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This Tech Helps Teach Coding to Blind and Low Vision Students


Reve Van Croft, Coordinator, CTA Foundation

Code Jumper provides students who are blind or have low vision a way to learn how to code in a new and innovative way. American Printing House for the Blind is now working with Microsoft, both CTA members, to distribute this innovative technology.

Dr. Craig Meador, APH’s President, gave us some insight about how the idea of Code Jumper began and how it benefits the blind and low vision communities.

Tell us a little about the American Printing House for the Blind, your mission and how your organization works to evolve with technology for individuals who are blind or have low vision?

American Printing House for the Blind designs innovative learning solutions for people who are blind or visually impaired. We believe in the power of breaking down barriers to create a future that belongs to everyone. At APH we know technology has the power to be an equalizer, leveling the playing field and giving everyone the same access to tools that are needed for education and life.

As technology evolves, APH is a leading advocate for accessibility, encouraging companies to create products that create equal access for all users. Whenever possible, APH looks for partners to share in the mission of accessibility. APH also uses new developments in tech to push the envelope in assistive technology. These products range from talking maps and digital HD magnifiers, to color identifiers and refreshable braille.  

Where did the idea for Code Jumper come from and why did the developers at Microsoft feel it was important to create this piece of technology?

Code Jumper started as a passion project. Microsoft Researcher Cecily Morrison’s son is blind, and as he grew, she realized there was no good way for him to learn computer coding. Code Jumper fills that gap.

As Microsoft moved forward with the project, they began looking for another company to take the project (originally Project Torino) across the finish line as a distributor. That’s where American Printing House (APH) became involved. APH has a more than 160-year history of creating and distributing products for people who are blind and visually impaired. As the distributor, we are working to bring Code Jumper to students in English speaking countries in time for the 2019-2020 school year, as well as making it available worldwide over the next five years.
 
How does Code Jumper work and why is it so beneficial to the blind and low vision community?

There are a lot of solid programs to help teach students how to code, but they are heavily reliant on sight. Code Jumper changes that, making coding something that students can touch and hear.

Code Jumper starts with a hub – it’s a speaker that you can plug up to four “strands of code” into. Next you have pods – these let you build your strands. Take the play pod for example – if you plug it into the hub you can then adjust the two tactile knobs to change the sound it plays, and the speed/pitch. You can choose to tell a story, play music, or even use your own recorded sounds. Once students master the basic play pod, there are many other pods and variables to take learning to the next level.

Code Jumper creates an inclusive learning experience. Too often children who are blind have to learn by “assisting” someone who is sighted. Code Jumper allows the student who is blind to be an active participant in control of the learning environment. The beauty of this product is that Code Jumper isn’t just for children who are blind – it allows all students to learn together, and have an equal share in problem solving and learning. It is a beautiful design of inclusivity.

What can the accessibility community expect from Microsoft, APH, and Code Jumper in the future?

APH is in the process of developing a semester-long curriculum for coding, including modular lessons, videos, assessment tools, and student activities. This project will also include conference sessions, an online course for the Microsoft Educator Community, and student activities and curriculum for a Week-Long Summer Camp Institute.

Because Code Jumper is intuitive, teachers, even those with no coding experience, are able to jump right in and help students learn. The added curriculum will help teachers take that learning to the next level and ensure students are grasping high-level coding concepts. There’s even a lesson specifically designed to show teachers how to use Code Jumper. 

Our goal is to create a learning community that welcomes input, ideas, lessons and energy from all users creating a vibrant living opportunity to help students reach their potential in STEAM activities.

The CTA Foundation's mission is to link seniors and people with disabilities with technology to enhance their lives. Learn more and join us in supporting life changing tech programs  at CTAFoundation.tech.

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