As children grow up in the digital age, with technology being embedded in every aspect of daily life, more importance is being given to the need for computing education in schools. In recent years, policy initiatives around the world are actively seeking to teach children computational thinking as well as how to ‘code.’ This drive has motivated the development of languages specifically for children, both visual and physical, to learn coding both within and outside of school. All of these languages require vision to either enter code, e.g. through drag and drop, or experience the result of the code, e.g. animation of moving robots. As a result, there are no programming languages for children that are inclusive of those with no or low vision.
The team is continuing developments of the technology and is now working with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) to conduct an expanded beta trial with approximately 100 children in Autumn 2017. To find out more about the Beta trial, or to get involved, visit https://aka.ms/torinobeta.
In this project, we design a physical programming language for teaching computational thinking skills and basic programming concepts to children age 7-11, regardless of level of vision. To this end, we follow a user-centered design approach that involves the iterative development and deployment of prototype technology with targeted users. Intended to promote the acquisition of important computational thinking skills, the technology is designed to be inclusive of children with mixed visual abilities, and to enable learning experiences that are imaginative, engaging and fun.
We would like to thank the following people for their contribution to this project: Zahra Ashktorab, Alan Blackwell, Darren Edge, David Sweeney, Yuki Machida, Oscar Salandin, and Eloise Taysom.
Photos by Jonathan Banks.