1. Emily Moore
  2. Director of Research and Accessibility
  3. Ramping Up Accessibility in STEM: Inclusively Designed Simulations for Diverse Learners
  4. http://phet.colorado.edu
  5. University of Colorado Boulder
  1. Taliesin Smith
  2. Inclusive Design Research Specialist
  3. Ramping Up Accessibility in STEM: Inclusively Designed Simulations for Diverse Learners
  4. http://phet.colorado.edu
  5. University of Colorado Boulder
Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Emily Moore

    Emily Moore

    Presenter
    May 15, 2017 | 08:54 a.m.

    Thank you for viewing our video! We would love to hear your thoughts and questions on the design and use of auditory descriptions for complex interactives, like PhET simulations. In particular: 

    • Researchers - If you’ve worked in creating, or assessing description for complex resources before, let us know! We would love to compare notes, and collaborate to come up with some general best practices.
    • Teachers - How could auditory descriptions for simulations help students in your classroom? And, what teacher resources would support your use of auditory descriptions with students? (Videos examples, short written guides, a way to visually access the description content, etc.)
    • Everyone - We would love to hear your ideas on how to scale up the development and implementation of description for simulations. Would you be interested in joining these efforts? We want to make all PhET simulations accessible to all students and teachers! 
    Looking forward to the conversation!
  • Icon for: Donna Charlevoix

    Donna Charlevoix

    Program Director
    May 15, 2017 | 12:57 p.m.

    Hi Emily. So great to see the project underway! I'm curious to know if what you've learned from the research on making the simulations accessible how this has impacted the creation of new simulations? Are you doing anything fundamentally different?  I'm also wondering about your strategy for dissemination of the simulations - do you do a lot of "marketing" and training? or is PhET sufficiently well established at this point that you are happy with your distribution and user base? Thanks!  

  • Icon for: Emily Moore

    Emily Moore

    Presenter
    May 15, 2017 | 02:13 p.m.

    Hi Donna,
    Thanks for your questions! We are learning so much from our accessibility initiative, and we are definitely incorporating this learning into the design and development of new simulations. The technical infrastructure that supports the addition of accessibility features is now part of our general codebase, so all HTML5 sims now have the capability of having these accessibility features added in. We are broadening the knowledge of how to design keyboard navigation to PhET's entire design team, so all sims started in 2017 will be published with keyboard navigation as part of the general design process. We're working on ways to incorporate auditory description into the design of all new simulations, also. As the PhET team has learned more about accessibility, we are becoming more precise in our language around HTML5 elements (e.g., buttons, sliders, etc.) and the typical design patterns associated with these. So, not surprisingly, increasing accessibility is also improving our general design process.

    Regarding dissemination, you're right that we have (over time) developed a wonderful community of teachers. As we expand into new topics (check out our video on our efforts in mathematics!) we are always looking for ways to ensure that all STEM teachers are aware of our resources. We also want to make sure that our supporting resources are helpful to teachers getting started with PhET sims and those looking for new ways to use PhET sims in their classroom. If you have ideas for how to ensure that teachers are aware of our new accessibility features, or how to support teachers in making use of these features to support student learning, let us know!

     
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    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Mary Dussault
  • Icon for: Donna Charlevoix

    Donna Charlevoix

    Program Director
    May 15, 2017 | 02:22 p.m.

    That's fantastic Emily! I love that the program is flexible enough to make such fundamental changes to the programming process!

    I don't have any great ideas on dissemination - it's something that we are always working to improve. For K-12 we try to reach out via NSTA and for college-level we're connected with the geosciences university community and share our information with them. I am planning to share your video with the American Meteorological Society Board on Women and Minorities to make sure they are aware of your project. There is a strong focus on accessibility right now and many of the simulations can be applied to atmospheric physics concepts. :-)  

  • Icon for: Janet Yowell

    Janet Yowell

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 15, 2017 | 12:16 p.m.

    Well done Emily. What a great project for learners with disabilities!

  • Icon for: Emily Moore

    Emily Moore

    Presenter
    May 15, 2017 | 02:14 p.m.

