Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Digital Access Literacy

 Dear Reader,

I am taking moocmooc, which is a one week MOOC (massive open online course).

Today's assignment asks us to create  conversations related to today's course materials.  I want to focus on teachers and their role in creating safe learning spaces.  In today's reading Jesse Stommel says,  "The notion of participant pedagogy does not undermine or eliminate, but rather clarifies, the role of the teacher, which is to model -- to embolden other learners to experiment more (and more wildly). The other role of the teacher is to provide a safe space for the activity of the class -- a safe space for the risks students are asked to take."  I appreciate these roles and would like to offer an addition: another role of the teacher is to model accessibility through universal design (accessible to all) so that students learn how to consider accessibility, in it's broadest sense, and create accessible digital work.  Teachers could model what I am calling "digital access literacy," something I want my students to own.

Please join me in a Twitter conversation, which I can manage more easily today than I can a chat on this blog.  Please use the hashtag #access along with #moocmooc , and thanks for reading!  I am eager to hear your thoughts.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Digital Annotations

I am looking for digital annotation tools that I can use in my composition and literature classes.  I value accessibility, and have, to the best of my knowledge, yet to find a tool that honors universal design: accessibility.  I want all my students to have access to one another, which includes the work they create such as annotations, the curriculum (often the work my students create is the curriculum), what they study, and me.  I am looking for a digital annotation tool, for example, that works with screen readers, does not overlay text such as students' comments over the text they are discussing, does not use color to convey information.

As more of my students are using digital texts, something I do, as well, because it is much easier to carry a tablet than one, two, or three bags of books, I want to ensure that I offer them digital annotation strategies.  It is also important to me that these strategies are accessible because I want my students to create small-group and class annotations of the texts we read.  In short, my students need to be able to create their own annotations while also being able to access those of their peers.  Many of my students read their texts form their mobile devices, which means I want a tool that would work equally well on a smart phone, tablet or a computer and that is accessible for those using the tool to create annotations and to those reading the annotations.

I found one of the most useful ways to introduce my students to electronic annotations is because it is easy to use and resembles texting and tweeting.  The image after this text is a screen shot of a collaboration space in TodaysMeet.  Posted text is on the left side of the screen and a textbox for writing text to be posted is on the left side of the screen.  There is a lot of white space in the page layout and the layout is uncluttered.

We have a 140 character limit for each entry in TodaysMeet, something familiar to my students using Twitter.  My classes use the TodaysMeet to start a general chats about a text; we also use the space in class.  As for working with annotations and a text, the two tools that I have used are Google Docs and NB.  The next image is a screenshot of a Google Doc.  The text the class is discussing is fairly centered in the image.  Sections of the text that have comments are highlighted in yellow.  Comments are separate and to the right of the text being discussed. 

What works nicely about the Google Doc is that one can insert comments at a specific point in the text.  Each commentator's contribution is tagged with the contributor's name.  One can upload a pdf or convert a pdf to Google Doc text, which works well when faculty and students need to convert serif font in a PDF to sans serif.  As a learning disabled academic, I use this as a strategies for my own pdf readings in graduate school and my work as a teacher.

The two images below are screen shots of NB, a tool I would love to use.  The first image below shows what a text looks like in NB, with the pdf on the left and comments on the right.  There are overlays on the pdf indicating where a reader has entered an annotation.  As with Google Docs many readers can discucss and annotate the pdf.  The overlays make the text hard to read.  The second screenshoot is of a pdf that has been annotated in NB.  There are arrows and lines on the pdf text and overlays of the annotations on the pdf text, which makes not only reading the pdf text impossible when its covered by the annotations, but also renders the annotation a challenge to read: inaccessible.

I am still looking for an accessible annotation tool that will work with screen readers, allow annotations to be verbal--with transcripts--and written.  Smart folks are creating accessibility tools for Google Docs, such as the Download Google Doc Tool.  The link below this text will take you to a Website where you can learn more about and download the Download Google Doc Tool.

The Download Google Doc Tool, however, is for completed documents in that it makes completed Google Docs accessible as Word documents.  I am looking for an accessible way to create annotations.  Google continues to work on creating accessability for the tools it creates.  The link below this text will take you to a Google blog post about accessibility for their tools, including Google Docs.

I have yet to figure out how a screen reader such as JAWS negotiates reading comments in Google Docs.  In other words, I still want to read more about accessibility  and creating and reading comments in Google Docs.

Do you use accessible digital shared-annotation tools in your classrooms?  I would love to hear what others are using and how others assess whether or not the digital tools they use and that they ask their students to use are accessible--the latter is part of how we teach our students access literacy.

Thursday, August 18, 2011



Although I am moving across the country to start a doctoral program in English, and I am experiencing all the challenges and rewards that come with such a move after living in one place for thirty-two years, what I am really moving into is my own skin. Have you ever had a moment where you felt you were nearing the destination of you? You were not nearing a last destination, an end, or even a beginning, but a place off the number line and free from the x and y axis of things as they had been.

The first time I experienced disorientation from my norm was during my time as an undergrad at Berkeley. Although drawn to unfamiliar territory, I was at times wary about letting go of my anchors, compass, and habitual ways of walking this world. Of course, I did not nor will I now cast all I understand away, but I am eager to move closer to me, which means challenging what I understand.

