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Why Hire Student ATC Assistants? (Part 2)

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By in Accessibility on .

In the last article I referred to one reason why the ATC Assistant position might be good for the student.  Flexible scheduling for work times can be very helpful for a student; however, other reasons do exist for which a student might want to work with assistive technology and work in the ATC.

The first reason is related to the previous article as well.  There are a large variety of activities in which an ATC Assistant can become involved.  There is teaching, tours, problem solving, web and multimedia creation and editing, and the purchase of new equipment.  Since the ATC has more than one Assistant, an assistant can specialize somewhat and learn about a particular aspect of the ATC or a specific type of disability.  ATC Assistants also come up with new projects.  An ATC Assistant can be in charge of a project that both assists the facility and is also of personal interest. 

The ATC Assistant position provides experiences that can be put on a student’s resume.  There are obvious tie-ins for students who are majoring in areas in which they will work with people who have disabilities, including areas such as medicine and education.  The variety of activities and projects that an ATC Assistant can participate in also can allow students with other majors to gain actual work experience.  The ATC Assistant position is structured so that students can be responsible for the design and operation of entire projects or activities.  A sufficiently large or important project or activity can very easily be a valuable addition to a student’s resume.  Finally, ATC Assistants can be involved with conferences, presentations etc.  The Assistants are treated as valuable members of the ATC’s staff.  They can assume the responsibility and professionalism of a college graduate. 

The ATC Assistant position does not automatically confer advantages to a student.  The position is structured so a student who desires to gain work experience and obtain professional development can work to his/her potential.

Why Hire Student ATC Assistants? (Part 1)

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By in Accessibility on .

Recently I have started to look for two Assistants in the Assistive Technology Center to replace two students who are graduating this May.  As I was looking through the job description, interview questions etc. I thought about the reasons the ATC employs students as assistants and how they benefit the center and the university.

Many of the people who work in assistive technology have experience in other areas.  Sometimes these experiences are in information technology or in assisting people who have disabilities.  No matter what the background there is usually a lot of on-the-job training.  In actuality, technology changes so rapidly enough that the on-the-job-training needs to be continuous.  The clients who the ATC serve also make the mere provision of “cookbook” assistive technology ineffective.  Very few clients need to do one or two simple tasks, such as checking e-mail, browsing web pages etc.  Usually our clients have both basic needs and a few unique needs to each client’s job or area of study.  Therefore, the ATC staff has to be able to research possible solutions to problems and learn how to assist each client.  And researching and learning are activities that college students undertake on a regular basis and can accomplish with ease.

The ATC Assistants have a wide variety of interests and majors.  This variety of backgrounds can be very helpful in finding solutions to problems.  This is especially true when multiple ATC Assistants are working on a problem.  This variety of backgrounds can also be helpful for the writing of informational and training materials for the ATC.  If a document makes sense and means approximately the same thing to all of the ATC Assistants, I have found that it will probably means the same thing and will make sense to our ATC clients.

The vast majority of ATC clients are students.  ATC Assistants frequently understand the time constraints and issues faced by a student client.  The ATC Assistant does not have to ask as many questions of the student client, since both face have many of the same constraints and experiences.  The ATC Assistants are also able to establish their own schedules.  This is considered to be an advantage to the position assumed by our ATC Assistants, for this typically means that the ATC Assistants will be on the job during the times the student clients are interested in contacting the ATC.  For example, no ATC Assistants come to work in at 8:00 in the morning.  Not surprisingly, no student clients come in for services at 8:00 either.  This prior example is very obvious.  However, student clients’ needs also increase right before projects, exams, party weekends, etc.  A full-time non-student assistant may not understand of all of these reasons for increased needs as would our student ATC assistants.

These are some reasons that students can be very helpful as staff in an assistive technology facility.  In the future I will discuss some further advantages for the student as an ATC assistant.

New and improved Course Email List tool

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By in Tools on .

screen capture of the new Course Email List tool interface

What is the Course Email List tool?

Each semester Instructors may request a Course Email list for any sections they are teaching.  The tool provides an easy to use email “alias” that contains an updated list of students in that course. This allows the Instructor an easy to communicate with course, without having to worry about creating a list and keeping it current.

What has changed about the tool?

  • The ability to create multiple list in one step
  • The ability to add authorized senders or recipients
  • The ability to change lists between Announce-only and Discussion
  • An Instructor can now change their authorized  e-mail address to any @purdue.edu e-mail
  • The option to view all list names, and send e-mails directly from the Course Email list website
  • Allowable attachment size has been increased from 10 meg to 40 meg
  • The ability to create a Course Email list for a Blackboard class that is crosslisted

Where can I find more information?

