Yesterday was a ‘first time day’ as I attend my first accessibility conference. The International Conference on Using New Technologies for Inclusive Learning Conference was held at Glasgow Caladonian University and had been organised as part of ENABLE project.
After the keynote the conference was split into 2 halves with themed sessions running in parallel with each other. This is a little bug bear of mine as it meant that I had to miss out on quite a few of the interesting sounding presentations as I was confined to one room for two hours at a time. I much prefer it when there’s the opportunity to move rooms in between presentations. Despite this it turned out to be a really good day and no that wasn’t because of the beautiful Cath Kidston bag and dress that I purchased on the way home.
During the day the two presentations that stood out to me where delivered by @AbiJames and @FilMcIntyre.
How do we increase accessibility?
Fil presented on the accessibility of tablet devices and it was interesting to here that some providers, such as Acer, often decide to stop supporting a certain type of device which blocks software updates and therefore the user can be stuck with archaic accessibility options. Overall it was agreed that although providers are making an effort to develop accessibility features such as speech to text and contrast settings there still is a long way to go. As someone who suffers from colour sensitivity and prefers to read text against a dark green background I would love to see a colour filter introduced to tablets as it would make reading from the device so much easier.
Fil works for BRITE (Beattie Resources for Inclusiveness in Technology and Education) and there is a small selection of resources over on their company’s website.
Could Azzapt be a magic wand for accessible resources?
After Fil, Abbie demonstrated the document personalisation tool Azzapt. Azzapt is a cloud based solution that reformat documents into yours/your students preferred accessibility format. Simply upload the document to the site and after a few seconds you will be able to access the document in your preferred format – for myself this is on a dark green background, with the text presented in Ariel point 12. As well as changing the print appearance this tool can also be used to turn documents into mp3s.
Azzapt syncs with Dropbox so tutors can create a shared folder for their class, then the students can download the information in their preferred format from Azzapt. This could significantly reduce prep time for tutors compared to reformatting the documents themselves.
Yesterday at #rscinspire13 Chris Barber introduced his audience to the AudioNote app which I immediately downloaded and am really excited about trying. The software seems to be exactly what I’ve been missing – an application that can cope with audio and visual note talking whilst cross referencing and sychronising both at the same time.
Here is the official description from the app store:
By synchronizing notes and audio, AudioNote automatically indexes your meetings, lectures, interviews, or study sessions. Need to review the discussion about deliverables on your next project? Trying to remember what the professor had to say about a key point? With AudioNote there is no need to waste time searching through the entire recording to find out. Each note acts as a link directly to the point at which it was recorded, taking you instantly to what you want to hear. Didn’t take any notes during the meeting? No problem, you can add them later.
The reason I’m so excited about this app is because as a student I’ve been using Audio Notetaker for the last few years and have found it to be a life saver. As a dyslexic my short term memory is almost non-existent and I really struggle to take written notes whilst listening at the same time which results in a lot of information being lost. The Audio Notetaker software has helped considerably this with as I can create audio and typed notes at the same time whilst cross referencing these with each other and the lecture slides. I can also highlight important areas of the audio notes for example when a tutor is talking about an assignment brief so the information is easy to find when being referred to later. Although the AudioNote app has a lot less features than the Audio Noter which is a pc based lsoftware the app looks like it will be perfect for work purposes as I don’t need the additional features on a regular basis and I do prefer to carry my iPad rather than my laptop.
The features that I particularly like about the app are:
- The synchronisation of the audio and visual notes
- The ability to create bookmarks throughout the audio recording to highlight important points for easy referencing
- A yellow background can be used instead of white – I suffer from colour sensitivity which makes white backgrounds too bright for my eyes
I tested the app during a staff meeting and it lived up to my high expectations! The app was really easy to use and I now have a comprehensive set of notes that are easy to navigate. When I click on the typed notes the audio that was being recorded at that time starts to play so I don’t have to waste time manually searching. i’m really impressed.
Although I haven’t tested out all of the apps myself they are all highly recommended by my A Level students. Hopefully your students will find these useful too, especially during this stressful exam period.
Click on the picture to see a larger, clearer image.
How some of these apps are used.
Polly who is studying for her AS’s, has recommended Penultimate, Evernote Peek and Show Me. Polly uses Penultimate to create hand written notes before importing these in to Evernote Peek to create a series of flashcards that work by slowly removing the iPad Smart Cover. Alongside this Polly uses Show Me to create interactive presentations to consolidate her learning and create a reference point for revision.
Matt who is about to finish his A2s likes to use the note taking app Noteabiliy. He uses it to type, handwrite and draw notes. He’s especially likes it due to the audio record feature which he uses to record his one-to-ones so that he can re-listen to information in his own time whilst adding more detail to his notes.
As a learning technologist technology plays a large part in my life therefore it’s no surprise that I use mobile technology to support my own learning. Below are are the apps that I am currently using.
Notability – As the name suggests I use this app for note taking. This app is one of my favourites as not only can I type notes, handwrite notes, embedding photos/pictures and annotate them but the app also has an audio recording function. I often use this app in conjunction with iBooks as whilst I’m reading I can copy sections of text, paste them into Noteability and then at the end of my study session go over the notes and edit them to suit my needs.
SimpleMinds + – As i was only introduced to the Simple Minds + last week I haven’t got a lot of use out of it yet but I do plan on using it as a mobile alternative to the mind mapping software that I use on my desktop. I will use it to organise my thoughts and aid revision when I’m on the move.
Skitch – As a dyslexic learner I find taking notes and listening at the same time extremely difficult, I also prefer to learn visually so I absolutely love the Skitch app as I use it to make visual notes. This includes taking photo’s of recommended books whilst noting why they were recommended and talking pictures of board work in class and adding planning notes for essays. For a description of this app and to see how I used it during a training day see my post on apps for assessment.
Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – are used to create peer support networks. This includes creating closed groups and using course hashtags to share links and discuss ideas.
WordPress – Throughout my studies WordPress has been a versatile tool. I’ve used it to reflect, share my thoughts and ideas, as a way of creating a learning community by using the comments function and an assessment submission tool for a number of modules.
iBooks – I have only been using iBooks for a short time but it has revolutionised the way that I read and take notes (see notability section). I used to really struggle with the stop, start nature of reading from a paper based book and using my laptop to generate notes so I find this system to be much more efficient. Another feature that I’m fond of is the definition tool as you can click on a word and it’s meaning pops up. Again in the past I used to find it quite laborious having to put down my book to look up an unfamiliar word so this is so much quicker and easier.
Pocket – As their website states ‘When you find something you want to view later, put it in Pocket’. When I come across a link to a video, article, web page that I want to read but don’t have the time I save I use the pocket bookmarking tool to save it for later. One of the features that I really about pocket is the way that it integrates with the Flipboard app.
Flipboard – I use Flipboard to create a virtual magazine out of the content from my RSS feeder, my pocket app and hash tags that I am interested including MOOC hashtags. The app allows me to access all of this content in one place and again is a lot more visually interesting than reading large chunks of text.
Diigo – Diiggo is a social bookmarking tool that I was using for a long time before I got an iPad or an iPhone. What I like about this software is how you can access your bookmarks from any device that is connected to the internet. I have downloaded the app onto my phone to enable easy access to my bookmarks so that I don’t have to go through a web browser and sign into my own line account every time I want to access my bookmarks.