1. Richard Ladner
  2. http://www.cs.washington.edu/people/faculty/ladner
  3. Professor Emeritus
  4. AccessCSforAll
  5. University of Washington
  1. Andreas Stefik
  2. http://web.cs.unlv.edu/stefika/
  3. Assistant Professor
  4. AccessCSforAll
  5. University of Nevada Las Vegas
Facilitators’
Choice
Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Richard Ladner

    Richard Ladner

    Presenter
    May 15, 2017 | 12:53 a.m.

    The Computer Science for All Initiative was announced by the White House about 16 months ago to help bring computer science to all children in the United States.   Our project, AccessCSforAll, is helping make this possible for the approximately 15% of K-12 students with identified disabilities.  You can visit our website at https://www.washington.edu/accesscomputing/accesscsforall and learn more about the Quorum language at https://www.quorumlanguage.com/.

    To open the discussion we have several questions.  First, how important is it to bring computer science to all children in the United States?   All children are expected to learn math and some science as they progress through school.  Should computational thinking and computer programming be elevated to the level of math and science?  

    Most likely, children who are taught computer programming are taught using very block-based languages like Scratch, Blockly, ScratchJr. and others.  Should there be alternatives, such as Quorum, that are universally designed to be accessible to all children, including blind children?

  • Icon for: Neil Plotnick

    Neil Plotnick

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2017 | 05:54 p.m.

    I am all for programming syntax that forgoes the need for ;  {  } %  & and other special characters.

    While the language was designed to be accessible to those with visual impairments, there is a general statement that it may be beneficial for those with other disabilities. Have you been working with students with particular disabilities to determine how Quorum compares to other languages (block and text based)?  What type of support does Quorum have for Raspberry Pi, Aurdino or other embedded products for robotics or sensor operations?

  • Icon for: Andreas Stefik

    Andreas Stefik

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2017 | 06:14 p.m.

    Good question, Neil. We have been conducting an extensive research line comparing ease of use amongst a variety of programming languages. Here is a link to my page: http://web.cs.unlv.edu/stefika/research.html&nb... #2 gives a short list of many of the recent papers related to your question. Paper #15 gives examples of several studies on syntax, although there are more on a variety of systems and how they relate to people with various demographics. Needless to say, it's a complicated question, but we are documenting pretty carefully the evidence for various systems over time and change the system on a schedule (synced with the school calendar in the U.S.) as evidence comes out from various scholars.

    In terms of specifically robots, unfortunately, UNLV's server got hacked this morning so the site is temporarily down and you can't see for yourself, but right now we offer quite a wide variety of "fun" application domains. This includes games, sound materials, visual materials, and other components. For robotics, right now we support LEGO, but in terms of platforms, Quorum 5 (June 1st) supports Desktop (Windows and Mac), iPhone, and the web (most browsers are supported). Every summer we focus group teachers for their top requests and this year was web, which is why it is coming out in Q5.

    HTH,

    Stefik

  • Icon for: Nicole Reitz-Larsen

    Nicole Reitz-Larsen

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2017 | 08:53 p.m.

    It is great to see work being done for a group of students who often times are not included.  What kind of scaffolding is implemented in the curriculum to help the students use computational thinking and connect with the computer science concepts?

    How are teachers doing navigating the program and curriculum so they can support the students?

  • Icon for: Andreas Stefik

    Andreas Stefik

    Co-Presenter
    May 16, 2017 | 11:08 p.m.

    Thanks for your questions, Nicole. The curriculum we have is based largely on computer science principles for high-school aged children, although it's used broader than that by many schools. The spec for that is rather large, but we have worked with teachers for several years to organize/scaffold the ideas so they build on each other over time.

    On June 1st, when our new version of Quorum comes out, this is additionally broken down by track (e.g., core, visual, audio, robotics). In each track, we have a curriculum that maps lessons to various concepts in CSP. For example, students in each track start with concepts like variables and flesh that out in modality specific ways (e.g., moving images, controlling audio, using types). An elected curriculum committee of teachers has been iteratively revising that work for years and we have several teachers paid on contract. They focus a lot on scaffolding out the concepts and making iterative improvements both as a whole and in individual lessons.

    In terms of teachers, we have a number of ways of getting at that question. First, we focus group teachers every year on what support they need and have made iterative improvements for, boy, about 8 years now. In a literal sense, we get teachers together and they vote on what they would like done/changed/updated every year. Second, our online servers take analytics data, so we can see where people are navigating, what lessons are used, and where people get lost. The data is anonymous, but it's incredibly helpful to the team for structuring and scaffolding. Our new version in June is based heavily on data from both of those things.

    Finally, like any tool, some teachers have more experience with programming than others, so we offer PD once a year at Quorum's annual conference (called EPIQ) and we offer real-time support to teachers via telephone and email. So overall, teachers have a lot of support both from us and from a curriculum committee of teachers that are pretty actively engaged. It's a fun community and I've really loved working with all those folks.

