Doubling down on accessibility: Microsoft’s next steps to expand accessibility in technology, the workforce and workplace — from Brad Smith, President of Microsoft

Excerpt:

Accessibility by design
Today, we are announcing a variety of new “accessible by design” features and advances in Microsoft 365, enabling more than 200 million people to build, edit and share documents. Using artificial intelligence (AI) and other advanced technologies, we aim to make more content accessible and as simple and automatic as spell check is today. For example:

  • A new background accessibility checker will provide a prompt to fix accessibility issues in content across the core Office apps and Outlook will nudge users to correct accessibility issues.
  • AI in Microsoft Word will detect and convert to heading styles crucial for blind and low-vision readers.
  • A new Excel navigation pane designed for screen readers will help people easily discover and navigate objects in a spreadsheet.
  • We’re expanding Immersive Reader, used by 35 million people every month, to help with the comprehension of PowerPoint slides and notes.
  • In Teams, high-contrast mode can be used to access shared content using PowerPoint Live  which will reduce eye strain and accommodate light sensitivity with Dark Mode in Word.
  • New LinkedIn features that include auto-captioning for LinkedIn Live broadcasts, captions for enterprise content and dark mode later this year.

More than 1 billion people around the world live with a disability, and at some point, most of us likely will face some type of temporary, situational or permanent disability. The practical impacts are huge. 

Addendum on 5/6/21:

 

 

Virtual IEPs should stay — from crpe.org by Katy Bateman and Lanya McKittrick

Excerpt:

When the pandemic hit last spring, schools across the country shifted out of sheer necessity to virtual meetings to discuss students’ Individual Education Plans (IEP). But the move has had some unanticipated benefits, with some educators and parents praising them for their convenience and for empowering family members to be more active participants in discussing their educational needs.

The virtual IEP meetings should stay—at least as an option—even after the pandemic abates.

Virtual IEP meetings can make scheduling and attendance easier for parents and teachers alike. One parent noted the benefits to her as a busy working mom:

“I think one thing [my family] is seeing is there’s a lot of things we could just do that didn’t require us to have to go in [the school building]. . . . I don’t mind coming in, but [virtual is] easier.”

 

How to Learn Animation At Home: Beginner’s Guide to Online Courses, Software and Resources — from graphicmama.com by Al Boicheva

Excerpt:

On the bright side of the current reality, it’s the perfect time to be productive and learn new skills. Why not trying to learn animation? If this is something you’ve always been interested in and would like to try, it’s not necessary to do it the traditional way and study it at a university. In fact, you can do it online in the comfort of your home.

So, what are the options to become a self-taught animation designer? Let’s walk through the process together.

 

How to Design a Hybrid Workplace — from nytimes.com

Excerpt:

But many companies have hatched a postpandemic plan in which employees return to the office for some of the time while mixing in more work from home than before. The appeal of this compromise is clear: Employers hope to give employees the flexibility and focus that come from working at home without sacrificing the in-person connections of the office.

From DSC:
There has been — and likely will continue to be — huge pressure and incentives put on companies like Cisco, Zoom, Microsoft, and others that develop the products and platforms to help people collaborate and communicate over a distance. It will be very interesting to see where these (and other) vendors, products, and platforms are 2-3 years from now! How far will we be down the XR-related routes?

How will those new ways of doing things impact telehealth? Telelegal? Virtual courts? Other?

 

From DSC:
I read an interesting article out at Inside Higher Ed from the other day:

Rejecting Remote Proctoring — from insidehighered.com by Elizabeth Redden
University of Michigan Dearborn made a universitywide decision to reject remote proctoring and invest in faculty development instead.

At the same time many other colleges were considering whether to employ the technologies, UM Dearborn’s leadership made the choice that eproctoring was unacceptably invasive, at least when it comes to students who hadn’t signed up for that kind of surveillance.

From DSC:
Lower stakes assessments offered with a greater variety of ways to check for mastery. That fits in with what I’m reading about re: the topic of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), which offers:

  • Multiple methods of engagement
  • Multiple methods of representation
  • Multiple methods of action & expression <– to demonstrate what they are learning

It also reduces anxiety — something that’s needed in this period of time.

