I had a great opportunity to get introduced to yet another variable of Universal Design For Learning (UDL) at the ETAD Studio conference hosted in Muenster, Saskatchewan. The yearly ETAD Studio event represents a three day conference where educators, instructional design, innovation and technology specialists meet to share current experiences and practices. One of the 2015 ETAD event speakers was Professor Valerie Irvine from the University of Victoria. Valerie specializes in the area of Educational Technologies that can be used to enhance and or assist instructors and learners to break down the traditional barriers of course and educational delivery.
Valerie presented on the topic of Multi-Acessing Learning. One of the key concepts discussed was should the instructor’s or institutions preferences for program delivery over ride a learners modality preferences or accessibility capabilities? Do modality biases exist or are they created by an instructor or program’s lack of flexibility to provide a variety of mediums to deliver instruction. Do these modality biases also influence or determine the variety of mediums a participants can access to express their understanding of a given concept? In a day and time when technology is used to break down barriers and personalized learning environments for students there are still numerous traditional institutional and program barriers preventing “Open Access’ to educational
opportunities. Valerie elaborated on how physical infrastructure of educational institutions are being design to accommodate physical disabilities but what about distance, cognitive or psychological disadvantages? A number of possible post graduate or doctoral students who would like to continue their education are limited or restricted by the entrance requirements, program delivery costs, program delivery models and schedules which conflict with their current careers and life experiences. Should the programming adapt to the leaner or the learner to the program? Have these traditional educational barriers developed over time as a means to ensure each program has the best program participants or just as a means to restrict the number of participants in any given program. Considering some of the latest statistics around the number of people with university degrees living in poverty; post secondary institutions may need to reinvent the program entrance, accessibility and modality preferences based on the learner requirements instead of the other way around. The workforce and employment opportunities are now based on a global economy which has resulted in a career becoming an obsolete term. Life long learning and continuous improvement is no longer an option. Students graduating today will have anywhere from 15 – 25 different employment opportunities throughout their life time working experience. Educational institutions need to provide flexible access for potential students who are continually looking to re-invent themselves in order to develop the necessary skills for a different job.
Considering Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal, latest project, post secondary institutions need to redesign and think differently in regards to attracting potential students to potential programs. The project will pay 24 college-aged students $100,000 to not attend college for two years. Instead, the students will spend their time developing business ideas in areas such as biotechnology, education and energy.
Of the 400 entrepreneurial-minded applicants, the 24 winners, who are all 20-years-old or younger, will work — where else? — in Silicon Valley with a network of more than 100 mentors who will help develop their ideas. The fellowship program, which plucked students from institutions such as Harvard, Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been quite controversial as Thiel openly admits he is hoping the winners will learn more in those two years working than they would have by being in school.
In this age where there are a variety of enterprise and free video conferencing solutions; educational institutions can be faced with providing a reliable video conferencing platform to ensure consistent program delivery. This can result in standardizing on free solutions like FaceTime, Google+ Hangouts and or Skype technologies. The challenge with this approach is there are various pros and cons to each technology so standardizing on a single free video conferencing platform can limit the instructional and participant user experience. The use of free or open source video conference solutions are also greatly dependent the end user technical skills, Internet bandwidth capabilities of each participant and especially the bandwidth of the meeting initiator or instructor of the video conference. As a result free, open source or OS specific video conferencing solutions can provide a great cost effective one to one video solution but very few of these solutions can provide a one to many solution to ensure a reliable standardized user experiences for all OS and mobile platforms. More often than not, educators tend to explore solutions that they can control and implement. Less IT support, ease of use, OS platforms and over all cost can be very important factors that can shape video conferencing delivery models. From another perspective, enterprise solutions like Polycom, Cisco TelePresence, Blackboard, Webex, GoToMeeting, Adobe Connect and Microsoft Lync can provide reliable user experiences when it comes to video and program delivery capabilities. The challenge with this approach are the ongoing license fees, IT support and user platform integration required to allow a diverse participants community to connect in a unified meeting space. Regardless of the free or enterprise approach, instructional design and program evaluation are very important in determining the best approach for meeting or online program delivery using a video conferencing solution.
Hence the market place for enterprise video bridge cloud solutions that allow a variety of free and paid video conferencing solutions to connect and engage in a common user interface regardless of the software communication protocols, video conferencing codecs and proprietary hardware being used in the conference session. This provides a means for educational or business institutions to host online video sessions with very little IT support for hardware, software and bandwidth shaping. Less is more. These services do come at a cost but depending on the need and technical capabilities of the institution, the evolving cloud solutions may provide an opportunity to host video conferencing sessions otherwise not possible. There are a number of solutions evolving but two solid solutions are:
1. Blue Jeans
I would definitely promote the integration of this type of video conferencing cloud bridging technology when institutions lack the technical expertise to maintain the necessary hardware,software and network traffic monitoring required to provide consistent video conferencing services. Everything comes at a cost and educational institutions or businesses will need to decide where to spend their money in order to provide this type of meeting or program delivery service. Program delivery and meeting productivity will improve as participants become less focused on using the technology regardless of their location, OS platform and bandwidth limitations. When companies like Facebook are implementing these types of video conferencing bridging technologies, I would think this would provide a viable proof of concept for such technology.
The Hound Project is pushing the limits on voice recognition. Assistive Technology at another level.
The California-based SoundHound product releases a demo on YouTube. If this is any idea what speech recognition will look like in the future. The future looks bright. I can not image how this will impact educational applications. The world of education and research will change if you know how to ask the question.
Sign up for a beta test at the website.
Special thanks to Richard Schwier from the ETAD Master Program at the University of Saskatchewan.
The publication includes a number of ETAD Master program essays covering various topics around educational technology.
How long will it be before this becomes a consumer norm? This would be a great tool for creating VR Tours of school buildings and campuses. Looking forward to seeing what becomes of this project.
Google wants YOU to test their Jump virtual reality video capture platform. Or, well, some of you. Maybe like two, given how I imagine the percentages will work on this. The company is opening up invitations to anyone interested in trying it out, with a form where you can specify what you’d like to do with it, and provide a little bit about your background.
Google says it will be providing “select creators” a chance to use the Jump rig (a multi-camera array developed in conjunction with GoPro) beginning this summer. The two-page form simply asks for some basic biographical information, as well as an explanation of what it is exactly you’d like to do with your Jump rig. Let’s call that the essay portion of the quiz.
In order to actually get hardware, the key here is probably the essay portion. Google even says that “awesome” answers will be…
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