"For people without disabilities, technology makes things convenient,
for people with disabilities, it makes things possible."
The Inclusive Learning Exchange (TILE)
REPORT OF THIRD COMMUNITY POTLUCK
The Inclusive Learning Exchange (TILE) Community Potluck Event, Fredericton, New Brunswick, November 14, 2003
Robert Luke, ATRC
Theme: Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners
The Third TILE community potluck event was held 14 November in Fredericton, New Brunswick, hosted by the National adult Literacy Database (NALD). The event was held at the Wu Conference Centre at the University of New Brunswick, and was the third of four planned TILE Community Potlucks coordinated by the Adaptive Technology Resource Centre (ATRC). These community potlucks occur every quarter, and are designed to give partners updates as to the TILE project progress, as well as to get insight and input as to the TILE development process.
The TILE potluck event in Fredericton had in attendance people from NALD, Frontier College, the University of Toronto’s Transitional year Program, the National Research Council, various provincial literacy and educational organizations, the ATRC, and others. The theme of the event was “Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners.” Participants were asked to respond to an initial overview by Jutta Treviranus, director of the ATRC. Jutta provided participants with an overview of the goals of the TILE project, as well as the outline for the day’s activities.
Participants were asked to consider what “Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners” could or would entail with respect to the provision of e-learning content. The idea was to get feedback into the kinds of content transformations would best help meet the needs of diverse learners accessing e-learning content. Within this conceptual framework, participants were asked to consider the following questions: What types of learning breakdown can be addressed with individualized instruction? What parameters do we customize to the individual to promote learning? What parameters can be individualized in an online environment? What supports do educators need to deliver individualized or learner-centric instruction? These questions were intended to stimulate discussion on leaner and educator supports that could be built, as well as to what content transformations would be most useful – and usable – for learners with “learning challenges.”
Breakout groups were then formed to get four different perspectives on the issues being discussed. Each group was asked to list learning barriers and the strategies for overcoming the barriers. They then created one or two examples of learners and their preferences, and detailed ways in which these preferences and barriers could work within a particular learning objective. This learning objective was designed to get people thinking about content transformations and multimedia, learning styles, as well as to provide examples of how TILE content to date can be cross-purposed and reused to provide the kinds of learner supports that would be helpful to those who may face a particular obstacle in learning, and what providing these may mean to the educator.
Each group was then asked to present their overviews to the rest of the participants. These led to fruitful discussions on the nature of transformations and the potential these may have for learners.
Various themes emerged from the various breakout groups and their discussions of learning challenges, strategies, and educator needs. There was general agreement that various learning styles and abilities can be met with assistive technologies (screen readers, text-to-speech, etc.) that would benefit learners with low literacy levels. Educators would find useful resources that would enable them to provide “remedial detours” for their students should these be needed. These kinds of scaffolding supports could be available based on need and learning context. Supports for peer interaction would be beneficial, as would alternative ways for students to participate in aspects of learning activities (online presentations and video, versus in person presentations, for example). The idea of peer interaction and mentoring was raised as a good way to encourage critical reflection and reflective learning among learners who may not have good learning skills to begin with, or are shy or face some other obstacle to full and meaningful participation in learning activities. Ways of enabling anonymous feedback were also seen as having potential for shy students.
Participants identified various resources that educators could utilize, acknowledging that when we are dealing with learner content transformations and scaffolds, this puts addition demand on educators and instructors. Technical support and assistance with aspects of online instruction, adaptive technology, and familiarity with learning styles and theory were identified as being potentially helpful. Educators will need to know how to meet various learning styles and challenges, why this is important, and what it means to their instruction. The idea of fostering communities of educators fits well with the TILE mandate of encouraging a shared repository of resources that can be easily reused by many educators. Communities of educators would also help in the provision of assistance for technical and learning matters, as collective knowledge generation about meeting the needs of diverse learners would help the community as a whole learn how best to use transformable content and various scaffolds to the best educational advantage.
Anastasia Cheetham, TILE Software Designer at the ATRC, then presented to the entire group some of the transformations currently possible in the TILE Repository Service Web Interface (RSWI). Participants were shown how the TILE preferences system works to enable learners to easily customize their learning interface. Robert Luke, ATRC researcher, ended the day with a brief review of the social context of flexible e-learning and asked participants to consider issues of interaction and evaluation with respect to providing multiple learning paths for learners.
The TILE community potluck in Fredericton was successful in generating very good discussion about the implications of customizing content presentation. The ATRC team received good feedback on the state of the TILE work to date, as well as key input as to future directions the service could take. The event raised several key questions about content scaffolds, software supports, and future hardware and software needs that would be ideal in any future e-learning environment.
To view the results of this exercise, please see the list below:
project is funded by CANARIE
Inc. - Learning Program
Site Hosted by the Adaptive
Technology Resource Centre - University of Toronto