Friday, December 17, 2010

Closed Captioning

One of the aspects of online learning that I struggle with is ADA compliance. Not the concept of ADA compliance, I completely agree that universal web design is better for everyone, but how do I implement ADA compliant web resources.  In the past this has been done by checking my website periodically to make sure that my websites are compliant by tools such as SortSite or designing with standards from W3C in mind. But in my mind, those are the easy things. Basic website design is easy to make compliant, what I have found more and more difficult is multimedia.

Technically, every time we post information to a website for our students to use in a class it should be compliant. This means that audio files have transcripts, video files are captioned, PDFs are accessible etc. Most of my faculty don't even think about making their content accessible until they have a student they have to make accommodations for and redo their entire class.

For my part I have tried to support faculty in these endeavors as much as possible and be an example of compliance with our college website. Yet, I have found that even I have forgotten to be compliant. So this semester I have been working with my graduate student to close caption our official college videos. This may come as a shock, but I have never captioned a video before.  My GA worked on it for about a month and could not get it to work. This week I was able to spend a couple hours tackling it. Finally after a few updates, the right versions of the right software, and a bit of luck I was able to add captions to a 2 minute video. Now, this was the first time I tried, and I'm sure after this it will be much easier for me, but I was surprised at how much work it took to make these videos compliant. To add insult to injury, I couldn't actually host this video on our Clipshare video server and had to directly upload it to our website.  What I was not aware of is that the close captioning process actually creates a text file linked to specific time codes in the video. These two files are linked, but seperate. As long as they can find one another, everything works fine.

So there is a happy ending, I have my captioned video and I have played by the rules, but would a teacher or professor have the amount of time to make this effort?  What gives me hope is how easy Youtube has made it to add captions to their videos. I can only hope that it gets easier for all of us to make our multimedia accessible, and for us all to value the effort it takes.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Privacy and Social Media

I am honored to be asked by Phil Tietjen of Penn State University to answer a question for his class on Social Media. The question is: How do you see the role of privacy in relation to Web 2.0 or social media? Does it deserve more attention among educators?

I believe that privacy, or the lack thereof, is one of the larger issues surrounding education technology. How do we protect our students in an online environment and at the same time take advantage of all of the benefits that Web 2.0 tools have to offer? It is a difficult question to answer. I am torn between my role as a teacher to "protect" my students and my role to promote them and the work that they do everyday. There is such a balance to be struck between those that are afraid to try any Web 2.0 tool because of privacy concerns, and those that post pictures of their students online with full names.

But I think the rubber meets the road when we think about how would you actually implement a Web 2.0 product in your classroom and what concerns would you take into account.  Now that varies by product and by grade level in my mind. There are tools such as Voicethread and PB Works that allow for controlled user creation as well as for student use under the age of 13. Students don't need e-mail addresses to have accounts and their full name is not displayed. They make it easy for me to feel comfortable inside the constraints of COPA and CIPA and are well suited to elementary and middle school students. I encourage the use of "Avatars" by younger students, this way they can display their work on the internet for their fellow classmates and parents to see can still be met, but in a way that strangers cannot identify them.

However, once students reach high school and are over the age of 13, how does our use of social media change or should it? Seth Godin says it best with “Everything you do now ends up in your permanent record.  The best plan is to overload Google with good stuff and to always act as if you’re on candid camera, because you are!” The Wall Street Journal reported back in 2008 that College Admissions officers are using the Internet to research prospective applicants. Why not help our students create a positive Digital Footprint of their work and emphasize how important it is to their future.

In the end it comes down to what it best for your class and your students. Parents and students have the right to be informed about the privacy implications of Web 2.0 tools as well as the great learning opportunities that these tools can provide.