Sunday, September 27, 2009

My Life as an Avatar: Second Life

This week's assignment is all about virtual worlds, their potential for use in education and ways that they can serve as adaptive technology. Second Life is the most extensive and therefore warrants it's own post. Now, I've used Second Life before... At my old company, I attended trainings, press conferences and similar global events in Second Life. I created my avatar, navigated in-world and used various methods of communication. However, I still learned something from this unit.

Lessons Learned:
1. Being an early adopter is sometimes a disadvantage - My avatar design is pretty basic compared to the new designs being offered at sign-up currently.
2. Avatars can change outfits - However, creating new outfits is complex and time consuming.
3. It's really easy to find your way around when you already know where you are going - TC Educator looks exactly like Teachers College in RL. That's a big help. It also means we need to allow for more exploration time when things are not familiar.
4. Linden meet Nintendo! - We really need better navigation devices using motion control.
5. Headsets help - It's a lot easier to communicate by voice with your SL friends and neighbors. Chat & IM are too slow.
6. On SL, nobody knows you're a dog, really! - Even more true than ever, on SL you can be whoever you want to be. This makes it a great platform for individuals with disabilities who might normally be uncomfortable in social situations. There are also lots of Worlds and Groups that offer services and accessibilities for these individuals.
7. Equitable Education for All - Second Life offers the ability for teachers to differentiate instruction and is especially valuable for learners who are visually or kinesthetically oriented.
8. SL expands the RL in numerous ways - SL offers opportunities to explore RL places in ways not possible in RL. It also offers physically impossible or difficult visualizations of scientific phenomenon, new innovations and places to explore, and a graphic design studio for students.
9. Meeting a RL friend in SL is a lot easier than meeting a new SL friend - Here Debbie & I are meeting after watching the class lecture in Milbank Chapel at TC (SL):

10. Exploring takes hours - You can easily get caught up in-world for hours on end and not even realize where the time went. Hence, this brief lessons learn post! If you want the full analysis with a lot more detail, feel free to read my Virtual World Accessibility Analysis in your free time!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

$1 Design Challenge: The Coat Lifter

Welcome loyal GadgetGirl fans to my newest blog! This blog will focus entirely on educational technology as it relates to equity and inclusion for all. Ok, so the blog is for a class I am taking (Computer Applications in Special Education) but it ties in nicely with the premise of my original blog (GadgetGirl's Education 2.0).

So, the first assignment for this class is called the $1 Design Challenge and it's all about simplicity. So, our task is to design a simple assistive technology device that actually does something and costs less than one dollar to make. The example given in class was that of a paper clip. Today, paper clips come in many different shapes, sizes and designs but the intent is the same - hold papers together. Like, curb cuts, the design is universal in that anyone can use it (and will likely use it) even for purposes other than it's original intent.

My assistive technology (or adaptive technology, as some call it - hence the name of this blog) is the Coat Lifter. I'm sure many of you can relate to the problem. You have a brand new mid-length or full-length coat and are excited to wear it. You go out to dinner with friends but the restaurant doesn't have a coat room. So, what do you do? You place the coat on the back of your chair and fret all night about how dirty the bottom must be getting or fear that it will keep tripping the waiter. The solution: The Coat Lifter!!!

1 Rubber Band (Cost: $1.99 for a bag of 50. Each rubber band: $0.04)2 Magnets (Cost: $1.79 for a package of 6. Each magnet: $0.30)
Krazy Glue (Cost: Nothing - I already had this at home)
Stickers (Cost: Nothing - I got these free in the mail with return address labels)
Total Cost: $0.64.

The Experiment:
I had the coat lifter idea almost immediately on the way home from class. But, implementation was a lot harder. I thought of several different ideas including using hair clips attached to a dowel (but who would carry that around with them!) and other types of clips attached to string but it didn't seem like they would work. I settled on my rubber band and magnet idea and went to work. Good thing the magnets were on sale or it might have been cost prohibitive. I got home and attached the rubber bands and magnets using a glue gun. But, they were pretty ugly. That's when I decided to use the stickers I had lying around the house to make the visible sides nicer. I tested it out with my coat and the magnets fell off! Back to the drawing board. Krazy Glue seemed to be the answer because the magnets were now staying connected to the bands. And, while I got the magnets to attract through the coat, I could easily see that stronger magnets would be necessary in a product ready for sale, especially for heavier coats. Larger or more flexible rubber bands might also be helpful.

The Application:
In this example, I used a raincoat with a split in the back to demonstrate the difference between the long side and the side using the Coat Lifter. Ideally, you would want to have more than one to lift up both sides of the coat. In all fairness, this invention would probably cost more than $1 in actual production if using stronger magnets and more flexible bands. But, buying the raw materials in bulk could actually bring the cost down again.

coat on chaircoat on chair closeupcoat with coat lift closeup

To conclude, this assignment was fun and thought-provoking, providing insight into the idea of universal design, as well as universal design for learning.