Moving through thirty-two years of stuff--deciding what to give away, donate, recycle, and take--is challenging, but not moving through stuff is like walking by a book and leaving it unopened: a crime.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Fall 2010 has been filled with thoughtful questions from my students in my two critical thinking courses, my two discursive courses, and my one developmental writing course. My students have been working with, among many other things, eighteenth-century travel literature, lexicography, sentence structure, how an author's purpose and audience shape an author's writing choices, and how Johnathan Swift's proposer in A Modest Proposal uses logical fallacies. I am going to miss these classes.

I continue to work on several projects that explore aspects of national and cultural identity in the eighteenth century. Editing work remains one of my interests as I continue to enjoy my work as the University Thesis and Dissertation editor and my work as a foundation communications editor. Although I do not look forward to saying good-bye to my classes, I do look forward to the promise of time the holiday break holds for my own scholarship and, if I am lucky, some time outside on my bike, in the frigid Pacific on my bodyboard, in the mountains on my snowshoes, and some time with friends and family around copious hot cups.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Summer is long gone, but I still enjoy working with the treasures I found at the University of Louisiana, Shreveport, where I had a summer fellowship with the outstanding Noel Collection. I fell in love with Louisiana because of the people and the land. I also taught three classes during the summer one of which was an upper-division course in the neo-classical tradition. I enjoyed a summer of rare books, alligators, thunder storms, Plato, Socrates, Horace, Longinus and the gang along with Dryden, Pope, Johnson, and the Club.

Now that I have successfully denied the onset of fall by enjoying the crisp air, gray skies setting off orange leaves, the return of ocean swells, and eating pomegranates, I am sad to say good-bye to fall. This was a good fall. I had the privilege of teaching to upper-division discursive writing courses this fall at California State University, East Bay and two critical thinking courses at Las Positas College. I look forward to keeping in touch with my students. This fall I also had the opportunity to attend the East-Central American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies Conference.

I gave a paper: “With Anger, Zeal and Love: Samuel Johnson on the Inutility of Useful Passion.” What I enjoy about regional conferences is the feedback I receive on my continuing projects, and this conference did not disappoint. The paper is a section of a larger project, and I always benefit from feedback. Opportunities abounded this fall; in October I participated in the Colonial Peru Trans-Atlantic and Trans-Pacific Perspectives Colloquium, hosted by University of Wisconsin, Madison, at which I gave a paper: “How Peru Comes to Signify in English Eighteenth-Century Print.”

I received useful feedback, and made some new friends. This was the first time I took my work on how Peru comes to signify in eighteenth-century print to scholars outside of the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies national and regional conferences. I met wonderful people and fell in love with the campus. I am fickle because my work with the eighteenth century has taken me across the country and to Canada, and I fall in love with all these places.

I am looking forward to a winter of playing in the white water—the waves are too big for my lack of skill with my body board, riding my bike in the early morning cold followed by hot peppermint tea, playing Scrabble via the Internet with my niece in Spain, and working on several projects. As for teaching, I will have to wait and see what shakes out in the land of Furloughs.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Ready, Set, Go Summer!

I am looking forward to a summer of research, writing, teaching, body boarding, cycling, hiking, gardening and playing with technology.

This summer I am giving a presentation at the Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT) International Conference:
During the spring quarter at CSUEB I was part of a Teaching and Learning Faculty Learning Community. I was lucky to work under the leadership of Professor Rafael Hernandez and with a group of innovative faculty. I was able to share what I learned from the learning community at the 12 Annual CSU Regional Symposium on University Teaching, at which I gave a presentation titled "Not Your Grandmother's YouTube: Using YouTube to Create Universal Access" . My presentation at MERLOT will be a continuation of my work on using YouTube in the classroom, which now includes teaching students how to make their class related YouTube publications universally accessible.

I will be finishing two book reviews, one article and several conference papers this summer. My summer will keep me close to Samuel Johnson and eighteenth-century Peru. I will spend one week in New Hampshire with my sister and her family, which should put a skip into my step.

I am looking forward to my summer classes and the joys that come with summer teaching: warm weather and fresh summer fruit during class breaks, at which I have a chance to chat with students about their other classes, work, families and communities.

Ah, summer!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Montreal 2008

In spite of an irritating cold, I enjoyed myself at the Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Conference in Montreal. I heard an insightful plenary given by Jack Lynch: "All Shall Yield to the Mulberry Tree: Of Toothpick Cases, Punch Ladles, Tobacco Stoppers, Inkstands, Nutmeg Graters, and the Legend of Shakespeare." I also heard fine papers.

One of the joys of teaching online is that when you get invigorated by a paper you can share your enthusiasm immediately with your students. I also came home with knew ideas about texts to bring into my classrooms and ways to use them.

I was able to spend time with Jack, Laura and their good friend Chris. We took in walks, shared meals and enjoyed the city. Sean and I enjoyed our time with our friends, including our table mates at the conference's Saturday banquet.

I gave a paper, "Samuel Johnson’s Distancing Antiquity through the New World," Saturday morning, and we flew home Sunday, Oct. 19th.