    Hi Janet,

    Thanks for watching our video, and for your encouraging words!

  • Icon for: Vivian Guilfoy

    Vivian Guilfoy

    Senior Advisor
    May 15, 2017 | 03:04 p.m.

    It's wonderful to see the adaptations.  I am curious to know if and how students with and without visual impairments work together on the same simulations.    I agree that adaptations for learners with different abilities often helps all students.  It would be great to have some specific stories about how that happens with your project.  

     
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    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Mary Dussault
  • Icon for: Taliesin Smith

    Taliesin Smith

    Co-Presenter
    May 16, 2017 | 10:48 a.m.

    Hi Vivian,

    Thanks for watching our video. Our goal from the beginning of this work has been to support students with diverse abilities in working together with a simulation. We too, are also quite interested in learning how students with diverse abilities collaborate while using accessibility features. We have not yet conducted studies of students working together in groups with the sims, but we will begin those investigations this summer, so check back with us later in the year!

  • May 15, 2017 | 03:26 p.m.

    Hi Emily,

    Very nice to see the progress being made to make PHET accessible.   Have you considered a tablet version that can give some spatial information while exploring the screen?

  • Icon for: Emily Moore

    Emily Moore

    Presenter
    May 17, 2017 | 10:44 a.m.

    Hi Richard, 
    Yes! We plan to have the simulations be accessible from tablet devices as well. There are technical challenges to this, as the added affordance of touch input needs to handled in a way that allows for the description content to be triggered, and we're not quite there yet. We do have the auditory descriptions provide spatial information as objects are moved onscreen, and we're working on ways to convey spatial information with sonification as well. 
    Thanks for your question!

  • Icon for: Michael Stone

    Michael Stone

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2017 | 12:47 p.m.

    Hi Emily,

    This is fascinating work, bringing STEM simulations to all audiences is truly critical. I agree with Richard that exploring this technology in tablets could be transformative.

    Have you noticed any secondary impacts on student learning/achievement as a result of their interaction with PHET? For example, if a student uses PHET to engage in an ecological simulation, does he/she show increased engagement in other subjects that are tangential or parallel to that specific content being reinforced through the simulation?

  • Icon for: Emily Moore

    Emily Moore

    Presenter
    May 17, 2017 | 10:46 a.m.

    Hi Michael,

    That's a great question! We haven't investigated how PhET simulations impact student interest in other aspects of STEM. If you know someone who might be interested in partnering with us on a project like this, let us know!

     
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    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Michael Stone
  • Icon for: Janet Kolodner

    Janet Kolodner

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2017 | 01:04 p.m.

    As others have said, you guys are providing a great service for those who can't see by adding auditory annotations to the highly-visual PhET simulations. My guess is that those who can see benefit from those as well, as sometimes it isn't clear exactly what to pay attention to or what is going on in something one is viewing.

    I wonder, however, if auditory annotation is enough for everyone who can't see, and I wonder whether technology gives us a chance to imagine other types of simulations (e.g., haptic or embodied).

     

    Donna (above) asked this: I'm curious to know if what you've learned from the research on making the simulations accessible how this has impacted the creation of new simulations? You answered by discussing the technical infrastructure that will let you (and others) annotate existing visual simulations with accessibility features. 

     

    I wonder about the rest of her question. What ideas do you have about new kinds of simulations (e.g., haptic or embodied) that might (a) address the needs of those who can't see better than annotations to visual simulations can and (b) provide alternative means of making sense even to those who can see quite well but for whom the visual simulation doesn't go far enough in helping them understand?

     

    Janet

  • Icon for: Janet Kolodner

    Janet Kolodner

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2017 | 01:07 p.m.

    Let me clarify that. You might or might not be the ones creating those new types of simulations. So maybe I shouldn't have asked about your imagination with respect to those other types of simulations but rather should have asked about what advice you have for those who will create those. What features do they need to have to foster sense making?

  • Icon for: Emily Moore

    Emily Moore

    Presenter
    May 17, 2017 | 06:08 p.m.

