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Archive for the ‘Specialist Colleges’ Category

The TechDis voices are young English voices which are free to use for all post 16 students and staff. You can find more information on how to register here.

Once you have registered there are some things you need to be aware of so you can either install the voices yourself or ask your IT department. All the information is in this short video.

Installing The Voice – What You Need to Know from JISC TechDis on Vimeo.

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Here at TechDis we commissioned Cereproc in Edinburgh to develop two high quality synthetic voices.  Most free to use synthetic voices are very robotic and sound very unnatural.  Here’s a good explanation of what a synthetic voice is and how you could use it.

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As well as the new Toolbox site the team at TechDis have also launched 2 new synthetic voices TechDis Jack and TechDis Jess.  These can be used to have text read outloud to you.  This is called Text to Speech because that’s what the software does – it converts written text into speech which you can listen to anywhere.  We have a number of videos and guides on how this works but for a start we have an introduction to the idea of having text read outloud.

Check out the other videos and guidelines and see if you are eligible for these free voices.

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Toolbox has a full range of videos and annotated documents covering all the aspects of using the Google search function.  They range from the very basic – how to use Google to search to special features and using Google maps.

Getting to Know Google 7 – Google Maps from JISC TechDis on Vimeo.

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Two posts in one day!  I couldn’t get a YouTube video to upload to our team blog so I’ve moved back over here.  We’ve eventually got a selection of excellent ‘how to’ videos from Matt Harrison at Portland College and some not so good ones from me. The basic introduction is here.

There are 5 in all with more to come in the new term.  However, they are all linked together in a Xerte package so progression is easier to see.   You can access the package here.   For those not familiar with Xerte you navigate using the left and right arrows at the top right hand side of the pages.

In-Folio was developed as a collaboration between JISC Techdis, the Rix Centre and Independent Specialist Colleges.  We are intending to publish the code for this development in the next month so are hopeful that we will then build a community of developers.

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The Open Badges and Assessment forum is looking at “investigating new ways to credentialize learning

With the upcoming release of Mozilla’s Open Badges framework this group is an opportunity for educators and interested parties to discuss the various ways such badges could be used in educational contexts.”  The whole concept of open badges is explained more fully on the Mozzilla wiki page.
There is a short one page document explaining the concept –
We’re just approaching the end of week 2 and I thought I’d add a few of my own thoughts.    You can join or just read and lurk at http://p2pu.org/en/groups/open-badges-and-assessment/ 

“I’ve been following the discussions on here with interest and it’s good to have such committed and knowledgeable contributors.  Doug’s comments that “So some badges will be static, well-known things, whereas others could be much more ad-hoc, fluid, or even humorous badges. :-)”  gives us a pretty broad remit for this project.  I’d like to offer a couple of comments.

I really like the idea of the awarding of badges by peers.  In an FE college in the North west of England they set up a staff development system to encourage their staff to use technology to enhance their teaching.  This was set up as an 8 step process from ‘uploading the course documents’ to ‘ facilitating collaborative and interactive learning’.  The nice thing about this was that once a tutor had gained their 8th level they automatically became an assessor and were able to verify work done by another colleague.  This took away the need for the staff development team to spend a large amount of their time in verification and encouraged peer development and support.  This might be a possible model for the awarding of badges within an organisation for staff or learner development.

My main experience in teaching has been with learners with complex needs (short hand for students with more than one difficulty, learning, sensory, physical or behavioural.)  I note the comments about rewards not being the end in themselves but there are very valid reasons for embracing and using them.  Many more complex learners achieve in very small and sometimes almost imperceptible steps.  Tracking learning and achievement for them is detailed and sometimes overly complex.  Involving the learner in their learning has always been something I tried to do.  I like the concept of learners assessing their own and other’s contributions to a lesson and we encouraged them to also reflect on their PLTS (personal learning and thinking skills).  We used to make the evaluation of the lesson part of the lesson and each learner reflected on their own and their peers achievements.  (we had very very small classes!)  However, this was recorded against pre-set targets etc within the information management system of the college.  How great would it have been for the students to be able to award each other and themselves badges to be added to their achievement records, portfolios or blogs.  The badges could also be used as a reminder of their achievements when the next lesson comes along (for students with short term memory loss getting to the place that you finished the last lesson is a major issue!)

An additional problem I did and still struggle to resolve is the ‘spiky profile’.  I was in a specialist provider a month or so ago as a young man showed me how he edited the college’s podcast for the week.  He was a wheel chair user and had the use of only one arm.  He also had no functional literacy (in the general sense of the word).  However, he knew what he wanted to do, and was able to use audacity well to edit the audio track, add some incidental music and record the introduction.  I could see a badges system working well to recognise and celebrate this sort of achievement.  Many learners have a level of digital literacy which is far higher than their perceived traditional literacy.  They can do what they want/need to do – upload photos to facebook, download music etc.  But couldn’t write a college newsletter. ”

 

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Mike Thrussell is a technologist at Henshaws College in Harrogate.  He’s developed an accessible interface for the YouTube website.  Many of  the students at Henshaws have a visual impairment and additional difficulties so Mike has created  an interface to address the complexity of the standard YouTube website by simplifying the functions to search for and play videos. He has blogged about it here and will be a guest blogger on our new ISC blog – part of the main Techdis blog which is currently being re-designed by Laura in our team.

The home page is simple and easy to use.  Access YouTube home page

Although the most popular searches are listed at the bottom of the home page it works for any search.  Below is the result for the search RSA.  The search result page also has a large ‘home’ button taking the user directly back to the main page.

Search results for RSA animate in YouTube

Mike has stripped the pages of any unnecessary content and ensured that all the links are correctly named to give a clear indication for users of screen readers.

Once the video is chosen the player has clear and simple control buttons.

Kaiser Chiefs video showing control buttons

You can create permanent links for specific searches that a particular student likes – so http://access.mwjt.co.uk/youtube/index.php?v=take%20that  will take you directly to a page of links for Take That videos.  Mike is keen for others to comment on the site and you can contact him at  mike.thrussell@googlemail.com .  You can follow him on Twitter as @mikethrussell or follow his blog which has videos demonstrating the use of the site.

Well done Mike – a good example of working with students, listening to their needs and creating something which makes it easier for them to be more independent.

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