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.