Posted by: MandyS | November 15, 2011

Activity 23.1 – reflection

I think the one thing I have learned so far on the course is, the simpler it is, the more accessible it is likely to be. I originally decided to construct a powerpoint but was attracted by the interactive qualities of Xerte. I started a googlesites website last year but never really got any further with it. Ultimately, I thought it would be a good idea to combine the two. As it is said, ‘no pain, no gain’!

  • Why did you choose the particular topic?

W201 is the first course in the law programme when students get to study a particular ‘law’ in depth. As such, it is a significant leap up from how and what they have previously studied. The first topic is Public Law which students either love or hate; the latter being more the norm. The first activity sets the scene for Public Law but students often fail to see its significance and as a result, struggle later on with the principles of the subject. I therefore decide to have a go at making the activity more engaging.

  • Why did you include particular elements?

Public law is often regarded as a somewhat dry subject; the case law is not as interesting as the bizarre things that can happen in crime. To bring it to life and show how it can be relevant to everyday situations, I decided on replacing the second case study with an Xtranormal video conversation; students are more likely to watch the video than just read the facts. I then decided that some interacitivity would help the students make connections between their own values and the fundamental ones of public law and Xerte appeared to be the ideal tool for this. The audio was simply to give students an alternative to reading the text and a bit of variety. The remaining elements were those that I was required to include in creating the resource.

  • What guidelines did you refer to when creating the resource?

I think the first thing I was mindful about was making it accessible for dyslexic students i.e. the layout, the colour, the fonts. Thereafter, my concern was whether it could be read by a screen reader, whether it could be navigated easily and whether I had provided alternative formats for deaf students.

In doing so, I mainly used the guidelines from Webaim but I also looked at the Dyslexia Style Guide.

  • What areas were particularly difficult and why do you think this to be the case?

The video was relatively straightforward as I used Xtranormal on my course last year. The only difficulty I had was adding the subtitles but this was largely because I had not done this before. This was more time-consuming than anything. I initially used the ‘automatic’ facility but its interpretation of the ‘script’ left a lot to be desired. I was then left to myself, which was a sharp learning curve, as I have never added subtitles to anything before. I took the lead from the ‘automatic’ version which I discovered was in ‘Wordpad’ form. After a few failed attempts at uploading my own, I decided to adapt ‘theirs’. At last it was recognised, but the next problem was getting the script to sync with the ‘actors’. I used the timings I had created for my powerpoint version (another story altogether!) and eventually, the speech and the text worked in unison. The next problem was that the embedded version in Xerte did not have the subtitles included, so I had to provide a link to YouTube instead. The subtitles are not perfect as they appear on the screen over the characters, but I notice that a fellow student has managed to get hers separately beneath the screen; I will have to look into that.

I used Audacity for the audio, which I have used before. Once I worked out that my headphones had to be plugged into the back of the computer and not the front (which I use for Elluminate), I had no problems producing it, only embedding it into the website. Goolgesites is useless in the ‘help’ department but there is a very knowledgeable chap known as Mori 79 who can provide most of the answers. I followed his instructions for embedding audio and low and behold my site has audio!

I wish I could say the same about Xerte. What a nightmare this has been; not using it, I hasten to add, just getting others to be able to view it. Although I initially downloaded the software version, I found I hadn’t the time to work through how to use it. Instead, I decided to have a go at the ‘Online Toolkit’ version. Very easy and, with a little help from the JISC TechDisc Tutorials,  I had created an interactive learning resource in no time. At last, Xerte appears to be well and truly embedded and viewable; but not for long as I am having to use the ‘sandpit’ server.

The table also proved a bit problematical, mainly because the activity did not really lend itself to a table. I inserted a table via googlesites but I am not altogether sure about its accessibility.

  • Do you think the act of making an accessible resource affected the way that the learning outcomes were addressed?

The learning outcomes were at the forefront of my mind throughout and in some ways having to make it accessible gave me more scope for making the original activity more interactive e.g. providing video and audio as alternative formats.

  • How many of the decisions you made about the resource were influenced by technical considerations?

In some respects, I made life harder for myself by chosing to use technology which is new to me. My resource started out life as a powerpoint but as I had a bit of time on my hands, I decided to be a little more adventurous. Having said that, I doubt the powerpoint would have been any more straight forward. At the end of the day, I knew what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it; the doing was exascerbated only by my only shortcomings in relation to technonology, but what better way to learn.

  • How many of your decisions were influenced by pedagogical or other considerations?

My sole aim was to bring the original activity ‘to life’ so, to that end, pedagogical considerations were at the top of the list. Hopefully, the resource is centered around the learning experience and the ‘gadgets’ enhance that rather than detract from it.

I am pleased with the ultimate result but having seen the others, there are a few things I would like to change e.g. navigation, appearance, layout. Time for a play methinks….

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