College Board works with AccessCSforAll to make AP Computer Science Accessible to all Students
College Board works with AccessCSforAll to make AP Computer Science Accessible to all StudentsMaria Alcon-Heraux, Director, Media Relations, College Board
started teaching AP Computer Science Principles (AP CSP) to her visually impaired students in the Washington State School for the Blind this year. While she only has 4 students in her class, for Ms. Rodda, that is a huge step in the right direction. Ms. Rodda, along with two other teachers, received a grant from the National Science Foundation and worked with the University of Nevada to develop the Code.org AP CSP curriculum for visually impaired students. They formatted the course to be mostly done on the computer where students can hear the audio of what is going on in the exercises and interact with audio. "Our students deserve the same access as other students to get computer science education," she says.
In the last year, the College Board has been working with Ms. Rodda and other educators who are part of the National Science Foundation AccessCSforAll project as a research practioner partner. The goal of AccessCSforAll if to increase the participation of K-12 students by attracting more women, underrepresented minorities, and students with disabilities, especially to the AP CSP course, while at the same time being a rigorous computer science course.
For the past year, AccessCSforALL has worked with teachers of the blind and visually impaired and Code.org to make an accessible version of AP CSP curriculum. “A major target of this accessible version of CSP are the approximate 30,000 blind and visually impaired K-12 students in the United States,” says Professor Richard E. Ladner at the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington, who leads this effort. “The new course is fully accessible by using web accessibility standards, converting inaccessible online tools to accessible tools that include the use of the Quorum programming language as the basis of the tools. In addition, many of the "unplugged" activities are provided more accessible versions in the new curriculum,” he adds.
This summer, Ms. Rodda along with ten other teachers participated in the AccessCSforAll professional development workshop, to help make AP CSP more accessible to blind and visually impaired students. The attendees were a diverse group of teachers which included teachers in schools for the blind, itinerant teacher of blind and visually impaired students that don't teach in the classroom, but support these students in multiple schools, general education teachers from mainstream schools who happen to have a blind student in their class, and a teacher who was blind. Their goal was to make the lessons engaging and accessible but learning at the same time the basics of the Quorum programming language and the SAS Graphics Accelerator that is an accessible data analysis tool. While three education teachers had experience teaching computer science, most of the teachers of blind and visually impaired teachers did not have experience teaching computer science. Both groups help each other understand their areas of expertise, education teachers helped the teachers of blind and visually impaired student learn about computers science, and in turn, teachers learned about how to teach blind and visually impaired students.
More students with disabilities have access to computer science education around the country thanks to the hard work of these educators.