 

Improving Digital Inclusion & Accessibility for Those With Learning Disabilities — from inclusionhub.com by Meredith Kreisa
Learning disabilities must be taken into account during the digital design process to ensure digital inclusion and accessibility for the community. This comprehensive guide outlines common learning disabilities, associated difficulties, accessibility barriers and best practices, and more.

“Learning shouldn’t be something only those without disabilities get to do,” explains Seren Davies, a full stack software engineer and accessibility advocate who is dyslexic. “It should be for everyone. By thinking about digital accessibility, we are making sure that everyone who wants to learn can.”

“Learning disability” is a broad term used to describe several specific diagnoses. Dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, nonverbal learning disorder, and oral/written language disorder and specific reading comprehension deficit are among the most prevalent.

An image of a barrier being torn down -- revealing a human mind behind it. This signifies the need to tear down any existing barriers that might hinder someone's learning experience.

 

Apple CEO Tim Cook: AR Is “Critically Important” For The Company’s Future — from vrscout.com by Bobby Carlton

Excerpts:

When the subject of AR and it’s potential came up, Cook said “You and I are having a great conversation right now. Arguably, it could even be better if we were able to augment our discussion with charts or other things to appear.”

In Cook’s opinion, AR will change the way we communicate with our friends, colleagues, and family. It’ll reshape communication in fields such as health, education, gaming, and retail. “I’m already seeing AR take off in some of these areas with use of the phone. And I think the promise is even greater in the future,” said Cook.

Also see:

Woman using Augmented Reality to further learn about something.

And it is not enough to try to use existing VR/XR applications and tailor them to educational scenarios. These tools can and should be created with pedagogy, student experience, and learning outcomes as the priority.

 

Instructure: Building an Effective Learning Ecosystem — a recorded webinar from instructure.com from 3-4-21 (NOTE: You will need to provide some basic contact information to view it.)

Excerpt:

Hear from an expert panel of district leaders as they share their experiences with creating a learning ecosystem that includes integrating their learning management and assessment systems with quality benchmark and formative assessments. You will learn how a learning ecosystem has been an integral part of transforming teaching and learning during a challenging year.

Webinar from Instructure -- on 3-4-2021 -- Building an effective learning ecosystem

 

Telemedicine likely to change how we receive health care post-pandemic — from mlive.com by Justin Hicks

A patient sits in the living room of her apartment in New York City during a telemedicine video conference with a doctor. (Mark Lennihan/AP)AP

A patient sits in the living room of her apartment in New York City during a telemedicine video conference with a doctor. (Mark Lennihan/AP)AP

Excerpt:

As we look to the post-pandemic future, medical experts believe telemedicine will be here to stay as another option to increase access to care, reduce costs, and free up doctors to spend more time with patients who need in-person care.

“When I think about the pandemic, one thing that didn’t change about our lifestyles is people are busy,” Lopez said. “I think we’ll still see growth in overall visits because of the fact that people want access to care and when you lower the cost, it should go up.”

From DSC:
A friend of mine said that he is doing most of his practice now via the telehealth route (and has been for many months now). Then, recently, when I was at the lab, the knowledgeable woman who assisted me said that she thought virtual health was definitely going to stick. Many doctors and nurses will be using virtual means vs. physical visits she said.

Expectations get involved here — for education, for the legal field, and for other arenas.

 

The excerpt below is from The 7 best online whiteboards in 2021 — from zapier.com by Maria Myre

  • Miro for turning ideas into tasks
  • Stormboard for creating multiple whiteboards in a single brainstorming session
  • MURAL for remote, multi-member team meetings
  • Limnu for teaching students remotely
  • InVision Freehand for annotating design files with a team
  • Conceptboard for turning a brainstorming session into a formal presentation
  • Explain Everything for creating whiteboard videos

From DSC:
Other potentially-relevant tools/vendors here include:

Woman using the Cisco Webex Desk Pro

 

Putting Your Best Self Forward: 6 Keys For Filming Quality Videos — from er.educause.edu by Jered Borup
The difference between a video that students watch and one that is ignored often comes down to a few, easily addressed factors.