  • Icon for: Nicole Reitz-Larsen

    Nicole Reitz-Larsen

    Facilitator
    May 18, 2017 | 12:09 a.m.

    Thanks for sharing Andreas

  • Icon for: Neil Plotnick

    Neil Plotnick

    Facilitator
    May 17, 2017 | 01:08 p.m.

    Just got this article today from my Free Code Camp feed!

    “How I code doesn’t actually differ all that much from how [sighted developers] code. I’ve learned how to touch type, and mentally conceptualize my code so that I can work with it just like you guys do. The only difference is that I barely ever use a mouse for anything. I tend to stick with hotkeys and the command line instead.” — Florian Beijers

    https://medium.freecodecamp.com/how-blind-peopl...

     
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    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Brianna Blaser
  • Icon for: Sarah Wille

    Sarah Wille

    Researcher
    May 18, 2017 | 10:59 a.m.

    Hi Andreas and Richard, thank you for sharing about your work! Teachers typically have a diverse range of learners in their classrooms (not just those with diagnosed disabilities), and research-informed instructional resources like Quorum are critical to teachers to help meet the needs of their students (and ultimately to make CS really for all). It’s great to hear about your close work with educators as part of that work, too, since their experience and expertise as classroom teachers is key in materials development and revision success.

    Do you have opportunities to hear from high school student users about their experiences with Quorum, too? What do they find to be most useful or interesting or fun? What would they modify to make their learning experience better? Do these things differ significantly among students? For teachers, what do you typically hear when you ask what kinds of supports they would like to see? What are some curricular changes they’ve suggested over the years that you would have never realized needed adjustment without input from expert educators? Looking forward to your responses to any of the above questions, keep up the great work!

  • Icon for: Andreas Stefik

    Andreas Stefik

    Co-Presenter
    May 18, 2017 | 04:28 p.m.

    Sarah,

    There are all fantastic questions and thanks so much for asking them. As it happens, when the first grant on the Quorum project was funded, we spent the first 3 years building the tech and interviewing largely blind students (and teachers and administrators). At the time, Quorum was a glorified calculator, but blind students told us over and over again what they "really" wanted to be able to do: everything.

    The thing was, these students are sometimes well aware of what is going on in the world. They know about Scratch, OpenGL, Unity game engines, signal processing toolkits and all this awesome stuff, but just a ton of it isn't accessible. So we heard repeatedly that they wanted to be able to write computer games (even visual ones), amongst comments about all these other systems. However, while the students told us that, the administrators and teachers had a different story: make it real.

    The second problem, which administrators were referring to, was that schools for the blind had a chronic problem with research. In normal research, scholars come up with a idea and then, if it works out, it might get commercialized as part of a product that becomes available or be brought into a theory that gets applied a domain (e.g., curriculum for education). However, in talking to admins though, this pipeline didn't really exist because the population was small, so they have, for years, had research staff members with a grant come in, do their project and get their pub, only to find that the work was dropped along with the funding. This wasn't intentional, but happened just because of the nature for how scientific grants work. They aren't really designed for commercialization.

    What we thought might work then was, 1) make Quorum commercially viable by just spending thousands of hours building it. Toys would never have been adopted by the community at the time, 2) see if it was possible to invent 2D/3D visualization systems that were accessible (this took us 3 years, but is basically there now for some cases), 3) develop curriculum/tools "across" domains. That last one is important, because otherwise we'd have a tool that was very accessible, but did only one thing, which would have limited adoption. This is why our current stuff is across so many domains (e.g., digital signal processing, games, music, algorithms, data structures). 

    Anyway, that's a high level overview of what we learned from interviews in the first few years of the project. We don't do interviews with kids as much nowadays, but those formative years were crucial in helping us understand what the needs even were. For example, the last thing I expected to hear from the community was, "This needs to be commercial scale" or "Ya, I can't see, but I want to write 3D computer games and have my sighted friends play the game."

    HTH,

    Stefik

     
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    Sarah Wille
  • Icon for: Lien Diaz

    Lien Diaz

    Facilitator
    May 18, 2017 | 03:35 p.m.

    The importance of this project cannot be overstated. Coming from the teaching and learning side of things, I don't see enough done to integrate research such as this in teacher and student resources, especially in computer science education. Many of the questions I'm also curious about have been asked and I look forward to those responses. Great project! 

  • Icon for: Andreas Stefik

    Andreas Stefik

    Co-Presenter
    May 18, 2017 | 07:51 p.m.

    Thank you for your kind words, Lien!

  • Icon for: Richard Ladner

    Richard Ladner

    Presenter
    May 19, 2017 | 11:59 a.m.

    Lien,

    Your encouragement means a lot coming from you who has done so much to bring computer science principles to where it is today.

    Richard

  • Icon for: Sarah Lee

    Sarah Lee

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 19, 2017 | 03:00 p.m.

    Thank you for your work in this area. We are hoping to bring Quorum to Mississippi to students with low vision or blindness, a very under-resourced population in the state.

  • Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.