Teaching coding concepts to students who are visually impaired is now on our radar! Mainstream classrooms are embedding coding concepts and logical thinking beginning in preschool. There are a number of fun and simple coding concept posts on Paths to Technology. Now that we have some ideas, what should we teach when? This post is a guide to help you organize and sequence your coding concept lesson plans!
Remember, these coding concept activities can easily be modified to fit preschoolers as well as expanded to be challenging for older students!
The first level is unplugged coding concepts – meaning activities that do not require devices or tech. These are typically simple activities where the student has to determine a route to specific items; the route may or may not include avoiding obstacles. Note: If working with a very young student (preschooler/kindergarten student), the student may repeat the same basic concepts with each of these examples. If working with an older student, use these same activities but include introducing terms, math, O&M, and higher thinking concepts. The examples below are geared for students in the middle – ready to add an additional concept or two with each activity. Modify your lessons and expectations according to your student’s age and ability!
Expanded concepts: Introduce grid concepts (terms such as “row” and “column”, numbering squares in the grid, etc.) Ask the student to find the egg in a particular square and ask the student to place an egg in a particular square.
Egg Carton Unplugged Coding Activity post
Expanded Concepts: Continue to use grid terms and numbering.
Coding Concepts: We’re Going on a Bear Hunt post
Expanded Concepts: Introduce O&M terms such as “T-intersection” and “zig-zag” (to continue in the same direction but have to “Zig, move forward and Zag” to go around an obstacle). Answer questions such as, “Where is the purple cat?” using row and column numbers. Relate the perspective to using a map when traveling a route – do you turn the map when you make a turn so that you are always moving forward (like a GPS set to always moving straight ahead) or do you change your perspective as you move – your mental/physical map stays the same but you have changed directions in the store. Knowing exactly where you are in space is a higher level process where the environment/map stays the same and you turn within the environment. (Example: When traveling a route in Walmart, keep your mental map/physical map the same – if holding the map, the doors to Walmart are at the bottom of the map. If you are walking towards Lawn and Garden, you are moving towards the right edge of the map. When ready to leave, you turn right when you hear the cash registers; in your mind, you are walking parallel to the cash registers, but turn when you come to an open aisle that leads to the cash register).
Coding Concepts #2: Brown Bear, Brown Bear post
Expanded Concepts: Create a line of code using arrow blocks outside of the grid. For simple routes, place the arrow blocks in a column. For more complicated routes, break the code into chunks by dividing the code so that each line contains the arrows stopping at the action after the next decision-making landmark – meaning the horizontal line will contain the move forward arrows and turn arrow. The next line of code will contain the next move forward arrows and turn. (Relate this to O&M routes that are broken into bite-size chunks by dividing the route by decision-making landmarks. Example: Walk north along Main Street; at the McDonald’s turn right. (McDonald’s is your next decision-making landmark – when you find McDonald’s the action is to turn right.)
Coding Concepts #3: Snowy Day post
Coding Unplugged: My Robotic Friends Activity post
The app introduces digital grids, rows and columns, navigating through menus and selecting options, and additional tech skills.
There are two more Ballyland Code apps that provide additional activities geared for young students.
Ballyland Code 1: Say Hello (iOS app) post
Ballyland Code 2: Give Rotor post
Ballyland Code 3: Pick Up post
Code and Go Robot Mouse – Students press the direction buttons in sequence on the top of the robot mouse to move the mouse through his course. Code and Go Robot has an activity kit that includes blocks that snap together to create tactile grids, walls and tunnels that can be placed in the grid, activity cards, and arrow command cards. (Cards can be modified to be tactile for students who are visually impaired.)
Expanded Concepts: There are a variety of activity cards from very simple to more complex activities. Use longer routes for expanding memory. Incorporate routes that include zig-zags, etc. and ask the student to describe the route, start and stop spatial direction (as the crow flies – “Diagonal route to the right and down”) and create challenging routes on the floor that are not on the blocks (requiring measuring skills to layout the route). Have the student create a route that includes various obstacles. Incorporate the Engineer Design Process.
Coding Concepts: Code and Go Robot post
Note: Code and Go Robot – There are additional Code and Go Critters with activities and there are other similar robots such as Bee Bot. However, Code and Go Mouse Activity Set is the only one that comes with the full tactile grid, manipulates, activities, and cards.
Expanded Concepts: There numerous opportunities for expanded concepts with Botley, including additional coding terms and projects.
Botley Activities #1: Accessible Robot and Coding Concepts post
Coding and STEM: Robot and Obstacle Challenges 1 post
Coding and STEM: Robot and Obstacle Challenges 2 (Hurricane Dorian) post
Note: The drag and drop commands portion of the CodeSnaps app is no longer accessible; only the QR activities are accessible.
Expanded Concepts: There numerous opportunities for expanded concepts with the Sphero robot including additional coding terms and projects.
Coding Club Activity: SAS CodeSnaps and Sphero Robot post
CodeSnaps Activity Part 2 post
Code Jumper: Accessible Programming post
Apple’s New Accessible Coding Resources for Swift Playgrounds post (includes information and links for tactile grids and VoiceOver curriculum)
Getting Started with Swift Playgrounds: Coding app post
Understanding Swift Playgrounds post (video created by a high school student who is visually impaired)
Swift Playgrounds – the VoiceOver Challenge post
Playgrounds App Review post
Hopscotch Coding App Review post (for students with low vision)
Accessible Coding post (Quorum)
Using Assistive Technology with Hour of Code
Hour of Code post
Accessible Coding: What’s Out There?
How I Code and Use a Computer at 1,000 Words per Minute: Sina Bahram (Sina’s personal story and video)
Additional coding concept posts will continue to be added to Paths to Technology. While the majority of the mainstream coding concept apps are not accessible, app developers are being encouraged to consider accessibility as they design their apps. Several mainstream coding apps use block coding (drag and drop a command into the sequence) including several apps designed to run the Sphero robot. Unfortunately, these apps are currently are not accessible with VoiceOver or a screen reader.
If you have a favorite coding concept or beginning coding robot, app, or activity, please share with us!
By Diane Brauner