Excerpt:

  • Key #1: Convey Your Voice—Is the audio clear, or is there background noise or reverberations in the room that distract from your message?
  • Key #2: Find the Light—Are you well lit with a light source in front of you, or are you backlit and/or have shadows on your face?
  • Key #3: Frame and Maintain Eye Contact—Are you about at arm’s length and eye level with the camera, or are you looking down or up at the camera?
  • Key #4: Stage—Do you have personal and/or interesting things in the background, or are you recording in front of a blank wall?
  • Key #5: Be Prepared and Natural—Are you speaking naturally in a way that conveys your interest in the topic, or do you sound somewhat robotic and/or scattered?
  • Key #6: Keep it Short—Is the video under six minutes?

This article is part of a series about incorporating asynchronous video into educational activities:

 

 

ADDitude: Resources for families touched by attention deficit disorder (ADD/ADHD).

ADDitude: Resources for families touched by attention deficit disorder (ADD/ADHD)

Example article:

“I’m a Teacher with Nonverbal Learning Disorder. And I’m Exactly Who I Needed As a Child.” — from additudemag.com by Brittany Kramer
“I strive to create a classroom environment where my students know they will be successful, no matter what. It’s the environment I would have felt safe in as a child; one that is encouraging, warm, and free of judgment or anger.”

Excerpt:

“They tried to bury me, but they didn’t know that I was a seed.”

As a special education teacher for students with learning disabilities and developmental disorders, and as a neurodivergent individual myself, this quote defines my life.

I was formally diagnosed with Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NVLD) at 23 years old. As a child and teen, I struggled in ways that most people cannot possibly comprehend.

When people think of learning disabilities, they picture a child with dyslexia or dysgraphia who cannot read or write very well. They do not envision an intelligent and articulate child for whom tying shoes or making a paper fit into a folder is arduous at best.

 

G Suite for Ed Gets New Name and Pile of New Features — from thejournal.com by Dian Schaffhauser

Excerpt:

Google announced a spate of changes to its education offerings, including a renaming of its education bundle of productivity applications and a limit to free storage for schools and colleges. Security and engagement updates are also being added to the education version of Google Meet, and Google Classroom will see enhancements later this year. The announcements came during a 90-minute virtual session on “learning with Google.”

A New Name
G Suite for Education has been renamed. Starting today, it’s known as Google Workspace for Education. 

Addendum on 2/24/21:

 

Learning from the Living [Class] Room: Adobe — via Behance — is already doing several pieces of this vision.

From DSC:
Talk about streams of content! Whew!

Streams of content

I received an email from Adobe that was entitled, “This week on Adobe Live: Graphic Design.”  (I subscribe to their Adobe Creative Cloud.) Inside the email, I saw and clicked on the following:

Below are some of the screenshots I took of this incredible service! Wow!

 

Adobe -- via Behance -- offers some serious streams of content

 

Adobe -- via Behance -- offers some serious streams of content

 

Adobe -- via Behance -- offers some serious streams of content

 

Adobe -- via Behance -- offers some serious streams of content

 

Adobe -- via Behance -- offers some serious streams of content

Adobe -- via Behance -- offers some serious streams of content

Adobe -- via Behance -- offers some serious streams of content

 


From DSC:
So Abobe — via Behance — is already doing several pieces of the “Learning from the Living [Class] Room” vision. I knew of Behance…but I didn’t realize the magnitude of what they’ve been working on and what they’re currently delivering. Very sharp indeed!

Churches are doing this as well — one device has the presenter/preacher on it (such as a larger “TV”), while a second device is used to communicate with each other in real-time.


 

 

Radio.Garden — with thanks to David Pogue for this resource

From DSC:
This is amazing! Some screenshots:

Radio.garden -- tune into thousands of live radio stations across the globe!

Radio.garden -- tune into thousands of live radio stations across the globe!

Several questions/reflections come to my mind:

  • What could those teachers and professors who are trying to teach someone a language do with this?!
  • If this can be done with radio stations, what can be done with learning-related streams of content?!
  • Talk about “More Choice. More Control.”  Man o’ man!

Streams of content


Addendum on 2/28/21:
Could this type of interface be used to navigate the world of work? Where instead of nations, you would have arenas of work?

 
© 2021 | Daniel Christian