The main web page can be found here:  Course Email List information

The tool itself can be found here:  Course Email List Tool

If you have any other questions or problems you can contact the ITaP Customer Service Center

-James

Take my computer…please!

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By in Musings on Technology on .

The Deluge by Francis Danby (1793-1861)

No one can deny that computers, the Internet, mobile technology, and social media have been transformative in our lives, as a society and as individuals.  Some of the effects are also undeniably bad – as a short visit to netaddiction.com will quickly show you.

Lately there has been a rash of stories and articles about the bad effects of computer use.  The New York Times recently ran a series of articles on “Your Brain on Computers” and found our lives and minds cluttered, our attention scattered, and our personal relationships suffering (e.g. “Hooked on Gadgets“).   Email, Facebook, Twitter – many of us are “plugged in” 24/7, constantly checking in with the devices, constantly multi-tasking, and — so the argument goes — we are absent from, or only skimming the surface, of our “real” lives.

Guilty as charged I’m afraid, at least in my  house.  My significant other accuses me of unnatural devotion to my Blackberry.  When I don’t retain information she’s given me, I’m accused of “multi-tasking.”  And most recently, she used the term “skimming” to describe my lack of due attention to conversations.  When I skim, I miss the details.

“Skimming” takes on new meaning when I use Google Voice, which forwards my voice messages to email.   Google Voice automatically transcribes the attached voice mail file into a text message, with mixed results.  Service people and doctor’s office staff know to speak slowly and clearly when they leave voice messages, so their Google transcriptions are often perfect.  Not so with my 16-year-old daughter, who speaks at a speed and in a dialect understood only by other 16-year-old girls.

My SO speaks English, but like my daugther, she’s a committed fast-talker.  Google struggles, often transcribing some truly amazing strings of nonsense.  Because it takes several more steps and quite a bit longer to open and listen to the audio files for messages on my Blackberry, I often skim the transcription instead. Usually I can get the sense and most of the important information, but I do lose the details…as I discover later, with negative personal effects.

Much of the recent coverage about the Internet seems to be ripple effects from Nicholas Carr’s recently-published The Shallows: What the Internet is doing to our brains.  Using an historic lens and recent findings in brain science, Carr warns, “When we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning.”  Slate calls Carr’s book “The SilentSpring of the literary mind.”

The ThinkerThe “literary mind” is the mind that focuses, mulls, reflects…that pays due attention to one thing.   Do constant connectedness and immersion in social media threaten our ability to do that?

My daughter told me the other day about a classmate of hers whose family has no TV and no computer. The classmate also has no cell phone. What surprised me was that my daughter envied her. My daughter spends hours each day with Facebook open in front of her, often with the TV turned on “for company”, all the while sending and receiving text messages.  According to her, the classmate “has all this time to do other things – read, write stories – because she can’t be online.”

I asked her, “What, you mean you wish you didn’t have your cell phone and your computer? You know, you do have the power to turn those off.”

She said, “But she [the classmate] doesn’t know what she’s missing. I would.”

It’s been part of my job for years to know and use technology and the Internet, and I like it.  But one result of the time I spend online is that I read only about 10% of what I used to.  The good news is that when I do have to focus on something sustained — which doesn’t come up very often, actually — I still have the ability to do it.  One of the things that worries me about my daughter is that she may not have had the chance to fully develop that ability.  The time and energy she spends texting and messaging on Facebook are time and energy not available — she realizes herself — to draw, write, or read.  I’ve witnessed how difficult it is for her to put down the phone or close the laptop, no matter what else is going on (a movie, dinner out, a simple conversation).

I used to have limits on my daughter’s computer use, but when she turned 15, I thought it was time she legislate her own online time.  I’ve changed my mind over the last year when I’ve seen how much of her life it consumes.  This fall when school starts, we’re initiating a new technology-free time at our house each evening, every day: no phones, no computers, no TV each evening, for the space of 3 hours.    I’m giving my daughter the choice of that, or no laptop at all.  Even if she doesn’t require this open time to develop her own “literary mind,” it will provide an unfilled space for her to create and develop her own ideas, without the constant barrage of technology and social media.

Other resources:

Is Google Making Us Stupid?
Does the Internet Make You Dumber?
NPR forum – This is Your Brain Online
Nobel Laureate Says The Internet Makes Us Dumb, We Say: Meh

Writer: Donalee Attardo, director of instructional development, Academic Technologies, ITaP