Student, professor team develop new curriculum for the visually impaired

Student, professor team develop new curriculum for the visually impaired

Student, professor team develop new curriculum for the visually impaired
April 26
14:56 2017

Since 2012, a visually impaired professor has been working on a new curriculum allowing students like him to explore computer science at UNT.

UNT computer science professor Stephanie Ludi wants to encourage visually impaired middle school and high school students to learn computer science, with the release of her modified curriculum.

When she was a student, Ludi said she could not see the board in her classrooms, making it difficult to learn. She said she wasn’t going to let that stop her from learning what she is passionate about.

“Things like hearing lectures was hard, when all you can do is listen and you couldn’t see what they were talking about,” Ludi said. “It’s challenging in general, things like having network support is important then, and now.”

Ludi’s curriculum is a modification of a curriculum from the University of California, Los Angeles, called Exploring Computer Science. This program is six units that consist of human computer interaction, problem solving, web development, programming, data analysis and robotics. Ludi said that so far, the Texas School for the Blind and the Ohio School for the Blind have expressed interest in her modified curriculum.

Blockly is one of the modified programs that Ludi created, and was recognized by the White House in December, during Computer Science Education Week 2016.

Some of the things going into the program are getting access to screen readers for computers so texts are audible to students with no vision, to making texts bigger for students who have limited vision.

“It is modified from many degrees so visually impaired students can do it,” Ludi said. “It’s small stuff like making websites accessible, including getting a screen reader so the computer screen can be read, if there is something that needs to be drawn, we modify something to tactically modify using Lego bricks.”

Computer engineering senior Alejandro Olvera is one of the three students working with Ludi to create the curriculum. They said they have enjoyed working on this project because th y know it is for a good reason.

Olvera is working on EV3, one of the robot programs that will be a part of this curriculum.

“Right now, I’m trying to work on one of the drivers,” Olvera said. “It’s the underlying low level programming that helps the LCD draw through the screen.”

Debra Bernstein and Karen Mutch-Jones have both evaluated Ludi’s work, and both were former colleagues with Ludi at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where she began working on the curriculum.

Their jobs were to measure and describe how students used enhancements to the curriculum that Ludi developed. Barnstein and Mutch-Jones worked with students through surveys, observations and interviews.

“They learn to use computers for data collection, analysis and reporting, but it is very visual,” Mutch-Jones said. “If you can’t see charts and graphs generated with your data, it is hard to get a sense of what it is.”

One of the things evaluated was Ludi’s development of Glance, a tool that sonifies data. Instead of looking at the data, you hear the data. This program works with a screen reader, so students can hear where to put their data in the chart.

Ludi said that the challenges she experienced as a student helped her understand the challenges these students are facing, and is creating this modified curriculum for them.

“I understand the challenges students are going through. Everyone’s issues are different,” Ludi said. “The whole idea of designing software is key, if student have some sight they can customize it to make it easier to read, versus students who are blind so things can be read to them. It is important to know the access is there.”

Featured Image: Computer Engineering senior, Alejandro Olvera. Olvera is one of 3 students helping Professor of Computer science Stephanie Ludi create a program to make text bigger for those who have limited vision. Jackie Torres

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Julia Falcon

Julia Falcon

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