors of Echoes Instructional Design, Inc. enjoyed hosting virtual classes for students at both Lemoyne and Manhattanville Colleges in New York State as part of the NYS Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped’s 2015 Pre-College Program.  Students experienced a complete college-immersion experience including dorm-living, classes, campus activities, and off-campus trips.

Our staff enjoyed getting to know the students in the online learning environment, using the latest conferencing and course management technologies. For many students, this was their first exposure to online learning. We are proud that with proper training and support, these students not only adjusted, but flourished. Many students demonstrated significant growth in their writing skills and in their proficiency with technology.  As colleges and universities continue shifting toward online and hybrid courses, we will continue to help our students develop these critical new learning skills.

We look forward to having these Pre-College Program alumni back next year to share tips and stories with the next generation of students!

BlendKit 2015, Week 2

After reviewing the material for week 2,  I’m intrigued about the opportunity to deepen the learner’s experience. I’m interested in the concept of the carefully planned course which covers the bases while facilitating content exploration and self-directed learning. I think this is a powerful way to improve engagement and retention. I struggle with the challenge of empowering students who seek step by step direction and, having (perhaps) completed the final task, exit without further thought. I’m searching for techniques to transfer from this instructor-directed approach to a learner-centric, self-motivating experience.

One approach has already emerged. Just as the best conversationalist is the person who asks the most questions, “Intrinsic Motivation: Interaction as Human Need” (chapter 2) makes it very clear, self expression (in this case techno-expression) is a precursor to student engagement. A blend of the Atelier Model and The Concierge Learning Model would do well to meet this objective, where guided inquiry/expression/production is paired with additional resources for consideration.

I look forward to taking away additional tangible strategies and tools from this program, as well as working with faculty and fellow learners.