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Inclusive Teaching through Technology

Date posted: 09/01/2009

Raising Awareness of Good Practice in Inclusive Teaching through Technology: Highlights of the JISC TechDis HEAT scheme projects 2007-08

Dr Simon Ball, Senior Advisor, JISC TechDis Service simon@techdis.ac.uk

Introduction to the HEAT scheme
The JISC TechDis service supports the education sector in achieving greater accessibility and inclusion by stimulating innovation and providing expert advice and guidance on disability and technology. The HEAT scheme, funded in 2007-08 jointly by the Higher Education Academy and the JISC TechDis service, is designed to provide staff with the technology they need to be able to try new ways of teaching, new adjustments, new methods and media, that will move the sector forward in terms of a more inclusive mainstream teaching and learning experience.

‘Accessibility Education’ Projects

A number of HEAT projects can best be described as being oriented towards ‘accessibility education’ in that they focus on sharing best practice among staff and students.

Raising accessibility awareness among students
Lucy Renton, Bernadette Blair and David Lawrence at Kingston University were supplied with a variety of technology with which to develop online resources designed to support training on methods and equipment in the 3D workshop, and to provide loan equipment for students enabling them to record work, field trips and other learning events. They employed a developer to create a website to house the supporting materials they created with the equipment provided, and plan to begin a programme of development for BSL resources to support Deaf students, which will also be uploaded to the website. In addition students borrowed a range of equipment for, among other things, recording lectures rather than taking written notes, photographing signs at an exhibition where note taking was not an option and using a video and stills camera to help a student find his way around campus and field trips, as they are unable to use street signs. All felt the equipment to be easy to use and beneficial.

Creating a best practice exhibition toolkit
In a very different medium, Jos Boys of the Faculty of Art and Architecture at the University of Brighton aimed to develop an accessible way of presenting a collaborative Arts Council funded project with deaf and disabled artists (Making Discursive Spaces). Three A1 picture frames and three digital photo frames capable of giving audio output were provided, with the intention of enabling a high quality multimodal exhibition that was also accessible, to use as a building block for an assistive technologies exhibition kit to educate interior design and architecture staff and students on accessible presentation of building designs. It was found that while some students engaged with the proposed activity quickly, others simply did not have sufficient presentation technique in their first year to also engage with accessibility as a separate topic, although accessibility principles were embedded throughout the course anyway. Some students also relied on technologies they were familiar with, meaning their outputs were not necessarily compatible with the technologies chosen for this project. The art of simplifying text on both screen and paper for the appropriate outputs was effective in bringing out key poetic and explanatory phrases and in introducing the broader notion of how content and form are inter-related. The presentation work also showed an increasing grasp on working in a variety of media simultaneously, and in beginning to explore the different impacts of sequencing information across the space of an A1 sheet, and through time via the digital screen.

Future Work
In order to build on the success of this scheme, a third tranche of HEAT funding has been secured from JISC’s Capital Programme with additional support from the Higher Education Academy. 132 bids were received following announcement of the scheme, and 35 projects have been funded and will report in May 2009. These cover such exciting topics as assessing the usability of the new ultra-mobile PCs, and creating an interactive multimedia mobile classroom, using technology to support deaf students in becoming mentors, and using display equipment innovatively to make microscope-based learning more accessible, amongst many others.

JISC TechDis would like to thank all of the project teams for their efforts in furthering the cause of inclusive teaching and learning in UK higher education. Thanks also to everyone from the Higher Education Academy and its Subject Network who were involved in reviewing and receiving bids, monitoring projects and providing ad hoc advice to both project teams and JISC TechDis during the operation of the second round of the HEAT scheme.

Round 2 of the HEAT scheme was generously funded by the Higher Education Academy and the JISC TechDis Service.

All of the Round 1 and 2 HEAT project reports can be found on the JISC TechDis website at www.techdis.ac.uk/getheatscheme, where details of the 35 projects funded in 2008-09 are also available.