ERA Workshop at the Rewiring Inclusion Conference

Trevor Collins from KMI and Jessica Bartlett from the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences ran a workshop on inclusive fieldwork at the Rewiring Inclusion conference in Nottingham on Tuesday. The conference, organised by the UK’s Association of Learning Technology (ALT) and the Joint Information Systems Committee’s (JISC) TechDis service, sought to highlight the importance of inclusion and encourage technology developers and policy leaders to ensure their technology is suitable for everyone to use.

Over 130 delegates attended the conference, and we ran our short workshop twice. We explained the work we’ve been doing at the OU in the Enabling Remote Activity (ERA) Project, where we have developed a portable Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) that can be used in fieldwork locations to provide a WiFi communications network for students and tutors. In our geology fieldwork courses we use the network to help mobility impaired students who cannot get to some of our field locations to access them remotely using live video streaming and VoIP telephony. Although developed in the context of geology fieldwork, the workshop attendees could see that the system could be used by anyone in any mobile learning context.

As well as highlighting the importance of inclusion when considering the design and delivery of learning technologies, the conference showed how technologies originally designed to support disabled people (such as text to speech synthesis and scanning systems) could be of benefit to everyone. As with other tools we do not always foresee the potential uses of our technologies when developing them, but we can certainly benefit from making them accessible to everyone in order to see how they are appropriated.

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