    Hi Janet,

    Your comment touches on exactly what is at the core of our mission with accessible PhET sims. We ultimately want to create multimodal simulations that broaden the range of input and output modalities (beyond touch or mouse input, and beyond visual output) available for students. We started with keyboard and screen reader access (which we're addressing with the auditory description work presented in our video), and are investigating other modalities, such as haptic and gesture as well as speech and onscreen access to the descriptions we've created. We believe that by layering in these other modalities, we can create simulations that provide access and new ways of engaging with STEM content for all students. For example, the auditory descriptions we've created support students who are blind or visually impaired, but can also support students with certain learning disabilities if presented onscreen. In our sonification work (using non-speech sound to convey information), we can provide richer auditory display using auditory descriptions + sonification, while also providing more engaging experiences for all students with sonification alone. 

    One thing we’ve learned from our work so far - it’s very important to have a team that is diverse and inclusive. Our team includes people with expertise in accessible technology and web standards, simulation design and user interfaces, and classroom and pedagogical knowledge - and is inclusive of people with disabilities. Accessibility really needs to be integrated into the simulations at a deep level (from design to technical implementation) to result in a seamless experience for teachers and students that supports an effective inquiry experience for all students. This requires a team with a broad range of expertise working closely together, with equal emphasis on alignment to technical standards, good usability, and good learning design. 

  • Icon for: Chris Thorn

    Chris Thorn

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2017 | 11:33 p.m.

    I'm wondering about the design principles you might be able to share with the larger community. There are many organizations building simulations and other online systems to support student practice both inside and outside classrooms. I wonder if you could share what you have found to be the most compelling design principles. Given the progress you seem to have made, I would be surprised if there are not some "big ideas" as well as guides to practice that would not be broadly useful right away. 

  • Icon for: Taliesin Smith

    Taliesin Smith

    Co-Presenter
    May 19, 2017 | 09:42 a.m.

    Hi Chris,
    Great question! Part of our efforts are going into documenting our processes and identifying useful and shareable design principles.  In our accessibility work, we seek to align with principles of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0, W3C-WAI), and to leverage the semantics of HTML5 and WAI-ARIA wherever possible. However, all of the interactions and interactive elements in the PhET sims (and many other interactive learning resources) do not map directly to elements and roles provided by these standards. When this is the case, we have to design custom interactions and find creative ways of communicating how that interaction works for users when they encounter it. And we have to ensure all of this works within the specific pedagogical context.

    We are working on different ways of sharing this information - our technical approach, our custom designs, and our ways of communicating use - to the broader community, through publications, information on our website, and through conversations with interested folks. We have a public a11y-interactives group of designers and software developers that meets regularly to discuss challenges - anyone can join and bring their accessibility challenges to the discussion. If you or anyone you know would like to join this group, let us know and we’ll add you to the email list so you can get updates on meeting dates/times/topics.

  • Icon for: Janet Kolodner

    Janet Kolodner

    Facilitator
    May 17, 2017 | 12:28 p.m.

    I'd like to see the answer to this also. Great question!

  • Icon for: Maureen Holden

    Maureen Holden

    K-12 Teacher
    May 18, 2017 | 10:28 a.m.

    Emily, 

    This work is fantastic! As a teacher who uses the PhEt Simulators in her classroom a great deal, I was concerned knowing that next year I would have a student with vision impairments. Will these adaptations be available for student use  during the next school year?

  • Icon for: Taliesin Smith

    Taliesin Smith

    Co-Presenter
    May 19, 2017 | 09:46 a.m.

    Hi Maureen,
    Thank you for your enthusiasm and excellent question. We are excited to announce that we just published our first accessible simulation, John Travoltage. It is now available on the PhET website for everyone to use. We will be publishing our second accessible simulation this summer.

    We are very interested to learn how students with and without vision impairments collaborate in the classroom using the same simulation. If you are interested in collaborating, please get in touch.

  • May 19, 2017 | 05:02 p.m.

    Hi Emily, 
    I'm still so excited about the work you are doing with multiple representations of simulated STEM.  One of these days we need to revisit those Earth science ideas!  Keep up the great work.

  • Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.