Creating More Accessibility to Classroom Content
At Centennial we are moving toward Universal Design in Learning (UDL) and that framework is becoming more and more prominent in our pedagogical activities. The premise of UDL is that is that we give students as much accessibility to the course content and the school structure as possible. Creating maximum accessibility clearly involves the integration of certain technological tools that we have not been using or that we were maybe reluctant in the past to try, but that push toward UDL or Universal Design really has become the driving force for change.
We know our students need more accessibility to things that are happening in the classroom for a variety of reasons. Students with a learning disability might want to review what was done, get more examples on the webpage or peruse more content that they can go back to and make more connections with. Other students may find that they just can’t write quickly enough when they’re taking notes. Yet others may have mental or physical health issues and are absent a significant amount of time. Whatever it is, we felt that our students needed access to more content and we needed some tool to allow them to access that content.
At this time Centennial College has 109 students. Because we are so small, we don’t have our own servers. We use just Omnivox, and Omnivox did not have the capacity to do the kinds of things that we were looking to do in terms of creating more accessibility to classroom content. Profweb’s name has been floating around our school for the last two semesters as we became involved with PERFORMA courses as well as a webinar on UDL organized by La Vitrine and APOP conjointly. When we saw what Profweb was offering in terms of web spaces on My Web Space, we realized that it was a really good fit for what we needed.
The Profweb staff has been really helpful. Mathieu Brisson of Profweb’s technical staff preregistered all of our teachers for My Web Space, so that they only had to click on their confirmation e-mails to create their password and open their account. Most teachers then made a face-to-face appointment with Profweb’s Norm Spatz to explore the potential of using their space. Norm created a WordPress site called WordPress College to help our teachers better understand how to create a pedagogical website.
And it was a good thing that Norm was there. He came to realize that we didn’t need a WordPress site at the moment. We needed space to store our resources in a location that students could access. He demonstrated how to download and use an FTP server to upload large files to our accounts in My Web Space as well as how to link the material within Omnivox for direct access to them. Even he admitted that the new interface of My Web Space was a work in progress. His takeaway from these sessions was that less tech-savvy teachers who start using the site will need technical support to improve the initial user experience.
Manage my Web Space lets you add a website (blog, mediawiki or whatever fits your needs) or update the parameters of your current websites. Advanced options such as FTP access and database management are also available through this interface.
As I write this, many of our teachers can now put narrated PowerPoint presentations and videos online that our students can link to from within Omnivox. The hurdles that we’ve gone through in terms of getting our accounts in My Web Space up and running, getting people to feel comfortable with the process, to feel that it’s not going to take more time and to feel that it will do wonders for their classroom and for their students’ experience are still not in the past.
In short, the concept of My Web Space is beautiful, however, to have gone through what we’ve gone through, even with someone looking over our shoulder, has not reduced our teachers’ reluctance to adopt new IT procedures and processes. We’re at the edge of the great unknown. I think of this semester as an experimental phase where we’re getting up and running, and I hope to see the fruits of our efforts next semester. Right now, our focus is on making teachers comfortable and getting everyone set up.
Getting our teachers to use My Web Space to store their accounts is my prime concern right now, but who knows what the future will hold. The potential of creating a WordPress site or using a wiki has not been lost on some of our staff as well as myself. We realize that we’ve just tapped the potential of My Web Space and are enthusiastic about what the future may hold for ourselves and for our students.
I think it’s a really exciting project for us, I think it has a lot of potential and I know that it will create good results for our students. It will give them an extra tool that they’ve been looking for and they’ve been asking for, but just now, we’re still looking at getting to that point.