Posted by: MandyS | December 13, 2011

Activity 33.1 – other emerging technology

I have essentially chosen these three emerging technologies as a result of reading an article about their accessibility for low vision users. They are technologies I have heard about but thought I would also investigate further their benefits from a learning point of view.

1. Cloud computing – ‘File storage and management has become a potentially limiting factor for new emerging technologies’. Cloud computing is an attempt to ‘fill that gap’ by providing ‘storage of, and access to, digital assets through an Internet-based network so that a user can share, retrieve, and adjust his or her data regardless of location or hardware’. From an educational point of view, the Cloud provides flexibility so that students can produce material using several different platforms yet be able to access it from one point and at a time convenient to them e.g. in the coffee shop, on the train, etc. Students can collaborate on shared files, in ‘real-time’ both with their cohort and their tutors. However, Schroeder (2011) indicates that there are ‘extensive access problems’ for disabled users together with security and ownership issues for all users. What I have discovered though is that the Cloud may in fact become a lifeline for disabled users. LucyTech are utilising the Cloud to provide a ‘platform which will implement a screen reader, screen magnifier, voice commands, tracking system based on Webcam, text-to-speech, virtual keyboard, and many other commonly used tools. The LucyTech platform will require a user to create a cloud-stored profile indicating their assistive tool needs. At that point, the user will be able log on to any computer and access their stored profile that will utilize their tools of choice. In addition, the LucyTech Cloud will make available commonly used software applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Agenda, e-Mail, Audio & Video calls, Instant Messaging, Multimedia and Entertainment, direct access to Social networks, and much more—all free to the user.’ (Murakami, 2011). The platform was due for release in October.

2.Tablet Computing – in educational terms the advantage of e.g. iPADS is the fact that students can do away with vast quantities of files and paper. They are portable and can be used to input and access information easily. One educationalist has even been testing out whether the iPAD can be used as a Whiteboard (Walsh, 2011). However, for disabled users their complexity and lack of tactile controls raise issues of accessibility, together with the extent to which access will be assured; iPAD having already been replaced with iPAD2.

3. Apps – these are essentially software programs available on tablet and mobile devices generally having a tightly targeted purpose e.g. flashlight, spirit level, dictionary etc. There are thousands of apps available and their advantages for education are potentially immense e.g. revision sites. However, there are issues with accessibility for disabled users not least because apps can be developed by anyone including those who have little or no knowledge of accessibility issues meaning that ‘accessibility for every app is not assured’ (Schroeder, 2011). Other known issues are ‘unlabeled buttons and interference with VoiceOver speech’ (Schroeder, 2011).

These are only a few of the new emerging technologies I came across a couple of sites which detail many others, although their impact on accessibility is not assessed in them:

10 Internet Technologies Educators Should Be Informed About – 2011 Update | Emerging Education Technology

7 Things You Should Know About… | EDUCAUSE

Murakami, C (2011) Reach for the Cloud: Accessibility Everywhere EdTech Digest [online] (accessed 13 December 2011)
Schroeder, P W (2011) Responding to Shifts in Technology: Accessibility in a Changing Environment – AccessWorld® [online] (accessed 13 December 2011)
Walsh, K (2011) Using The iPad As A Digital Whiteboard (Plus 4 Cool Free Apps To Try It Out) Emerging EdTech [online] (accessed 13 December 2011)

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