For some reason, my recent posts are not appearing here. This is a test post to see if this shows up first.
Years ago I learned to avoid red, green, and yellow on PowerPoint presentations because these colors are difficult to distinguish for color-blind viewers. And, let’s be real, yellow font should never be used on a presentation and green and red are often hard to see on a presentation even for those of us who can see the full color spectrum. This is just good advice all around. Actually, this fits right into the idea of universal design.
I attended the 2013 ASA Section on Teaching and Learning Pre-Conference Workshop, “Universal Design: Interrogating Inequality in Learning.” The theme of the workshop was centered on moving from accommodating students with disabilities to making the classroom accessible to all. For example, avoiding red, green, and yellow on PowerPoints isn’t just accommodating color-blind students, but makes the PowerPoint presentation accessible to all. I don’t have to work so hard at reading your yellow font and can instead focus on your message. The goal is to move beyond accommodations by focusing on accessibility and therefore, reaching more students almost by default.
Universal design emerged from architecture. My favorite example from architecture has to be drinking fountain placement. By placing drinking fountains at an appropriate height for someone in a wheelchair, children also benefit because they can now more easily reach the drinking fountain, too. The original intent may have been to accomodate one type of person, but the unintended benefit is that other groups are also better able to reach the drinking fountain.
So, back to the PowerPoints. I must admit, that my PowerPoints are only accessible based on color-scheme. That’s it. I didn’t realize that there is more to having accessible PowerPoints until I attended this workshop. In my notes, I scribbled “black & white/high contrast” and “test access in ppt.” So, I found information on how to Check for Accessibility Issues. The PowerPoint presentation I made on Friday fails the test. I have an image on every slide without alternative text and no titles. To be fair, this presentation should actually be a screencast video, but I have not figured out how to do that on my Android tablet (which students are using in the class). The PowerPoint presentation was a compromise. I took screenshots of each step and then typed out what I would have said in the video. It isn’t perfect, but it will do for now. I know what I need to do to fix it, and that is now on my to-do list. (The alternative text will be an easy fix. The titles are trickier on this particular presentation or this would be done already because I almost always use titles. I might even just do an audio recording over a slideshow of the photos.) Of course, some will say that I should just do away with PowerPoint altogether. I disagree. PowerPoint can be useful, though most often PowerPoint is just misused.
While using the Check for Accessibility Issues feature is useful, this is after the presentation has been created. I’m all about doing things right the first time. So, Creating Accessible PowerPoint Presentations (also PowerPoint tips from Penn State) is helpful reading to make beneficial adjustments from the start.
Why is universal design important? I have students (and you do to) who may not realize they have a disability. Or, they know they do and do not want to be treated differently so refuse some or all of the accommodations they have a right to. Making the classroom accessible to all helps you reach these students. Moreover, it makes you better able to reach those students without disabilities, too. Think about it. Titles on PowerPoints not only help you reach those students who are having the slides read to them, but also those who are reading the slides themselves. Titles help the listener/viewer to follow the logic of the presentation. I really like the idea of making the classroom accessible from the start rather than layering in accommodations after the fact.
I snapped this photo at a Duane Reade in NYC last week. I’m using it on my syllabus for Sociology of Deviant Behavior. Feel free to snag it and use it in your own class (with credit). I wonder how many people used their bare hands before DR decided to post a sign. Of course, this was at Times Square, so it’s possible there were cultural differences among tourists that influenced the sign.
I am experimenting with including an entry called “Resume Items” on my syllabi this fall. I can wax poetic about what I believe college should be for, but the reality is that for most students (at least at my institution), they are after a credential to secure a job and hopefully experience some upward mobility. Combine this with the other known reality in that years later, students can’t recall what exactly they learned in a sociology course that was particularly useful or relevant to her or his life. My “Resume Items” entry hopes to correct for this to some extent.
Here is what the entry looks like for my Sociology of Deviant Behavior course (lower-level undergrad):
Upon successful completion of this course and all course requirements, you should be able to include the following items on a resume:
- Use computer resources to develop a reference list
- Identify ethical issues in research
- Teamwork skills in diverse groups
- Critical thinking and analytic reasoning
- Written and oral communication
I suggest opening a word document with the above items noted and begin keeping a record of the ways in which you practice these skills during this course (and others). At the end of the semester, you will be the best judge as to whether you can demonstrate these skills and talk about them in a job interview. You might also specify your degree of skill: beginner, intermediate, advanced, expert, and so on.
 American Sociogical Association. 2009. 21st Century Careers with an Undergraduate Degree in Sociology. Washington DC.
I struggled with how many items to include. I made sure that they follow the learning outcomes for the course and the types of assignments students will actually complete. Each item comes directly from the ASA’s publication noted above.
I gave students some guidance as to what to do with this information, because I want students be clear about how they should use this information. They should not just copy and paste the items to a resume. They have to decide whether or not these are skills they can claim.
What do you think? What would you include in your course? Do you include “Resume Items” on your syllabus?
This is a test to see if I can successfully post from my iPad.
As I’ve mentioned before, I am experimenting with open education resources this fall in Intro to Sociology. I typically assign Conley’s You May Ask Yourself, Everyday Sociology Reader, and The Blind Side.
I am using the Sociology Wikibook to replace You May Ask Yourself and an assortment of scholarly journal articles, newspaper and magazine articles, and blog posts to replace the reader. I am struggling with assigning a comprable reading to The Blind Side.
I’ve explored Project Gutenberg, but have not found a book that is out of copyright that would work. My only idea is to use The Jungle. One of my journalism professors read a few pages from the book to us to illustrate yellow journalism. The people falling in the vats and left had me intrigued. I eventually read the book. Though The Jungle may be about turn of the century social issues, I do not believe it would work in the same way as The Blind Side.
I may have to just drop The Blind Side altogether this semester for the sake of the experiment. In the spring, I could assign it to the class even if I am using only open education resources because our school already owns enough copies of the book. There would be no additional costs until the books fall apart.
Do you have any ideas for out of copyright monographs that could be used in Intro to Sociology?