Friday, 28 December 2007

Reflections on 2007

My teaching and research interests lie at the intersections between disability, technology and education and in 2007 there have been exciting developments for me in each of these fields- developments that I am hoping will bear some "juicy fruits "in 2008.

Disability and Technology: For 20 years I have been researching the role of computers and assistive technologies in promoting independence, identity and quality of life for adults with disabilities. I have developed a national and International profile in the field through key roles and activities including co-ordinating of the first ever Masters programme in Assistive Technology in the UK, (2000-2002), In 2007 I became an editorial board member of a new journal front page of Journal of Assistive Technologiescalled "Journal of Assistive Technologies": Published by Pavilion and edited by Chris Abbott, the peer-reviewed journal is different in that it is aimed primarily at practitioners and has a strong user-focus. In the first issue, an article that was of particualr relevance to my own research was: "Multimedia learning and the Internet: ensuring accessibility for people with learning disabilities", written by Peter Zentel, Maria Opfermann and Jan Krewinkel. Take a look at the journal website, and let me know what you think of the contents so far. Also, if you would like to contribute an article, please feel free to contact either myself or the editor:

Technology and Education: For the past ten years I have researched the role of e-learning and technology in higher education- with a particular emphasis on implementation in health care courses and promoting reflection and resource-based learning. For six years I edited the Association for Learning Technology Journal. My last issue will be the March 2008 issue. I have learnt a lot from editing the works of others as new trends and developments have been developed, implemented and evaluated. A key development in the UK which is still having a huge infleunce on higher education instiutions is that of institutional repositories. In 2007, I became a co-investigator of an ESRC funded project called ReStore, which aims to build a protopype of a service for sustaining online resources in the field of research methods. In some ways it will be similar to a digital repository in that the authors and creators of ESRC funded research methods related "resources" will have an opportunity to deposit these resources into a repository that will maintain and in some cases update the resources over time. Whilst there are obvious intellectual property rights and copyright issues to address and learn from in this project, what interests me in particular about this project are the potential similarities and differences between other teaching and learning related reposotories and this research related respository in terms of the sense of community and ownership that may or may not develop and the resulting value placed on the resources contained within the repository. Here is the URL for the project, If you work within the Social Sciences, I would be interested to hear your views about the value of such a project for the research community:

Education and Disability: I teach on a range of programmes including the Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice and the Masters in Educational Practice and Innovation where I specialise in issues relating to inclusion. Currently I am Chair of the University of Southampton Inclusion Forum. In this role I am trying to lead the development of participatory evaluation and research methods within the university. In doing so, I am drawing heavily on my experiences as a co-investigator of an ESRC funded seminar series, which aimed to explore shared concepts of “access” for people with learning disabilities. In this project we brought together people with learning disabilities, practitioners and researchers and using participatory methods and approaches, we tried to answer six key questions:

1. What kind of access do people with learning disabilities want?
2. What is involved in getting access?
3. How and why is access denied?
4. How and why is access achieved?
5. Who should be helping access to happen?
6. How do we improve access in the future?

Our accessible summary report, plus notes and presentations from each of the six seminars will soon be made available from our project website. If you work with children or adults with learning disabilities I would be interested to hear how similar or different your experiences are to those stories and experiences that were shared within our seminars.

Disability, Technology and Education: In the last few years, I have developed a strong profile in the field of e-learning and accessibility. My 2006 book “E-learning and disability in Higher Education: Accessibility research and practice” is in over 300 libraries world-wide. In 2008, this book will become a core text for a new Open University Masters Unit called "Accessibility, and supporting students with disabilities in E-Learning". Front cover of E-Learning and Disability in Higher Education
I am looking forward to working with the course team in order to link the theory to the practice in a meaningful way for those students who opt to study the unit.

In 2007 I also became a co-investigator of a JISC funded project called LEXDIS, which is aims to explore the e-learning experiences of students with disabilities. I am really excited about this project, because it is trying to a give a "voice" to disabled students in higher education, by working with disabled students to create 30 detailed case studies of how they use technology to support their learning and the impact that technology has on their learning experiences: I am learning so much from the project about the challenges of conducting participatory research. It is also a pleasure to work with my co-investigators, E.A Draffan and Mike Wald. Anyone who knows E.A, knows that she is a human dynamo. One of her many achievements is the Emptech database:, which provides information resources on assistive technologies that are designed to help those with specific difficulties or disabilities work and study more effectively. LEXDIS will complete its work in the summer of 2008, so watch this space for updates on our findings as well as details of our dissemination activities. We hope to be presenting at Ed-Media and ALT-C; if you have similar interests it would be great to meet you at these events and share thoughts and experiences.

Well those are my personal highlights of 2007, my new years resolution is to maintain and develop this blog- If you have similar interests in disability, technology and education I hope you will visit my blog from time to time and join me in my thoughts and reflections.