Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Rhetoric of Protests

The events of February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida were mind numbingly upsetting. I, like many of you, saw the news and immediately teared up. It is so frustrating and scary that these school shootings are still happening. And frankly, any mass shooting.

Recently, many high schools in my area had groups of students stage walk outs for 17 minutes in honor of the 17 lives lost during the tragedy. I am encouraged by the active role our young people are taking in keeping the conversation of school safety and gun safety in the eye of the media, the public, and our elected officials. However, when reading the comments on the Facebook posts about these walk outs I realized many people did not share my enthusiasm.

It made me think about how these students can be taken more seriously. As I am teaching Composition II this semester which focuses on argumentation and rhetorical strategies my mind went immediately to rhetorical appeals.

Protesting is a rhetorical act. So, when I got to the high school where I am teaching a dual enrollment course, where the students had walked out the day before, I addressed this with them.

How can you, as teens, use rhetorical appeals to strengthen your protests? How did you or could you have added ethos/credibility to your walk out? How did you or could you employ pathos/emotional appeals? What role does logos have in a protest?

They had great insight. Going back to class instead of leaving for the rest of the day after the 17 minutes establishes credibility because it shows they weren't just trying to skip class. Having spoken to the administration about the plan first established credibility. Being willing to accept detentions if they didn't have their IDs to check back in with as they reentered the school established credibility. Etc.

Have your students participated in a protest? Are they planning a walk out in March or April with some of the other national organized movements? Is this something you can discuss with them?

What I liked about doing this with my students is it showed a real world application of what they're learning. I know another colleague had her students watch Emma's speech and they discussed what worked and what didn't within it. They looked at different rhetorical techniques she used.

Our students are hungry to discuss these issues because they affect them. There will be differing views as to what the right course of action is, but all students should have the chance to learn the best ways to express their views in a way that may result in their views being taken seriously.

These kids are our future. Let's arm them with the tools they need to be champions of change.

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Moving Towards Full Accessibility: PowerPoints

How to Make Your PowerPoints Accessible because braille doesn't work on the computer More and more of education is moving online. At the college level we're doing a lot of distance learning and blended or hybrid classes where up to 70% of the instruction is online. At all levels instructors are flipping their classrooms. Google classroom and Office 365 for education have also really changed the game.

Because of this, making our courses accessible to students with disabilities is more important than ever.

The Office for Civil Rights has resolutions with multiple institutions including the 
South Carolina Technical College System, University of Cincinnati and Youngstown State, all of whom use the following definition of “accessible”:
"Accessible" means a person with a disability is afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability in an equally effective and equally integrated manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use. The person with a disability must be able to obtain the information as fully, equally, and independently as a person without a disability. (The University of Washington)
This shows up a lot with our students who are low vision or limited hearing or are blind or deaf. When utilizing online tools and interactivity we must find ways to offer these students the same opportunity as their peers. And, we must remember that while some students may not be "legally blind" or deaf they may still have enough of a reduction in their senses that they may prefer and learn better from sources that can be used with screen readers or are captioned. What about parents who are assisting students? Tutors? Other instructors you want to share resources with?

This can be overwhelming. None of us are going to be perfect from the start. However, the more we prepare as we go the more prepared we will be in the future. Whenever I get frustrated with the process I remind myself that 1. I don't know who this may be helping immediately and 2. I don't know who this will help in the future.

So, let's start with something most of us are comfortable with. PowerPoint. If you post your PowerPoints online for students to view try making your next one accessible.

Here's a video I quickly made where I explore some accessibility features in PowerPoint.

This video is just a start. There are many other things to consider such as fonts, color choice, and more. It can be a lot to keep up with so I did some extra research and assembled a handy guide.

Want a checklist that you can use while you make your accessible PowerPoint? To receive a free, accessible, Word document that details the information provided in the video and some additional tips and tricks click the image below.
Get your free checklist for accessible powerpoints here because braille doesn't work on the computer.

What other accessibility topics would you like covered? I'm considering, fonts, captioning, and colors for future posts. What am I missing? What do you want to learn about next? Leave a comment or email me when you get your freebie and let me know!