Archive for February 4, 2011

Finally, Programming Environments for Blind Students

At CE21, I got a chance to talk to Chris Hundhausen who told me about his SIGCSE 2011 paper on building programming environments for blind students.  Susan Gerhart has challenged our community of computing educators to think about how our pedagogical tools can be used with visually disabled students.  She’s completely right — we tend to use graphical notations (as in Alice, Scratch, and Squeak eToys) to improve students’ ability to get started with computing, but those are useless for a blind student.

Chris is actually working on several different ideas including audio debuggers and manipulatives (physical artifacts) for representing the programs.  Chris said that his colllaborator, Andreas Stefik (Chris’ former student) is excellent at empirical methods, so all his design ideas are carefully developed with lots of trials.  The paper includes results from a test of the whole suite of tools.

I hope that lots of people follow-up on Chris’s work and direction.  My bet that what they’re finding will enable multi-sensory programming environments that will help everyone.


February 4, 2011 at 2:07 pm 3 comments

What counts as code to criticize: Software studies

I’ve heard of “software studies” once before, which is described as “applying humanities methods to problems in software, software culture, and computer science” (by Jeremy Douglas), but haven’t read much on it.  I was just perusing Jeremy’s movie “What counts as code to criticize” (slides are available in PDF) where he contrasts traditional textual programming, natural language programming (which is what he calls Inform 7), and programming patches with Max/MSP.  Honestly, I don’t quite get all that he’s saying, but the idea of using humanities methods to compare and contrast languages like these is intriguing.  Part of what we argue with contextualized computing education is that we are now getting students who think like us.  The students who aren’t in our classes probably don’t think like us.  We need to think about what we do in new ways to figure out strategies to engage those others.

February 4, 2011 at 1:53 pm Leave a comment

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