Accessibility Tools: MLA Conference and Tech Brown Bag Talk

This talk was given at the lunch session at the Making Learning Accessible conference 2015 (which is now the Accessible Learning Conference.  Below are the slides that we used to discuss the faculty training site that an MSU faculty learning community created to help faculty learn about accessibility and Universal Design for Learning.  One of the main features was the creation of different paths that faculty might take to interact with the material based on their needs.

Are you out of the loop? Preprints and Post Printing Peer Review in Science

When helping science faculty think about their digital presence, it often gets framed by the faculty as “just one more thing to do.”  However, the endeavor might be closer to the scientific process and their research than they thought at first glance.

Preprints and post printing peer review are relatively recent additions and twists to the scientific process and traditional approaches to communicating research.  Below are some resources to get you started thinking about if this is an approach you should adopt and how you might go about starting.

An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump by Joseph Wright of Derby, 1768.jpg
By Joseph Wright of DerbyNational Gallery, London, Public Domain, Link


A preprint is where a researcher posts their work or article for public viewing before it gets formally reviewed by a journal.  It has various benefits such as allowing researchers to get feedback that can improve the manuscript and increase the likelihood of acceptance to the journal.  In the bigger picture, it also allows science to have faster distribution of ideas, as the average time to formally publish in a journal has dramatically increased.  The following article gives you an overview of how preprints work, their benefits and potential drawbacks, and some examples what preprints look like:

Berg, Jeremy M., et al. “Preprints for the life sciences.” Science 352.6288 (2016): 899-901.

Post Print Peer Review

You have just designed your study, collected and synthesized your data and now have an incredible and exciting story to tell…but your spouse and friends have already glazed over and threatened to disown you if you continue to discuss your work.  Here is where post print peer review comes in handy.  You no longer have to wait for the next off-year conference to discuss your work with interested parties.  Posting follow-up discussions on blog posts and social media may not only increase citation rates of the work, but also help to continue the dialogue around ideas in various communities.

For a brief discussion about the development of post publication peer review, read Bonnie Swoger’s piece in Scientific American (March 26th, 2014):

Some brief suggestions for how to write a review are offered by James Buchanan at Publons (a free service that tracks peer reviewing):

General Philosophy

I am a curriculum developer at Michigan State University where my work mainly focuses on how to teach science to non-scientists.   Much of my work is trying to elaborate on the overlap of art, science, education, and technology.  Two conceptual frameworks I often use are TPaCK and the STEM to STEAM movement.  Many times in my work I am wrestling with how to leverage technology and pedagogical theory in communicating and improving learning in scientific disciplines, and how are the artistic and scientific endeavor similar and different.

Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by
Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by

Recent projects are looking at using social media tools to link teaching assistants, iterative improvement of images in curriculum, and best practices for ALT Text.  Explore the tabs at the top to see some of these projects.



I made a children’s book for my niece over a decade ago when she was born because I wanted her to feel like she could do whatever she set her mind and heart to. I very much want to continue to believe that, so I’m telling the universe again (isn’t that the Secret? 😛 )..

Read Book Here

Instruct 2020 (concept)

instruct2020-logoA good visual is hard to find:

Currently the most common practice in education to find images to use in class is to either search the internet or use images from the textbook company.  Typically in either case you are unable to edit those images to better align the instruction with your objectives, which means that you end up often saying, “ignore this part of the picture” or “sorry this part is incorrect.”  Instruct 2020 aims to help build and share resources within educational communities, so that we can build free common resources and create shared visual literacy around those images.

Don’t reinvent the wheel…just change the hubcaps:

By using images that have been created by the community and uploaded in an editable format, instructors save time and can have more accurate material for their instruction.  Over time a community of practice can iterate towards effective visual communication that is free and available to wider audiences.
Currently, I am working with Melissa McDaniels Claire Yates, and Julie Libarkin to develop professional development experiences for graduate students around these ideas.
In this representation, the purple arrow represents the Instruct 2020 concept: iterative design of graphics and open access allows for improved instruction worldwide.


Digital Curriculum Guide

Many faculty who are diving into either flipped classroom models or developing for online/hybrid courses are sometimes a-drift because they do not know what resources or steps they should take in the process and when they should think about interacting with the different resources…Should they talk to IT Services before they develop content? Before the course is offered? Where can they find recording facilities? Are there groups on campus that can help them think about creating digital resources? Where/when does accessibility come into play and what are the expectations and guidelines?

To help faculty at MSU (with some specifics about the College of Natural Sciences), I have collated some resources into the following resource guide.

Just starting to put together an online or hybrid course?  Check out this Digital Curriculum Guide!   It’s all about the digital…

Casio F-91W digital watch

Universal Design for Learning and Accessibility

Recently I and colleagues have been looking at Universal Design for Learning (UDL) as a philosophy to approach accessibility.  Much of the framing around accessibility from top-down systems has been around minimizing the risk of lawsuits.  With administration laying out the expectations for faculty in meeting accessibility requirements, the phrase, “unfunded mandate” often gets tossed around.  Ultimately faculty want to be effective communicators to all of their students, so is UDL the answer?  Reframing the question of what additional work do faculty need to do to meet accessibility standards? into how can faculty from the start create content that impacts all students?

Here is part of a workshop we offered to support this conversation.  (open speaker notes for more information about each slide)

Flipped Museum

For the past few years, I’ve been collaborating with Scott Schopieray and Brian Adams in the College of Arts and Letters at MSU in the development of a mobile app, TourGuide, that can be used in and out of the classroom to connect information to location.   The app works similarly to geocaching, except that when a person is at a specific location, they do not find an object, but they can get additional information for that location.  What is powerful about this type of experience is that students can build a tour while they are out in the field.  In one instance, we have a plant systematist using it in her classes where she has students identifying the plants that help to define an ecosystem (e.g. swamps, marshes, etc.).  Students can take a picture and make a “stop” on their tour that explains the importance of the plant.  This approach is a constructivist approach that can be combined with guided inquiry in the classroom.  One of the take home messages of this experience for this class is the importance of natural history collections and their use in identifying plant species.

One use for this app could be the flipping of the concept of natural history collections.  So, instead of their being a central store house of collected specimens.  The specimens can be virtually returned to the area they were collected from, adding more context than could be captured on its identification tag.  We are still working out the implications for this app in both formal and informal settings.

EVO-Apps: Museum Games about Evolution

For this project we were challenged with how do you use games in museum settings where you may only have a minute or two to engage visitors.  This constraint along with conveying concepts of evolution without fostering misconceptions proved to be the big challenge in this project.  In the end, two games were created for touch-screen kiosks that allow museum-goers a chance to explore the evolutionary concepts of mutation and natural selection.  The actual coding, development, and design was done by Adventure Club Games.  This projected was funded by BEACON, an NSF Center for evolution in action.  You can view the current prototypes for the games below.


Natural Selection: