Technology for Social Justice – Lesley University

Technology for Social Justice – Lesley University


My name is Randi Korn. I’m the Assistant Provost for Academic Success. I oversee retention, tutoring, disability services. I am Dr. Linda Lengyel, from Graduate School of Education, and the Threshold program at Lesley University. Hi my name is Lisa Spitz, and I’ve worked at Lesley for three years now. I teach in the design department. I teach both online and in-person classes, and user experience, information architecture and design thinking. My name is Susan Patterson. I’m a faculty member in the Graduate School of Education here at Lesley. I teach instructional technology courses. I teach courses in Secondary education history methods, and I direct the PhD program in an individually designed specialization. We have our offices divided in two. It’s for LD Asperger’s spectrum types of students. Sees one different set of disability specialists, and they receive very very specialized tutoring. Then we have an access area that’s two other people who work on that area, and they’re the people who mostly would be converting textbooks, would be looking at accessibility as far as content but also buildings and any kind of getting around campus. Are you familiar with IPEDS? That’s the national reporting statistics. So for undergraduates. Right? Full time traditional undergraduates reported to IPEDS. We’re the third highest college for students with documented disabilities. So 23 percent of our students have a documented disabilities. Who contacted the school, contacted the office. So that doesn’t include our adult learners, really, that doesn’t include that reporting. It doesn’t mean they haven’t contacted the office, but it doesn’t include the grad students, the online students. So, we do a lot of accessibility for online adult and grad students as well. So Lesley itself is founded on social justice. I’ve only been here six years, and that’s one of the reasons why I really wanted to work here. So all of my colleagues are about social justice. Everyone gets an education, it’s democratization of education I suppose. That’s one of my thoughts about online teaching. When I first thought about it, I thought this is a terrible idea. Why would anybody want to do that? Then I understood that there are students in the rural South who would have no access to courses both high school and university courses, if they weren’t brought in via technology. So that’s a different sort of inclusiveness than we generally think about. But so I’m an instructional technologist. So technology is about social justice. So inclusiveness is a part of that. Well, I think about all the different students might be accessing my content that everybody exists along a spectrum, and somebody who’s tired might look like somebody who has ADD at a given moment in time. Trying to consider the fact that the students who are coming to my courses have full lives above and beyond my course. Try to take that into consideration and make it easy for them to engage with the content in ways that they’ll find helpful. But I teach future teachers mostly. So anything that’s free I want to model, because I want the students to be able to use that in their course. Why would I teach students to use something they’re probably going to be unable to use rather than something I know that they will be able to use. I think the biggest challenge for teachers is that access piece. It’s not just physical access. No. So, if a student has visual impairment, it’s not just making sure that they can see, it’s also accessing concepts and really being able to understand the concepts, and then being able to show us what they know. I’d say we still have a lot of work that we can do to improve just in terms of having all faculty. Also matched by the beat of the same drum, buy into the concept, understand what it means, know how to address issues when they pop up. So, it seems like Ally is a good resource for at least raising awareness among all faculty, so they can maybe start to see that there’s something here that they need to pay attention to and maybe will help to move the needle over time. So it seems like in the last eight or nine months, there’s been a huge growth in people talking about universal design. In who’s organizing it, and who’s doing it, and how do we look at our spaces, how do we look at our courses, how do we look at our materials, our content? So, I’ve seen that in pockets across the college. So I think people are actually looking for some way to contain it all, and for the college as a whole to commit to it. As we know that many of our college courses are very of reading and writing based. Kids with difficult disabilities, reading and writing is certainly not the best way to access, for them to access learning. I mean the ideal is that you’re creating content for everyone that’s interesting and engaging, and it also happens to be accessible. I don’t really look at it the other way around. They had a choice of doing a reading or watching a video. But what Ally gave me, is a choice that they can take that reading and turn it into audio. Then for the students I didn’t take account but I just said, “Raise your hand.” Many of the students use the text to speech software. So Ally just does that for me. It’s really really again really exciting and really timely. This raises a great idea for people who are on commute and driving, and I do that as well when I have a long paper to read. It’s at least a first read. Right. So I know what it’s about. So I think those ideas are great. Upload their own documents or upload or find resources for students that students can actually do something with, so that our department, the Disability Services office, doesn’t have to convert everything. If you could actually convert something to electronic Braille, if you could convert it to sound, that’s just going to take- and you could do it in five minutes. It’s pretty easy to do. They can spend more time coaching students, working with students, working on some of the physical accessibility challenges on campus. I am so excited that you guys are here, and so excited of the work that you guys are doing. Actually, now, we’ll begin to follow some of the work that you guys are doing. It fits so beautifully.

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