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H810 – Individual perspectives (A35.1-b)

December 25, 2010

There is one good thing with snow – it does not contradict with my learning, well at least not much, except that at times I have to clear the pavement/sidewalk, but besides that I sit at home and can study all day long 😉

Talking about contradictions. Seale identifies in chapter 12 six potential area for conflict or contradiction within an organisation or activity system. Here are the possible six contradictions between:

  • object and tools
  • object and division of labour
  • community and division of labour
  • community and rules
  • rules and subject
  • tools and subject

We are now asked to identify potential contradictions that exist in my organisation and why. Aside from the fact that my school does not really cater for the needs of disabled students which might explain the low numbers on our school. But as discussed already though Germany also signed and ratified the UN Enable conventions do German students nevertheless have no legal entitlement to visit mainstream schooling. Similar to what we read about law cases in Seale’s chapter 11, do I not know about an established one. Sometimes it makes the new that some parents fight for the right that their children is allowed to attend regular mainstream schools, but mostly with less success. Our whole school system does not really emphasize on inclusive teaching but more on segregation into discrete specific schools, e.g. for deaf and hearing impaired students. I know one of these schools and they offer service from kindergarten up to vocational school, including boarding school because students from all over Germany come to this well know school and they also offer hearing test and counselling for parents concerned. The vocational part of their school and my last school had a brief collaboration and we sometime cooked together and though I believe in inclusion, do I have to admit that they really cater very well for those students, especially those who are more severe impaired. They have e.g. special flooring and the walls of their classrooms are specially prepared to keep the background noise as low as possible and they do a lot to prepare their students for their future work life, hence they receive a far better care as they would experience in any mainstream school, not to forget the specially trained teachers. These teachers take a complete different route as regular teachers so are so much better prepared to deal with the special needs of these students. Considering that I have to admit that being in the position of a parent, I might even decide sending my children to this special school. However, I had the luck to get a brief impression about the American school system with their ‘No child is left behind’ campaign, and sit on it an American class and experienced first hand how inclusion can work was pretty impressive and convincing.

However, after this long detour, coming back to the contradictions 😛

Contradictions between the object and the tools can arise if the tools (e.g. guidelines, standards, evaluation and repair tools) currently available are weak and not good enough to enable the users to meet the objective of the activity. It is not that not enough tools exist, but their quality is sometimes questionable, because they are poorly designed/engineered and/or are prematurely released (McMullin 2002). Having to evaluate our own online e-learning resource and an e-learning resource from one of our peers let me experience a lot of problems that Seale describes now in chapter 12, e.g. how difficult it is to interpret accessibility guidelines, not to talk about to pick the right ones that would be appropriate for the own context from the sheer overwhelming amount of guidelines. The validity and reliability of evaluation and repair tools is sometimes questionable and interpreting the results of this tools is difficult as well and often requires a great amount of technical knowledge that not every individual (subject) might have. Therefore Seale recommend that tool developers need to communicate information to users, thus to provide answers not open more questions. My school and I experienced definitely conflicts with this area, besides that I allege that those in my school who design e.g. the school webpage do not really care or know about those tools, showing how much it is often taken for granted that ‘everybody’ can access the site not considering at all that this might not be the case.

Contradictions between the object and the division of labour might arise when a fragmented division of labour is pulling the different stakeholders apart and preventing them from working together to meet the objective. Coming back to my school I would say there is no community at all, and if like in the case of the student who disclosed that she is diagnosed with dyscalculia, the responsibility lies solely on the shoulders of the teacher. Distributing individual responsibilities can be an area for conflict, but sometimes there is ‘also a tension between the need to place responsiblity on the shoulders of one particular stakeholder (because s/he has the knowledge) and the acknowledgement that ‘partnerships’ are required’. The concept of partnerships on the other hand assumes equal power and responsibilities; a goal that is often not achieved.

Conflicts also arise ‘if the rules that the community develop divide labour in such a way as to mitigate against the objective of the activity being achieved’. That means that in the process by which policy is created not all relevant parties are involved, which might lead to resistance within the individual subjects to apply this policy, because the individual cannot identify with it and might be biased with own values, or simply refuse to apply them because s/he dislike the top-down process. I have to admit that I can implement policies and rules a lot better when I have been consulted, but I also know that this not always achievable.

When a community cannot agree on the rules and how they should be applied, or ‘where the community is not working together to help practitioners understand the relationship between the rules contained within legislation, guidelines and standards, then contradictions and conflicts may arise.

However, conflicts also arise when rules are non-existent, weak, inconsistent and not detailed enough and so not good enough to enable subjects to meet the objective of the activity, because they lack detailed ‘rule of practice’  to guide them. Yet, if rules are not visible and openly enforced than rules will be perceived as weak or confusing and subjects may simply take the easy route and simply ignore accessibility issues.

Finally, if subjects are unable to use the tools in the intended way problems also arise.

Well, it seems that pretty much conflicts can arise within the activity system, thus within an organisation, and any or all of the contradictions will prevent accessible e-learning practice from developing, with devastating results for disabled users 😦

Being  asked if the figure above could be useful to trigger for discussion within your organisation and I think they could help us to identify what changes or developments are needed and why they are needed, but as long as the whole discourse about accessibility with the school system does not radical change, though there are brief approaches to greater integration on some schools, there will be no discussion at all.

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